News   Money   Entertainment   Kids   Family Check e-mail

Outside the Lines

Athletes, Dollars and Sense

Troy Aikman makes money from his money

How to spend all $5 million of that signing bonus

Tiger Woods may become world's first billion-dollar athlete


Chat wrap: Financial planner and ex-NHL player Derek Sanderson


 Outside the Lines
Chicago Bulls rookie Ron Artest is looking to save money after he helps his family out.
wav: 103 k | Listen

 Outside the Lines
Artest's mother, Sarah, was concerned how her son would handle the wealth.
wav: 84 k | Listen

 Outside the Lines
Artest concedes that after his rookie spending spree, he had little left over for savings or investments.
Standard | Cable Modem

Watch the re-airing of ESPN's Outside the Lines show on money and athletes July 1 at noon ET, and July 6 at 7 p.m. ET. ESPN The Magazine also takes a fun look at the topic in this week's issue.

Tuesday, June 3
How to blow $5 million
Tom Farrey

Professional athletes are making more money than ever, obscene piles of cash. The kind of coin that would make some Silicon Valley executives blush (pre-NASDAQ crash, at least). But put to rest one commonly held notion about athletes and their jackpots: that they do not give back to their communities.

Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders, who brings his extensive wardrobe to Washington next season, has nonetheless invested well, says his financial planner.

For instance, Travis Taylor, the 10th pick in the recent NFL draft, opened his wallet for his local Mercedes and Lexus dealers. He enriched a store owner that carries Rolex watches, the broker of the home he just purchased, and he dropped $40,000 at the furniture store -- all before even signing with the Baltimore Ravens.

Many athletes spend so much money in so many places that each qualifies as his own economic impact study. The money that comes with those big contracts doesn't go to live with athletes; it barely spends the night before moving on to some retailer or entrepreneur or uncle who wants to start a restaurant.

To understand what modern athletes do with their new contracts, called John Sestina, a Columbus, Ohio financial planner for about 50 NFL players. Among his clients are Rod Woodson, Andrew Wadsworth, Hardy Nickerson and Deion Sanders, who singlehandedly may have moved international gold markets with early career jewelry purchases.

Using his experience with NFL clients as a reference, here's how a typical -- yet ordinary -- athlete blows through a $5 million signing bonus, according to Sestina:

Minting Republicans
"This is where they change their politics -- when they figure out their taxes," Sestina says, chuckling. Athletes fall into the highest tax bracket, meaning the federal government immediately grabs 38 percent ($1.9 million) of his first check.

If players live in states with income taxes, that can cost the player another 2 percent ($100,000) or so. That's why many players keep homes in Florida, Texas and Washington, where there are no state taxes.

One additional set of taxes no one can avoid are stadium taxes, Sestina said. States have gotten clever about writing laws to ensure that athletes who do business in their state -- translation: play games -- pay for the privilege. So, for instance, if you suit up even one day a year in Cleveland, then Cleveland gets a cut. Between all those cities, that can suck another $100,000 from the athlete's bank account, he said.

What's left: $2.9 million.

Services rendered
Jerry Maguire may be hanging on by a very thin thread, but he does not work for free. Agents get three to five percent of the gross.

What's left: $2.7 million.

Taking care of Mee-Maw
For the female parents of athletes, Mother's Day is not the second Sunday in May. It's the day their sons sign that big contract. That's when they get their paycheck, er, payback for all those years of sacrifice, of working two and three jobs to keep food on the table and allow their sons to focus on their games.

Sestina has seen rookies spend as much as $750,000 on a mother's home. Disciplined athletes drop about half that much.

"I've never seen any of them buy anything for less than $350,000," he said.

They also usually pay cash for the house, just so they don't have to think about it. Then they will often buy dear old mom $50,000 in furniture, a satellite dish and other electronics.

Mom also gets an income stream so she doesn't have to work too hard -- say, a modest $1,500 a month. To start, at least. "The problem is, mom gets it and begins to enjoy it, so she asks for more," Sestina said.

Dad? The bum. "Dads generally doesn't get much," he said. Maybe a $50,000 truck, if they were around growing up. Maybe a trip to the Pro Bowl, if not.

What's left: $2.1 million.

