What independent contractors can learn from “Broke” athletes

ESPN’s wildly popular “30 For 30” film series is a documentary exposing life after the limelight for many highly paid professional athletes. “Broke” shockingly reveals how many pro-athletes have lost millions, forcing them to declare bankruptcy and figure out how to afford the rest of their life.

We all know the stories of lavish spending and are immune to the multi-million dollar contracts and endorsement deals many athletes bring in each year, but “Broke” offers these stories straight from the source and aims to shed light on the pitfalls of coming into so much cash, so quickly and at an age ill equipped to handle it.

Featuring confessions from NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar, NFL wide receiver Andre Rison, MLB pitcher Curt Schilling and more, “Broke” shows how easy it is to take a fortune and without proper financial planning watch it disappear in the blink of an eye. Some outrageous quotes from those interviewed:

“I bought myself a yacht, a mansion, a couple of cars. That ain’t a million dollars. That’s seven million dollars. I pretty much gave it away.” – Keith McCants former NFL linebacker for six years.

“I guarantee you, I spent a million dollars on jewelry.” – Andre Rison, former NFL wide receiver for eleven years. Earned $19 million in his twelve year career.

“There was probably, different times, [I was taking care of] 25, 50 families.” – Bernie Kosar, former NFL quarterback for eleven years. Declared bankruptcy in 2009, $18.9 million in debt.

While many independent contractors won’t make $50 million in a lifetime or pull in $300,000 signing bonuses, we at Unlocked couldn’t help but find a key lesson any independent contractor could use about financial management and long term asset planning.

So many of these athletes who declared bankruptcy could have benefitted from a financial planner. Someone who was not their lawyer, accountant, agent or family member to help ensure the money they made in their 3-10 year career would last for the rest of their life.

Someone whose job it was to question out of character purchases, hold them accountable to their bank account and make their money work not just while they were working but long after.

As an independent contractor much like a pro-athlete your paychecks are not always consistent in size or availability. Hiring someone you trust to manage what you make will go a long way toward giving you and your family peace of mind as you work toward financial independence.

So what should you look for in a financial planner?

Unless you have an unusual set of financial circumstances you are looking for a certified financial planner (CFP). “Certified financial planners have passed a national test covering insurance, investments, taxation, employee benefits, retirement and estate planning administered by the CFP Board of Standards. They must meet experience requirements and abide by a code of ethics.”

Ask around to your family members, friends, project managers and other independent contractors to see if they have a CFP they use and would recommend. Narrow down and interview your best options. Here are some things to consider when finding the right CFP.

There are tough lessons to be learned from those who had it all and lost it and now search to rebuild. You don’t have to be one of these tragic stories.  Anyone at any level in their career can start investing in their future, but the earlier you start the better. Don’t wait another month to set you and your family up for long term financial independence.