Saving Money Like a Millionaire Athlete

This post is a little different from the usual Excel and analysis stories we post here. While Excel is a great tool to help you crunch numbers and balance budgets, it’s refreshing to step back and see real world examples of people using their knowledge of saving money to be successful financially. Personal finance is one of our favorite topics and if you’re into numbers and analysis, chances are you’re also adept at financial planning and investing, and will find this story interesting.

Meet Ryan Broyles, former wide receive for the Detroit Lions:

He’s not a superstar wide receiver or breaking records in the NFL (he was released by the Lions late in 2015). What makes him truly different from other athletes we’ve come across is that he is very frugal and budgets $60,000 on expenses for his family and promotes financial planning to students.

Balling on a Budget

Now $60,000 per year is a decent salary for most people, so setting $60K as Broyles’ spending budget may appear to most as a pretty hefty sum. According to the article, Broyles had a 4-year $3.6M contract with $1.42M guaranteed. While his salary varied year over year with signing bonuses and workout bonuses, let’s assume that he made on average $900,000/year for those 4 years in Detroit.

As a percentage of his salary, his $60K expenditure now looks very frugal at a mere 6.7%! Putting his saving rate at 93.3%. This leaves him more than $800,000/year for his retirement fund, investments and emergency situations. The average savings rate for Americans is 5%, so for those of you who who earn around $65,000 per year, you are most likely spending as much money as Broyles every year on expenses. Put another way:

  • Ryan Broyles Salary: $900,000/year, Ryan Broyles’ Expenses as % of Salary: 6.7%
  • The Average American Salary: $65,000/year, Average American’s Expenses as % os Salary: 95%

Long story short, Americans love to spend. But what makes Broyles’ special? He read and studied what it meant to be financially responsible to set up himself up for the long-term. Given that he’s only spending $60,000/year, one can imagine he’s living a life not too different from many residents in Detroit when he was on the team. Chances are he had a bigger house and fancier cars (him and his wife drive Mazdas), so his monthly payments might be higher, but he’s not splurging on mansions, fancy trips, and other opulent pursuits.

Financial Education for Athletes

It looks like Broyles really took to heart the training the NFL provided him as a rookie. We’ve heard story after story of a 21-year old athlete who is an overnight millionaire and ends up broke after 4-5 years when he’s out of his athletic prime. Even athletes who’ve had long and successful careers like Scottie Pippen are subject poor long-term thinking.

If we treat a pro-basketball or football occupation like any other investment, it’s probably one of the most riskiest asset classes out there with an extremely high beta. Investing in a professional sports career is like investing in the stock market knowing that a black swan event will occur in the next 10 years. Black swans are unpredictable disasters but if you’re a pro athlete, you’ve seen these events happen to athlete after athlete with every ACL tear or concussion. What makes you any different?

Education. Knowing that this bet on a professional sports career is just another investment with a high-risk/high-reward payoff. That’s why the smart athletes like Broyles know that investing all his upfront signing bonus in retirement and other investments will prepare him for a financially stable life instead of going broke after 10 years. On the time horizon of life, 10 years is a relatively short time to lose all your savings and not have enough to live comfortably.

Many retired athletes are big proponents of the rookie orientation where new athletes are given a crash course on the new life ahead of them. Beyond financial planning, athletes also appear to struggle with understanding social media and other facets of what used to be a private life are now thrust onto a giant stage. Perhaps the “Great Start” program from Key & Peele is not such a bad idea after all to get the athletes when they’re young!