• Wealth Management

Helping Athletes Keep Financial Futures Bright

Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment Division drafts pro athletes to school rookie ballplayers on financial literacy.

Bart Scott, former NFL linebacker for the New York Jets, stared out at a room filled with Boston College athletes. He was coaching the athletes, but not about swatting down short passes or hunting a quarterback. He was talking about financial literacy.

“Here’s what it comes down to: Appreciate today; respect tomorrow. You hit pro, yeah, you have to enjoy your life. But you also have to live the life of the 55-year-old you. Is that 55-year-old going to look back and say 25-year-old me spent all my money? Or did that 25-year-old me have it together?”

Scott is working as a consultant with Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment Division to promote financial literacy among college athletes and professional rookies. Scott, along with former NBA forward and three time all-star Antoine Walker, also a consultant, brings the weight of real world experience to the new financial literacy program.

Sobering statistics about post-career finances

According to a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, one in six NFL players file for bankruptcy within twelve years of leaving the league—despite earning an average of $3.2 million over their career1. A Sports Illustrated study from 2009 ups that figure to two out of every three players if you factor in serious financial distress.

The statistics are eye-opening. Drew Hawkins, Managing Director and Head of Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment Division, spearheaded the literacy program to help arm players with some financial bona fides at the beginning of their career, before the real earning starts. However, he and his team quickly discovered that the typical financial literacy curriculum didn’t apply. “We needed a program that was relatable. It had to connect with the players. They’re focused on playing basketball, football. We had to create something that said ‘Hey, you don’t have to have an MBA, but you have to run the business of you.’”

John Vander Zee, Managing Director and COO of the division, concurs, “These athletes also don’t have typical careers. It also had to be a program that helps players consider the long game even though their prime earning years may only last five to seven seasons.”

Tackling the issue of financial literacy

Hawkins and Vander Zee started a listening tour. “We went to New York, Miami, the West Coast. We were talking to coaches, to athletic directors, to former athletes. And what we quickly realized was, not only did the curriculum have to be different, so did the instructors.”

Enter Scott and Walker. “We realized we couldn’t have a guy in a suit with a PowerPoint presentation,” says Hawkins. “Antoine and Bart, they walk in the room, and you see these young athletes pay attention immediately. I remember going to the session with the Seattle Seahawks and thinking ‘There isn’t a single guy checking his cell phone.’ Having Antoine and Bart changes the entire narrative.”

To quickly connect with the players, Bart Scott says that he shares the trajectory of his career to set the stage. He began his career as an undrafted free-agent. His first NFL paycheck was just $500. But over the course of his 11-year career, he made over $61.5 million. “I get into it with them. Where are you from? What was your life growing up? I grew up on the east side of Detroit. I know the temptation to live large. And that gets their attention. I’m not a guy in a suit. I’m them.”

A curriculum tailored for professional athletes

The program Hawkins and Vander Zee developed guides players through four stages of a typical athlete’s financial cycle. Using video clips and interactive elements, it details earning years, protection strategies, saving for the future and building wealth.

“We try to make it very spontaneous and engaging,” says Vander Zee. “We bring them up to the front of the group and role play situations with them. Give them nicknames, get them thinking.” The program also uses real-life situations to paint an accurate picture of the financial issues professional athletes face.

“Practice this word with me: No.” Walker tells a college football player. “You have to learn the word no. No is a powerful word. When you really start earning, a lot of opportunities come your way. You have to have your financial game down. You have to know when you can say yes and when to say no. It’s difficult to say sometimes.”

The program is already a success with its target audience, Vander Zee says. “Alison Quandt, Boston College’s Assistant Athletic Director in Student-Athlete Development said the message is really resonating with the students.” So much so, that the college has asked Scott and Walker to return for a third time to speak to senior players across all sports.

After the sessions, the schedule allows time for Scott and Walker to connect with the players through casual conversation. “That’s my favorite part,” says Walker, “Their first questions are always about what something cost. How much was a watch, a car, a house. And I say ‘Hey, yeah this is supposed to be fun. Of course you take your family on a trip and buy yourself a nice car. But you have to get your financial house in order.’ Hopefully we leave them with solid advice. This is like a dream come true for me. I feel like I get to give back a little.”

Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment (GSE) is a division of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management dedicated to serving the unique and sophisticated needs of professional athletes and entertainers. With approximately 70 designated Sports and Entertainment Directors nationwide with an average of 22 years of experience who are handling over $31 Billion in assets, GSE’s Directors are seasoned professionals in wealth management, as well as the sports and entertainment fields, and have access to the full scope of Morgan Stanley’s products and services to provide clients with a range of financial offerings specifically designed to help meet these professionals’ exceptional needs.

For further information, please visit Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment.

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