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Five Steps to Take Control of Your Finances

By Rachel Terrill, Player Engagement Insider

Are you a new NFL player who has questions about how to handle your money? You’re in the right place. Two-time All-Pro defensive end Patrick Kerney is passionate about helping NFL players take control of their finances.

Kerney’s best advice? “Be humble. You don't know what you don't know and that's fine. But just as you continue to develop your football skills, you need to develop your financial skills. Not doing so will be far more expensive than you could ever imagine.”

Kerney knows both NFL life and finances well – and he’s passionate about helping others. After retiring from an 11-year NFL career during which he played for the Atlanta Falcons (1999-2006) and the Seattle Seahawks (2007-2009), Kerney went back to school to earn an MBA in Finance from the Columbia Business School. He’s since led the NFL’s Finance Boot Camps and helped teach current and former NFL players to better understand how to preserve their wealth.

To help new NFL players who are looking for somewhere to start, Kerney laid out the five steps new NFL players can take today to help them take control of their finances:


Step 1: Place all of your money in an online, high-yield savings account.

Find an FDIC-insured account where you can earn a higher rate than you’re your current bank can offer. Rates can be found at . Just beware of promotional rates that drastically shrink 12 months after the account opens.

Step 2: Track How Much Money You Spend

Track your monthly spending for at least twelve months. Knowing how much you are actually spending is EXTREMELY valuable. Taking any action with your money outside of putting it in a savings account before you know how much cash you use each year can lead you to making irreversible mistakes.  

There are several free expense-tracking apps. One way to begin to track your spending is to visit and sign up for their free app.

Step 3: Admit to what you Don't Know

Pride and ignorance will break your finances. Read and learn.

Assuming you want to be wealthy, you can learn about the real lifestyle of America's wealthy by reading Stop Acting Rich...and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire by Thomas J. Stanley, PhD.

Step 4: Be Patient

With Dr. Stanley's lessons in hand and your cash piling up, you'll probably grow anxious hearing veterans bragging about all the money they're making through their investments. Ignore this. 

Instead, take a moment to read Jack Bogle's book, The Little Book of Common Sense Investing. This book will give you an idea of what you could do for yourself. Does it make sense to pay an advisor a bunch of fees to grow your investment portfolio at a slower rate than you could by just reading a couple books?

Step 5: Decide Whether or Not You Need a Financial Advisor

There are a few things to think about in terms of a financial advisor:

- Properly Evaluate any Potential Financial Advisor

An initial interview with any financial advisor should be done via email (think accountability...) and have nothing to do with you and your assets.

Have the prospective advisor email you their current credit score, amount of debt owed and documentation of what stocks, bonds and/or real estate they own. 

They don't have to be wealthy, but if they don't show the ability to maintain a good credit score and grow assets for themselves, what makes you think they can do it for you?

Give the names of all prospective financial advisors to your team to run a free background check. Then, check to be sure there aren’t any red flags and that the information they share with you matches the information on their background checks.

- Don't hire a financial advisor if you don't think you have it in you to fire that person should they perform poorly.

Every financial advisor is a "nice/good person."  That is their No. 1 job requirement. How many "nice/good" people are still on NFL rosters if they're bad football players? Hold people accountable. If, after reading Jack Bogle’s book, you believe you can do better on your own than they could do for you, it might be time to move on.

In addition to Kerney’s Five Steps to Take Control of your Finances, make sure you spend some time getting to know your NFL benefits by visiting: . There, you can track your credited seasons, find up-to-date values of your 401(k) Savings Plan and other NFL retirement benefits and find information about free financial seminars.

You can also check with your team benefits department to see if you are investing the maximum possible amount to your 401(k) (a.k.a. Second Career Savings Plan). These contributions come directly from your paycheck, before taxes, which means that you won’t pay taxes on them until you take the money out of your account. In addition to the money you contribute, the NFL will match your contributions $2 for every dollar you invest to a maximum of a $26,000 contribution from the NFL. Check with NFL Player Benefits to see if you are eligible for the match.

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