Once the champagne bottles are popped and the excitement of signing a multi-million-dollar pro-ball contract sets in, athletes have traditionally been left to their own devices to manage their money, often when they’re fresh out of college with little or no financial literacy or expertise to back them up.
The results can be devastating. Take former NBA star Antoine Walker, who learned about the perils of lavish spending the hard way, running through the $108 million he had earned during his 12-year professional career in just two years after he retired.
“I never understood the value of a dollar,” the former Boston Celtic told the “I Am Athlete” podcast, blaming his desire to live like rapper Jay-Z for his out-of-control spending, which included legendary gambling and the purchase of homes and luxury autos. He declared bankruptcy in 2010.
He isn’t alone. A stark 78% of pro athletes go broke after just three years of retirement, according to business management firm NKSFB. Fortunately, Walker regained his financial footing in 2013 as a TV basketball analyst, and he’s now a consultant for Edyoucore, a company that focuses on teaching financial literacy to pro athletes.
The firm has a roster of retired athletes who teach their peers how to avoid his missteps by taking control of their spending, making smart investment decisions and wisely selecting the right advisors.
The firm was the brainchild of financial advisor Drew Hawkins, a three-decade veteran of Morgan Stanley who started the firm’s global sports and entertainment division. The experience made him realize how much financial trouble professional athletes get themselves into due to lack of basic financial savvy. Those insights led him to launch Edyoucore in 2019.
“Pro athletes squander billions of dollars each year. I wanted to come up with a meaningful solution to provide education we could offer to teams and individual athletes,” Hawkins says.
The message is resonating with the general managers of many NBA teams and a growing number of NFL franchises, which have hired Edyoucore to teach their incoming rookies and more seasoned players comprehensive financial literacy. “We teach them to make their wealth outlast what can be a short pro athlete career,” says Hawkins, whose clients include the Baltimore Ravens, the Washington Wizards, the Washington Mystics, the Detroit Lions, the Detroit Pistons, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers.
“We teach athletes, ‘You’re not just a professional athlete; you’re the CEO of your own enterprise,’” says Hawkins, who adds that it’s important to give them financial training in their rookie year in order to start their career off right.
The athletes come from backgrounds “where they don’t have exposure to money management. They may have been poor, never driven a nice car, eaten in a nice restaurant or lived in a lavish home before. And here they are at 17, 18 or 19 with millions of dollars for the first time, but no training to deal with it,” he says.
To establish trust and minimize any conflicts of interest, Edyoucore offers no money management or financial product sales. “General managers hire us to teach a variety of our programs. We may teach six different classes in a season and make sure to give athletes the time to schedule one-on-one meetings with us,” Hawkins says. “We aren’t coming in in pinstripe suits. We meet players where they are.”
The firm’s classes, which are season-long, have catchy titles like “Ballin’ on a Budget,” “Rookie to CEO,” “What the FICO?” One comprehensive investing course is designed to educate players on the importance of long-term investing, market fundamentals and prudent investment vehicles.
“Many times athletes have no idea what they’re invested in or what their ownership stake is,” Hawkins says.
The “Family and Friends” class goes into the particular challenges players face, which can distract them from their best performance and drain their nest eggs. To help them avoid pitfalls, Edyoucore teaches them to set critical spending boundaries.