Baseball players, among other sports figures, are often glamorized in the media. Signing big contracts like Miguel Cabrera's $292 million deal, traveling to exotic destinations and driving around in expensive cars are all part of the game. But if not handled correctly, all the fame and fortune can quickly disappear (just look at Lenny Dykstra). So just like any other person, these sports figures need to be careful with their money.
Before the start of the 2014 baseball season, NerdWallet sat down with Eric Sogard, the bespectacled second baseman for the Oakland A’s (where his nickname is “Nerd Power”) and runner-up in an online poll of fans for the #FaceofMLB. Sogard spoke the skills he’s learned to handle money and what he’s doing to secure his financial future.
Here are a few tools anyone can use to set themselves up for finanacial success.
Set and stick to a budget. Simple advice, right? Still, it applies to everyone. Sogard and his financial planner, Brett Dimas of OFS Wealth, meet two or three times a year to review Sogard’s spending and his goals. There have been times, Sogard says, “when we’ve sat down and I didn’t realize we were spending that much on a monthly basis, and it just kind of opens my eyes and my wife’s eyes. We didn’t think we were going too crazy but there’s probably some place where we could cut back.”
Lesson: Always live within your means, and keep a close eye on expenses. Checking in occasionally with a financial planner might make sense if you don't have the time, or the tools, to tackle this on your own.
Learn from those who came before. Sogard’s father was a stockbroker, and he taught his son that with any investment opportunity he should research it, be passionate about it, be aware and remain cautious. Words to live by for anyone, sports figures included.
Sogard has heard the figures that 78 percent of former NFL players are bankrupt or under financial stress within two years of retiring and 60 percent of ex-NBA players are broke within five years of leaving the court. To avoid that fate, he seeks out advice from teammates who’ve been around the league longer. “We’re all in the same situation as ballplayers, we all have the same goal -- we want to continue to make money and invest smartly,” says Sogard.
Lesson: Consult those who have been down your path before, learning from both their successes and mistakes. More than likely, someone close to you has faced a similar financial or business decision.
Plan for when there’s no money coming in. Baseball is a summer game and for the players, it’s not unlike a summer job.
“We only have an income for six months, so you really have to be smart and save up for that offseason,” says Sogard. “If you’re going to go spend all the money you make during the season, you’re going to be stuck in the offseason thinking of what you have to do for money because you blew it all.”
He and Dimas take this into account when planning both for the next year and the next 50. ”Getting paid for only six months and then having six months with no pay helps me realize that if I’m not going to work again, I’m going to have to save up quite a bit,” says Sogard.
Lesson: Set aside at least six months’ living expenses in an emergency fund. If your business takes a turn for the worse, you'll want to avoid leaning on credit lines or falling into debt.
Make your assets work for you. As soon as he signed his first big-league contract, Sogard bought a house in his native Arizona.
"It’s been a great decision. I’ve been able to rent it out since then, and it’s been a cash flow coming in,” he says. “As I look back on it now, that’s the smartest thing I’ve done.”
Lesson: If you're ready to invest, consider assets that provide long-term cash flow. Options like rental real estate and dividend-paying stocks can provide income throughout retirement.
Lean on a team of trusted advisors. In addition to calling on his dad, Sogard sought out a financial planner to help manage his money and provide a financial education. Dimas serves as a guard against suspect investment ideas and offers counsel—because even major league ballplayers need guidance.
“You could make $100 million a year,” Dimas says, “but if you spend $120 million a year you’re eventually going to end up broke.”
Lesson: Know what you don’t know (or have the time to handle), and find trustworthy specialists to fill in the gaps.