Living largess
Every high draft pick needs a nice ride. Or three. These days, the typical rookie starter kit includes a $100,000 Mercedes, a $50,000 sport-utility vehicle and a $30,000 run-around. Mercedes are always in, because of unique combination of status and superior leg room.

It's not uncommon for athletes to spend $200,000 on cars their first year, partly because they keep upgrading after seeing what their new teammates are driving, Sestina said.

"Whatever the latest craze in cars is," he said. "They might go through a half-dozen cars in their first year."

That much transportation requires a house with a three-car garage. "They all say they want a home that's about $300,000 or $400,000 but they end up spending about $1 million," he said. Up to half of that will be paid in cash.

Let's make that house a home! Furniture: $25,000 to $100,000. Entertainment system: $30,000. Landscaping, utilities, groceries, car insurance, and the maid, chef and other personal assistants to keep track of the various living expenses: $100,000 a year, Sestina said.

If the athlete plays in a city where he does not live, he will need a second home -- preferably in a gated community to keep the public at bay. That's another $25,000 a year if renting for eight months, more if he buys.

No self-respecting celebrity would fill those large, walk-in closets with clearance items from T.J. Maxx.

"These guys are usually big enough they need to get their clothes made for them, so they're spending $1,000 a suit," Sestina said. "And you never know when you're going to be seen on TV in the same suit, so you have to have more than a few." After all, SportsCenter could call their number at any time.

Like teachers, athletes get a few months off each year. Unlike teachers, they can afford in their time off to fly first-class to Tahiti and put several friends up in the finest hotels. Sestina said he has seen $100,000 vacation budgets, although $25,000 is more the standard.

Above and beyond all of the those expenses is what Sestina calls "play-around" money -- about $2,000 a week, which goes to ancillary items such as limos and late-night entertainment. Mostly, the rolls just look good in the pants pocket.

"They want to flash some cash," he said.

What's left: $1.0 million.

Team player
The athlete didn't get to the pros on his own. Along the way, there may have been that uncle who taught him how to throw a spiral, that thick-necked friend who protected him from certain neighborhood elements, and that sister who helped him with his homework -- who now wants to start a hair and nail salon with her brother's newfound wealth.

"All of these people have their hands out," Sestina said. "These (athletes) are usually very generous to the people close to them."

Often, there is also a child or two in the picture, regardless of whether the athlete is married. For each child, the athlete may set up a $100,000 college fund, and for each mother, a $30,000 per year living stipend.

What's left: $700,000.

Life happens
Then there are those expenses no one ever sees coming -- the 3-karat diamond earrings for that month's favorite girl; the fees for that guy who runs your web site; the lawyers' fees to get him out of that frivolous breach-of-contract suit with the card-show owner.

Or that lawsuit with the folks. In 1990, Steve Wallace of the San Francisco 49ers had to pay lawyers to fight a lawsuit filed by, of all people, his parents, who had sued him for breach of contract after he told them he was unable to keep up mortgage payments on the home he had purchased for them.

Like most NFL players, Sestina's clients also must purchase disability insurance, which protects the value of their contract in case they are injured in the game or disabled out of it. Cha-ching: Another $30,000 to $50,000, to Lloyd's of London.

What's left: $500,000.


Risk-takers by nature, athletes have been known to take whatever is left of their money and put it in speculative investments. Some, like baseball's Jose Canseco, say they have done well betting on Internet and technology stocks. Others take a horrendous fall, such as football's Darren Woodson, who lost nearly $4 million to a morally challenged financial planner in San Diego.

Even athletes with vision are vulnerable to bankruptcy.

"Most athletes coming out of college today understand that football is a short-term thing," Sestina said. "They know that they need to be involved in some business later. But this is where they get in trouble, because they start investing in businesses they think will be there after their career is over with -- and yet they don't have the experience to know how to run those businesses. They can blow it all overnight."

The best hope for those athletes is that they play long enough to get a second contract, Sestina said. Without it, their retirement fund might consist of little more than the several thousand dollars per month that the NFL Players Association pension doles out to veterans.

Here today, gone tomorrow. It's true not just of many pro athletes, but of their money.

Tom Farrey is a senior writer with

Copyright ©2000 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information