Finances: Understanding the NFL Exchange Rate & Cashing in Your Reality Check

ex·change rate n
the rate at which a unit of the currency of one country can be exchanged for a unit of the currency of another country.

nfl ex·change rate n
the rate at which you understand the financial realities in the “real world” after leaving the game.

You thought you were an average NFL spender, or maybe you were even conservative with your money when you played. They might have even nicknamed you “squeaky” because that’s the sound your wallet makes when you open it every month.

It takes time to financially transition into a new season of life after leaving the game, to understand how difficult it is to earn a living and that not everyone buys a new car every year, and that “getting ahead” in life is something you have already done -- something most of your peers are still trying to do.

I’ve put together an “exchange rate” that can help you better understand the value of what you have achieved and what the realities of the “real world” are – the realities of what your non-NFL peers have been doing while you have been playing ball.


Home value:
NFL: $800,000
USA: $102,500

Yearly household income:
NFL: $1,000,000 Game check: $62,500--after taxes: $35,000
USA: $43,500 Weekly check: $836.54--after taxes: $500

Per-diem check:
NFL: $500 – training camp (average US weekly income)
USA: $.00

Vacation time:
NFL: 6 months unpaid time off
USA: 2 weeks paid vacation (that means you work the other 50 weeks a year)

Outside income opportunities:
NFL: Speaking engagements and autograph signings:
USA: Multi-level marketing (Amway, vitamins, magnets, etc.):

NFL: 1999 Lexus, 2000 SUV, and a 2001 mini-van
USA: 1989 Toyota and a 1979 Ford pickup

Recreational toys:
NFL: His & her wave runners, pool table, motorcycle, etc.
USA: Costco trampoline, crocket set, and a Frisbee

Typical vacation:
NFL: Tropical cruise or European vacation, first-class accommodations:$10,000
USA: Camping for a week, lakeside, in a tent: $500

Typical date:
NFL: Best restaurant and a movie with all the fixings: $150
USA: “Come over about 6, I’m cooking dinner”: $20

Perks of the business:
NFL: Free shoes and sports attire, back stage passes, free yearly car lease, etc.
USA: Still trying to find some.

Budget perspective:
NFL: “What budget--I’ll pay cash.”
USA: “What budget--I’m already in debt!”

This is obvious and intentional humor combined with the brutal realities of average American life, but it offers a sobering perspective on the cultural difference between the average NFL player and the average American.

Financial Transition: 5 helpful “Reality Checks” you can cash in now.

  1. Take time. Slow down and gain a new perspective – sometimes as much as 3-5 years. NFL spending habits die hard, but most retired players need to eventually make some adjustments. Ask friends and relatives about the realities of the typical American lifestyle.

  2. Don’t touch your principal. You’ve worked hard to acquire your wealth – Preserve it! “How much you keep” can be more important than “How much you made.” Spend less than you earn off your investments.

  3. Don’t compare. There are always people that have more than you and those that have less than you. You will never win “the battle of the toys” – especially in today’s rising NFL salaries. Comparing is a fruitless effort that will usually lead to bitterness, anger, and envy. Be grateful for the “head start” that football has given you as you begin the “rest of your life.”

  4. Get help. You’re probably already paying a financial planner/advisor a fee. Meet regularly with him or her and get the proper understanding and perspective of where you really are in terms of your financial situation and the rest of your life. Also, consider working with a trusted and business savvy friend (or your financial consultant) on a monthly basis to learn the basics of balancing a checkbook, budgeting, and other simple financial functions that others have learned while you were busy playing ball. Call and set up an appointment today – include your wife.

  5. Consider downsizing. Most pro athletes and high-powered executives make the mistake of maintaining their lifestyle level after they retire. Don’t feel embarrassed about having to sell your house and/or cars and downsize to a more reasonable lifestyle. Getting together with your financial advisor and working on a budget can help you understand the level of need you have to downsize and how you might be able to do it. Start talking to your spouse, mentor, or trusted friend about the realities of downsizing your lifestyle – explore and get comfortable with the possibility and idea of adjusting your standard of living.

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