Financial Education Lessons from the NFL Playbook

Regular football season is upon us and here’s what I’m thinking about: How my fantasy picks are looking for the week, where and with whom I will watch my favorite team play (the Green Bay Packers), the green and gold combination outfit I’ll wear to said viewing event, who is injured and their current state. Here’s what I’m not thinking about: The financial well-being of each NFL player on and off the field that week. Until now . . .

That’s because I just listened to a fascinating story from Dana Hammonds, Director of Player Services and Development at the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). Back in 2009, players were faced with the possibility of a lockout, and the NFLPA decided it was time to create their own playbook for financial education.

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The need for financial education among NFL players is strong because the professional athlete career model isn’t like most. Players come into sudden wealth—They go from college and/or poverty right to the top (ramen noodles to filet mignon, as Dana puts it). They have a very short expected career length and face pressures from family and/or friends expecting to get a slice of the short-lived pie.  Most professionals work their way up, continuing to make money along the way, but NFL rookies start with an annual salary of $500,000+ into the millions. They need tools to manage their finances and set themselves up for future success after their football career is over.

[Related: Psychological Pitfalls of Investing | Benefit Bits Video]

Dana and the NFLPA represent not only current NFL players, but retirees and families as well. They have to continue overcoming the common challenge of communicating with a very diverse multigenerational audience, which is especially tricky when trying to capture the attention of young guys who have many more distractions. (You’ll have to watch Dana’s presentation for more on their unique solution to that!)

The NFLPA kicked off their financial wellness program with a website, biweekly e-mail and a help line for players to access. The help line ended up being the most successful financial education tool—Players can call one of five financial planners with any finance-related question and get needed answers. The e-mails feature topics most important to players, like taxes, dealing with family members, credit cards and budgeting. Dana mentioned that peer-to-peer education is also encouraged—not talking at the players but making sure they are talking to each other about shared interests in financial wellness.

What’s the future of the NFLPA financial education program? Continue to customize, customize, customize. For example, they are discovering that many of the players don’t e-mail, so the next endeavor is branching out into social media because many players use Twitter to communicate. Learn more by viewing Dana’s entire presentation, and find resources for developing your own financial education playbook in our Financial Education for Retirement Security page.


Anne Killian
Communications Associate at the International Foundation