Michael Bennett, Rob Gronkowski models of NFL money management

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 08: Michael Bennett #77 of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on August 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 08: Michael Bennett #77 of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on August 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Michael Bennett and Rob Gronkowski’s methods of handling their finances should be taught as required learning for all incoming NFL rookies.

It’s a bizarre concept, the idea that NFL players who routinely sign contracts that earn them anywhere between hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars at a time could ever end up in a position of financial hardship. And yet it’s much more common than you might think.

According to statistics cited by Andrew Lisa of Yahoo! Finance, “nearly eight in 10 NFL players suffer from financial stress approximately two years after retirement.” There’s even evidence out there to suggest that one of every six former NFL players will file for bankruptcy at some point in their post-football life.

How does this happen? How do well-known celebrity athletes like Dan Marino, Vince Young, Warren Sapp, and countless others lose tens of millions of dollars in the blink of an eye?

As Lisa points out, there are a variety of reasons that can be usually held responsible in most cases. Sometimes it’s a bad return on risky investments, or it’s money spent on expensive divorces or child alimony payments; but more often than not, the money meltdown can be traced back to poor spending habits and lavish living.

Imagine you’re a young man who has come from humble beginnings.

Maybe you spent part of your childhood living on the streets, sleeping in a car, or moving around through foster care. Perhaps you spent your teenage years working multiple jobs to put food on the table and support a single parent or multiple siblings. You work hard to get a college football scholarship, and once there, you exceed to such a degree that you end up fielding interest from the NFL… and actually find yourself getting drafted by a professional football team.

Suddenly, your entire idea of and a lifetime’s worth of knowledge understanding money has been flipped on its head completely. Whereas you once didn’t have a penny to your name, you now have millions at your disposal. What do you do with all that cash?

Very, very few players do the wise thing: save. They were either never taught the value of saving money from their paychecks and earnings, or they simply forgot/choose to ignore that age-old truism as soon as they hit the big-time and “made it” as a success story.

New England Patriots defensive end Michael Bennett, a longtime NFL veteran who has never been afraid to use his status as a celebrity and professional athlete to speak his mind about the issues that are important to him, recently said during a podcast interview that the key for him financially has been waiting until the end of a season to cash his checks.

Per The Grio’s Shawn Grant, Bennett has spent his entire pro career living on a fixed income… despite the fact that he has made nearly $60 million to date.

“I keep my checks until the end of the season to make sure I don’t spend any money. And then at the end of the season, I deposit it,” Bennett said on the “Kneading Dough” podcast. “I had different jobs (growing up), and I used to save my money to buy me and my brother’s school clothes. I worked at a water park, a grocery store, and most of the time I was a lifeguard. I was a lifeguard for four years.”

Bennett isn’t the only Patriot whose savvy money management strategies should be studied by all college football players and incoming NFL rookies alike.

According to Money.com’s Brad Tuttle, former New England tight end Rob Gronkowski – who spent nine years in the NFL before retiring last March – never “touched one dime of (his) signing bonus or NFL contract money.” Instead, Gronk lived exclusively off the money he made through endorsement deals and promotional opportunities.

Granted, not every football player has the charisma and household name that Gronkowski boasts. Some players won’t ever have the luxury of being commercial spokesmen for products or being featured on television advertisements.

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Still, his advice on saving and intelligently investing his NFL paychecks is a strategy that, like Bennett’s, should be replicated widely across the NFL… and for that matter, across professional sports in general. The alternative is a rags-to-riches-to-rags-again progression that’s far too common, and one that could easily be avoided if properly planned against.