A few years ago, Marshawn Lynch gained widespread attention for living off endorsement and investment earnings and never spending any of his then $50 million in NFL salary  (although, it turned out that he was, in fact, spending at least some of that money).

Giants running back Saquon Barkley follows the same framework, investing his salary and living off his (albeit considerable) endorsement deals.

And then there's New England Patriot Michael Bennett, a three-time Pro Bowler who by the end of this season will have made almost $60 million over his 10-year career. Bennett forgoes direct deposit for physical paychecks -- and then holds on to every one of them until the end of each season.

"I keep my checks until the end of the season to make sure I don't spend any money," he says. "And then at the end of the season, I deposit them."

In the meantime, he follows a strict budget and uses a portion of his savings for "income." 

And then does the same thing the next year. 

However unusual, his approach makes sense: Estimates show that nearly 80 percent of NFL players face financial hardship within two years of retirement. The average NFL career spans less than four years: Even if you earn millions in salary, if you spend like you'll always make that much money, once your career is finished, soon your savings will be too. Athletic careers last a handful of years, but savings need to last for decades.

Beating the odds -- for professional athletes and for you and me -- requires planning, effort, and discipline.

And a willingness to do what other people are not.

Take Bennett: As an undrafted free agent (read: relatively poorly paid), he realized he "had to be tight with my money from the beginning." Rather than buy a house, he lived in a hotel during the season for three years. (Then, when he did finally decide to rent an apartment, he was cut three days later -- losing his deposit and a few months' rent.) 

Of course, that makes Bennett seem a little eccentric, especially in professional sports. The average NFL player drives high-end cars and owns an expensive home. Consumption tends to be conspicuous.

I'm sure that makes it hard to be financially conservative. (I can think of several cars I would probably buy.) And, some of the time, it does pay to consider what other people think. 

But not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live.

Don't choose a particular house primarily to impress other people. Choose the house that's right for you. Don't choose a particular car primarily to impress other people. Choose the car that's right for you. 

Make lifestyle choices that are right for you. Make investment choices that are right for you.

Make spending choices that are right for you. 

Choose your career, your school, your business--choose everything because it's right for you.

Do that, and you'll automatically make better long-term decisions about how you spend and save and invest. 

Which also means that, over the long term, you'll be a lot happier.

Because you'll be better able to live the life you want to live.

Published on: Sep 11, 2019
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