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Athlete's CornerTop 10 Rules for Athletes

To Succeed Outside Of Sports
Mark Sachs, CFP®, CLU
Senior Wealth Adviser
United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC

Armica Nabaa
Chief Executive Officer
ATB Management Group


1. Know Who’s On Your Team
A professional athlete is the “owner” of his wealth preservation and management team. That means it’s up to him to hire the right head coach, one that he can trust and one that shares his vision for his future. During an athlete’s playing years, that person may be the manager or agent. Upon retirement the “head coach” may likely be a financial adviser.  Know that, like any athletic team, a wealth management team will include other “coaches” and teammates that play vital roles in an athlete’s life.  However, not everyone on the team shares the same goals and this goes for friends. The concept of friendship implies a level of shared values and equality. Friends who are supported by an athlete are, by definition, not friends. A person, who relies on the athlete for their stature in life, is not a friend. For an athlete to succeed beyond sport, he must recognize this crucial distinction between who is and who is not on his team.

2. Adviser Or Coach
Not all advisers, are coaches, but all coaches are advisers. The distinction not only lies in the images conjured up by the word “adviser” but in the fundamental difference between the approach a coach takes and an adviser takes.  The difference lies in the understanding of psychology, inspiration and the role of the adviser in helping a client athlete make the most of himself/herself. While advisers advise a client as to what’s best for him in certain legal or financial matters, a coach inspires the client to be better, to make better decisions that result in better outcomes and helps the athlete understand his own psychology better in an effort to help them success. This is akin to the Asian proverb: feed a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Coaches teach their clients how to fish in the many ponds that make up their lives.

3. Trust No One, Least Of All Yourself
All of us, even the smartest among us, are prone to making bad decisions because we rely on our biases. Therefore, all of us benefit by working with a coach to help us make better decisions. As the “owner” of his wealth preservation and management team, a professional athlete’s job is to hire a head coach he trusts. The warning to this is that it’s the athlete’s team, not the coach’s. Therefore, an athlete must play a critical role in managing his team by working closely with the head coach. An athlete cannot assume that the coaches can be trusted to do what is in the athlete’s best interest. That is a right to be earned over time. Having said that, it’s possible that an athlete will hire a coach that misleads him, takes, advantage of him, loses his money, or worse, steals money from him. Rather, he should take it as a learning experience; he will have learned how to manage his coaching staff better with the outcome being a more successful future.

4. The Best Offense Is A Good Defense
In other words, protect, protect, protect! This should be an athlete’s mantra that moment an athlete signs his contract. A professional athlete must protect his assets from creditors. He must protect himself and his assets from adviser fraud. He must protect himself and his assets from those who view him as a revenue source and nothing more. A professional athlete must protect his name and reputation. He must protect his future by planning today. Success is as much about avoiding bad decisions as it is about making good decisions. If one never makes the optimal choice but avoids making devastating decisions, he will still be very successful.

5. The Kiss Principle: Keep It Simple Stupid!
Investing can be complicated. So too, can asset protection, estate planning, and corporate tax planning be made very complicated. For a professional athlete to increase the likelihood of long-term success, he should stay away from complicated planning, at least until he feels competent enough to make informed decisions. For most athletes, planning using common strategies can fulfill their every need. What’s more, these strategies are likely to be transparent, liquid, cost efficient and more easily understood. The simpler the planning the higher likelihood that the athlete will be happier with their planning and their adviser; and, there will be a higher probability of long term success because he will be more inclined to maintain it. Of course, there are times when more sophisticated strategies are needed. Hire the right coach and much of this falls into place.

6. Bread And Butter Plays
A professional athlete owes it to himself to learn the basic plays in his financial life. Take the offseason to meet with coaches to learn about investment management, asset allocation and insurance. Take time to learn the basics about asset protection, estate planning and business planning. Too often we read stories about athletes who got caught in a web of complicated investment or business structures. Too often, a little knowledge might have prevented these events.

7. Begin With The End In Mind
The best time to start planning for the future is now. A professional athlete can never begin planning to early for the end of his career. For each day an athlete neglects planning for his future, he loses future opportunity. To be successful beyond sport, a professional athlete must make an effort to take the end of sport seriously.

8. Failing To Plan Is Planning To Fail
Every athlete stops playing his sport at some point in the future. Some athletes are fortunate to play for years, earning significant dollars along the way. Other athletes are not as fortunate. Regardless of the time and money an athlete plays or earns, the most significant indicator of long-term financial success is whether or not the athlete planned for that day. Granted, the longer one has to plan and the more resources with which one has to plan, the easier time he may have, but not always. If ESPN’s Broke illustrate anything, it was that regardless of the money and time, those athletes that failed to plan, failed financially beyond sport.

9. Run Your Own Race
In Triathlon, running your own race means not getting caught up trying to draft the fastest swimmer, pace the fastest cyclist or run down a runner at a faster pace than you can handle. Often, doing any of the above causes a race to be lost. Every top triathlete knows exactly how hard he or she can push before blowing up. In fact, Craig Alexander, one of the best in the world, ran 2 Ironman marathons with only a 1-minute time differential. What does this have to do with financial success? Everything. An athlete must know what he is able to spend based on what he must save to achieve his goals. Trying to keep up with a teammate who earns more money and buys more stuff, or buying things the athlete knows he cannot afford, are the surest ways for an athlete to blow up his retirement “race.” Simply, an athlete must know his pace, not go out too hard, and should reinforce his long-term goals. He must run his own race; it’s his life

10. A Man With A “Why” Can Bear Almost Any “How”
An athlete must find meaning in his or her life beyond sport. Playing a sport, in and of itself, is not a meaningful life. What’s meaningful is what the athlete is able to do for himself, for those he loves and for the world, as a result of playing a sport. Too often, unfortunately, athletes identify themselves only with as sport, and are, therefore, adrift following retirement. For long-term success outside of sport an athlete must start now identifying the meaningful ways he can play a role in society following his days. An athlete’s success hinges on his search, and finding of meaning.

About The Authors

Mark Sachs, CFP®, CLU is Senior Wealth Adviser with United Capital Financial Advisors in South Florida. Mr. Sachs has been practicing financial coaching and comprehensive financial planning for over 15 years. He has been the subject of featured articles, written numerous papers and articles, and has been a featured speaker at local and national assemblies.

Armica Nabaa is CEO of ATB Management Group, which provides management and representation services to professional athletes. Ms. Nabaa is also the founder and President of Transition 360 a 501c3 that helps professional athletes with their transition from professional sports to a mainstream career, and Youth Across America Leadership Foundation, which helps youth athletes develop leadership skills, financial literacy, and achieve academic success. Ms. Nabaa holds a BS in Sports Management with a minor in Sports Marketing.



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