One of the questions people always ask me about being an NFL player is, “what is it like making so much money at such a young age?"
I have to say that it is very difficult to go from being young and having no money to being young and a millionaire because you do not know how to be financially responsible. It’s just like winning the lottery, and as you know from reading about lottery winners, most lottery winners go broke within 10 years after winning the lottery. Well, it is not that much different with professional sports players. The reason for this is most professional athletes, and lottery winners, were never taught money management skills. Going from being broke one day to being a millionaire the next day is a huge change in your life, mostly because once you have money, everybody wants you to give it to them, and most of the time you do.
I came from a single family home without a father, which is something many professional NFL players have in common. I am also African American and my family did not have a lot of money, which is also very common among NFL players. Because of this, I was never taught how to manage money responsibly and plan for my future. I went from being broke one day to being drafted into the NFL and becoming a millionaire.
A huge problem with being young and having a lot of money is the pressure by just about everybody including fellow players to spend a lot of money very quickly. When you are rich, everybody wants your money, especially your family and friends. My mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. all wanted to borrow money from me. And of course I gave it to them. Then, you have girlfriends and wives who want you to buy them lots of expensive presents like cars, jewelry and clothes because you are rich and they want to show off to their friends. You also have charities, investors, and businesspeople all asking for your money—and you end up giving it to them.
But possibly the worst of all is the other players because when it comes to money it is the blind leading the blind. We all spend our money as if it will never run out because we are uneducated in financial responsibility. For example, for you to be cool and respected by the other players, you have to keep up with them. So, if one player buys a new SUV, you want to buy one too. I mean, you can’t be an NFL player and drive a normal car like a Honda Civic. You have to drive an expensive Hummer, Cadillac Escapade, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, etc.
You also have to have a huge expensive house. All the other players do and if you just live in an average house, they look down at you. So, we spend a fortune buying huge houses for ourselves and for our parents that we do not need. And of course there is the jewelry. We spend so much money on jewelry it is insane. It is nothing for a player to spend $100,000 a year or more buying jewelry, and that is just for us. That does not include all the jewelry we buy for our family, wives, and girlfriends. It is all extremely irresponsible. But, when you have so many people putting pressure on you every day to buy things and keep up with the other NFL players, it becomes much easier to say yes than to say no, even as you are watching all of your money disappear.
Another problem is as a wealthy NFL player, you are expected to flip the bill for everything. Whenever you go out to restaurant, you are the person who pays for everybody. And, when you go out with other players or your buddies, it is always to a fancy club where we go to the VIP section and spend thousands of dollars on fancy champagne and drinks—for everybody. I have known players who have spent over $25,000 in one night at a club. And then they go and do it over and over so they can be the “big man. "
Another problem NFL players have is women who are after us for our money and our status. And many of these women are gold diggers. If we were not rich athletes these beautiful women would probably not look twice at us. But now that we are rich and well known, women chase us constantly. This almost always leads to us marrying a woman we shouldn’t marry and then getting divorced after a couple of years and losing a large percentage of our money in the divorce. I made this mistake myself and it cost me dearly and still costs me.
In close, being a wealthy athlete is much more difficult than people think because there is so much pressure on us to spend our money as quickly as possible. Money magnifies problems, it does not eliminate them as most people think it does.
Martin Chase is a retired NFL player who now owns a popular NFL Merchandise website. http://www.mcsportsfan.com