New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd understands that sometimes, the hazards to NFL players can come from things that happen off the field. That's why he's always tried to be smart with his money, and why he's trying to impart that message to others -- especially young players new to the pros.
"You give a 22-year-old millions of dollars, [they're] going to make really poor decisions," Lloyd recently told Yahoo! Sports. "When you make adult decisions, you need to be prepared to support them financially."
The dilemma presented to NFL rookies is one that Lloyd, now a 10-year veteran, finds it easy to remember. "That's the first thing that needs to be said to NFL players. You're gonna give someone money, and they're not gonna pay you back. You're going to make a bad business decision. These things are going to happen to you. You're navigating your way through one of the most cutthroat industries on this planet."
Though all six of his siblings have college degrees, and he was taught by his parents to "live the American Dream," Lloyd left the University of Illinois a year early to declare for the NFL draft. It did not go over well with his mother, who was a teacher.
"I saw my mom cry when her father died," Lloyd recalled. "The second time I saw her cry was when I told her I wasn't going back to school. She just thought that was the end of everything."
Lloyd always tried to be smart with his money, and that happened from the start.
"When I first got into the NFL, it was with a three-year deal, maybe $1.5 million," he remembered of his first deal with the San Francisco 49ers, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. "It was a minimum salary, and when I got the signing bonus, it was about clearing my debt."
That doesn't mean that Lloyd didn't enjoy some of the perks associated with the NFL lifestyle. His first car? A Hummer H2.
"Driving a nice car around town is great, and it gives you a lot of confidence to get out there on the field," he said. "I'm a firm believer in that. It may sound crazy, but all these things come along with being a professional athlete, and they just have to be managed."
Now with the Patriots, Lloyd has played with six different teams, earning progressively bigger paydays. He's learned more and more about investing for the future. His last contract, signed in March of 2012, was for three years and $12 million. However, $3 million of that is available only if he's on the 2013 roster, and only $3 million is guaranteed. His 2012 base salary of $900,000, plus a $100,000 workout bonus, illustrates a reality of NFL contracts that some people fail to understand -- most players never see the top end of the reported figures.
Still, as Lloyd said, more money can equal more problems.
"An opportunity to earn more money presents more challenges," he said. "As long as I'm saving toward the goal, I feel like I can always have my stuff."
Lloyd now speaks on behalf of Money XLive, a program of the National Financial Educators Council.
"Here's how you balance a checkbook -- here's how you write a business plan," Lloyd said of the topics he covers with young students. "This is what a mutual fund is, and this is how it works. It's such a kick-start for life, and I really hope I can be a lightning rod for some of these kids."
In the end, Lloyd says, money is not the final happiness. But it is a reality, and you'd better learn to deal with it from the start.
"It's fine to want things, and it's fine to have things. Having goals to purchase what you want, and having goals to save what you earn, is the key to it."
For Lloyd, the best part of having his own serious money is that he can now pay his parents back for their faith and patience. He flies his folks to all his home games, and they've been able to share his NFL experience with him.
"It's been a dream come true for all of us."
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