With the start of another NFL season, I’ve been thinking about an alarming statistic associated with the league: 78% of former NFL players either go bankrupt or experience severe financial distress. This is astounding because the base salary for rookies is $310,000, and this is bumped up to $460,000 after two years. The statistics for NBA players aren’t much cheerier: 60% go bankrupt within five years of retirement.
There are many ways in which individual athletes squander their wealth—e.g., gambling, drugs, prostitutes, bad investments, etc. But what it always comes down to is a lack of self-control. Managing personal finances, no matter how much one earns, demands self-discipline on a sustained level that goes far beyond what is required in the gym or on the field. So when you consider that most NFL and NBA players are coddled and pampered from their early teens (thus handicapping them in their development of self-control), it makes this figure less surprising. Sad and even tragic, yes. But not surprising.