Smart Money Moves for Pro Athletes

When you’re a professional athlete, you don’t have time for much else. And that’s especially true for things that seem like they can wait – like, believe it or not, managing your money. I know, because before I started a career in finance and joined the team at Laird Norton Wealth Management, I was a pro athlete myself. Having gotten a scholarship to play baseball at Washington State University, I ended up being a three-year starter at third base and played in two NCAA tournaments. Then in 2011, I was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and played for that organization for three seasons.

It wasn’t until my pro baseball career ended in 2014, and I had moved into financial services, that I realized how little I knew about how to handle my own finances. Starting in college and through my pro career, my sole responsibility had been to perform. It didn’t matter the place — the field, the weight room, morning conditioning, the classroom. When I joined the Rockies organization, I was in a new place, with new teammates and coaches, but my focus was still on winning games and outperforming my teammates so I could move to the next level.

Thankfully, during the off-seasons, I did some things that I could build on for my next career: I finished college, I prepared for and passed the NMLS Mortgage Loan Originator test, and I began training youth athletes at a sports academy in my hometown.

Despite all that, I was naïve when it came to my finances and plans for life after sports. I was solely in charge of all my finances — bank accounts, credit cards, car payments, rent, utilities, etc. — and made some not-so-smart financial decisions. I didn’t have a trusted team of people to help with all that. And I could have really used that.

That’s perhaps a major reason I got into financial planning and investment management. In 2018, I joined Laird Norton Wealth Management and began to shift my focus to financial planning for athletes. My goal is to help teach professional athletes the basics of personal finance, including spending plans, preparing for unexpected events, and creating long-term financial stability.

So much of success on the field comes down to preparation. The same applies off the field; if you are not prepared to make good decisions about your finances, you can end up sabotaging your long-term success. I cannot stress this enough: As in athletics, developing a simple, straightforward, repeatable process is crucial for long-term financial success.

Looking Ahead

I happened to make choices that led me to a new career after I finished playing professionally.

Many successful athletes, both men and women, don’t have a backup career, especially after many years playing pro. Whether or not you have a Plan B, if you are a pro athlete you need to develop an understanding of your finances and put in place a team of trusted advisors to help you navigate off-the-field decisions. It’s essential to take the time to sit down to create a budget that is easy to track and then review it regularly. It is also crucial to take an interest in how your portfolio is managed. The initial goal for your portfolio should be to build a solid diversified base of investments. Having this base will give you a cushion for an unexpected event, or in case the next contract doesn’t come. It’s critical to focus on creating long-term financial success from the onset by contributing to retirement accounts and saving additional money from each paycheck. No one should care more about your finances than you, and do not be afraid to seek financial advisors you can trust.

At Laird Norton Wealth Management, we take a team approach to financial planning. Our staff has a range of financial specialists, including Certified Financial Planners, Chartered Financial Analysts, Certified Public Accountants, Attorneys, Certified Trust Advisors, and Accredited Estate Planners. Our job is to help manage all aspects of each client’s financial life, and we rely on each other’s expertise to provide personalized, comprehensive advice. We take the time to understand your financial goals and develop strategies for budgeting, investing, tax efficiency, retirement sustainability, risk management, estate planning, and philanthropy. We accompany you through your career milestones and help you prepare and plan each step of the way.

Look for future blog posts by me on a variety of financial issues that pro athletes really need to know about, from income sustainability and trust funds to keeping taxes as low as possible. My goal: To keep you playing smart, on and off the field.