I'm as Mad(off) as Hell: Ex athletes in financial peril
Today is a sad, dark day in New York City, even if the sun is finally shining. Hearing from the victims of Bernard Madoff was a stark illustration of the havoc this man wreaked on his financial victims. Glad he is going to jail for the rest of his life, but it's still small consolation to the hundreds of victims, including more than a few charities, whose banks and lives Madoff shattered.
Too many people wanted to believe Madoff was a financial genius. Madoff might have been the biggest, most brazen scammer of all time, but he's not the only one.
These are issues are issues I try to grapple with, in my book and in my consulting. How do we help everyone make better decisions about their financial futures? Yes, much of my work involves future, current and ex professional athletes, whose situations are somewhat unique. But too many people are falling prey to financial con artists. We can send Madoff and others to jail. We can tell people how to avoid financial scams. We can remember all horror stories about the victims. But, then what?
One example: Green Bay Packer legend Willie Davis reportedly lost $9 million in an investment in a community bank. Former NFL player Harry Carson is quoted:
"They're the guys who made the transition to life after (sports). They did the right things; they just went on with their lives," Carson says. "They haven't bothered anybody. They haven't asked for anything. All of a sudden: Bam! They're out of a job...Those are the guys my heart goes out to."
It breaks my heart when current and ex pro athletes run into financial problems. In fact, it makes me Mad as Hell. Speaking of my general state, here's what I wrote in the introduction to my book, Money Players:
I’m Mad as Hell...and You Shouldn’t Take It Anymore
Becoming a professional athlete is a dream come true. But it can also become a nightmare, especially if you make poor career and financial decisions. If you want to read some sad, sobering stories just google “professional athlete” and “bankruptcy.” On the other hand, if you want to chart a path that leads to financial security, read Money Players.
Many professional athletes achieve financial success. Many do not. Failure in the business of sports is unfortunately too common for athletes, because they live in a world that often encourages poor financial decisions. And, with careers in the NBA, NFL and MLB averaging three to five years, playing catch-up is a losing strategy.
When I hear about athletes throwing away the opportunity for financial success, I feel like news anchor Howard Beale in the 1976 movie Network. I want to stick my head out of the window and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
This is also from Money Players:
When the infamous thief Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he said, “Because that’s where the money is.” For the exact same reason, crooks target professional athletes. Young, financially inexperienced and often surrounded by “yes” people, professional athletes are magnets for scam artists. Instead of holding a gun on them, they get pro athletes to willingly, even eagerly, hand over their money.
The late Gene Upshaw, then NFLPA executive director, believed that the reported cases are just “the tip of the iceberg.” He added, “There are many cases out there where players are too embarrassed to report the fraud.
Unfortunately, with the extreme and protracted downturn in our economy, we're now dealing with the whole iceberg.
Professional athletes need to get mad. Really friggn' mad. Like Mr. Beale.