The at risk checklist

Jack Bechta

I must have met with over 400 NFL players over the last 27 years as I pitched them to become their agent. When the subject of fiscal responsibility came up and the prospects of potentially going broke after making some money, each and every one said to me with deep conviction, “oh that’s not going to be me!” Yep, they all believed it would be never be them. Unfortunately, the odds are that many of them pissed away their hard earned money. Sadly, many players who are spending wildly still won’t look in the mirror and realize that they are at risk for losing it all.

And here’s why:

Jamarcus Russell
Jamarcus Russell

JaMarcus is hoping for one more contract.

For one, they can’t grasp the reality that there will be an abrupt end to their careers. They all think there will be another contract and that they will start saving after they get that “one more thing”. The problem is that there is always another “one more thing” and there is a habit of spending what they are making.

Outside of the obvious reasons we already know why NFL players go broke, there is also a bigger force at work. A force that has been grinding away at these young men (and all of us for that matter) since the first day they could listen to music, watch TV, read magazines and dream about their future.

Living in America, we are programmed to dream, to strive, to succeed and go out and live the American dream of having it all. Unfortunately, we are programmed to show everyone we made it. Mass marketing that is ingrained in our culture, has been reminding us that we need to have certain things as evidence of our success.

Music videos have been preaching to our youth that being at the club, driving a Bentley, showering Benjamin’s on those less fortunate are all signs of being successful. Cadillac and Mercedes spend hundreds of millions to convince us that owning their products are symbols of success. Luxury brand makers try to get our attention by outfitting our idols like athletes and actors so fans will buy their products. In America, the bigger the house, the more expensive the cars, the more shiny the jewelry, it says the more successful we are. If you grow up here in the states, this message is constantly bombarding you everywhere you go.

When anyone at the vulnerable age of 22 or 23 gets the means and encouragement to show their success by owning these material objects as they were taught to do over their young life, it’s usually hard to reverse the behavior. Therefore, to unwind the years of programming young men, in this case pro athletes, we must make them aware of the path they are on may erode away at their financial windfall (large NFL salaries and bonuses).


One simple tool that I believe that can be helpful in evaluating one’s fiscal health is the development of an ultimate “At Risk Check List”. In speaking to a large group NFLPA certified Financial Advisors last week, I shared the idea of using a checklist. The feedback was positive and we, along with the NFLPA, have agreed to come up with a checklist players can quickly use to fiscally evaluate themselves and see if they are at risk for a fiscal Armageddon.

In order to make this tool a useful reality, I want to recruit some help from our audience, especially those who work in financial consulting, investments, accounting and/or banking. Additionally, I want feedback from current/former players and/or their spouses. The checklist should be simple with the ability to produce an immediate wake up call that they may be headed off a fiscal cliff of their own.

Here is the list I used in my most recent presentation to NFLPA certified financial consultants:

1) Do you know on average how much you spend per month?
2) Do you have a set budget in place and strictly adhere to it?
3) Do you own more than two cars?
4) Do you own more than 25k in jewelry?
5) Do you own more than two houses?
6) Is your marriage headed for divorce or separation?
7) Do you pay child support for two children or more not living with you?
8) Do you know your credit score?
9) Is your credit score below 650?
10) Do you buy or lease brand new cars?
11) Did you spend more than 60k for a new car?
12) Do you save at least 50%/40%/30% of your income? (Depending on income)
13) Are your monthly expenses over 10k, 15k, 20k, or 30k per month? (Income)
14) Is there a large portion of your contract that is guaranteed?
15) Do you gamble frequently or have you ever lost over 10k in one weekend?
16) Do you financially support other family members and or friends?
17) Do you have a professional helping you with your money and do you speak frequently?
18) Do you have a current financial plan in place and are you following it with discipline?

The checklist should not be more than 15 to 20 questions. The questions should be answered with either “yes” or “no” and then given a value in order to formulate some type of score that will indicate to the player if he is "At Risk" for going broke and to what degree. There may be some adjustments made for those making more than $2 million per year and again for those making more than $5 million per year.

Please use the comment section below for your input and I will take the best ideas and incorporate them into the ultimate At Risk Checklist for NFL players.

This checklist may not turn the tides but it may help players get a wake up call before its too late. 

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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