What to Do With Your First Million Dollars..

…According to an NFL financial adviser.

Recently, 32 of America’s most talented college football players were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, instantly becoming millionaires-in-waiting despite being barely old enough to celebrate the occasion by having a few beers to celebrate. Over two days, 221 more players will hear their names called, and more after that will join teams as undrafted free agents and report for training camp in the fall. In short, there are about to be a lot of newly-minted dudes out there who are varying degrees of loaded, and most of them—again, since they’re barely old enough to drink some beers—have never seen that kind of money in their lives. As a 20 something male who is fascinated by fast cars and has client who are inclined in the same way, I can envision all kinds of ways in which adding millions of dollars to that equation could go horribly wrong.


Mark Doman is one of a handful of financial advisers who specialise in helping athletes, entertainers, and other young people who have earned crazy amounts of money relatively early in their lives to figure out what to do with all that money. Mark, whose firm, the Doman Group, has been diligently prepping its clients in anticipation of the draft, about what to splurge on, what to skip, and how to make your first million dollars turn in to many more.


Lesson No. 1: Triage, triage, triage.
Once your first paycheck clears, make a wish list and divide it into two columns—one for things you need, and one for things you want. (Doman concedes that he sometimes has to gently help clients see how some of their “needs” should be shifted over to the second column.) A helpful way to think about splashy purchases, whether on a home, a car, or whatever else tickles your fancy, is the room you’ll leave to look forward to even shiner things in the future. Doman tells the story of one of his probably-Canton-bound clients who wanted to buy a rare luxury car (although his income would support it) would still cost well into the six figures. His response? “How will you ever get excited about buying any vehicle after that?” The player, after thinking it over, decided to skip the car after all.

Lesson No. 2: Pay attention to where your money is.
Financial literacy is the bedrock of a having a smart investment strategy, and Doman tells his clients that they’re not ready to invest their first dollar in anything until they’re able to explain why they are making a given choice. To clients who simply wave their hand and tell him that they trust him, he’ll reply, “It’s great that you trust me, but it’s even better if you understand me.” (Side note: He says he has many of them come into his office for short-term internships during the NFL offseason, where they spend time working on their own portfolios and learning what it means to manage their money. As proof, Doman texted me a picture of him in the office standing next to New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who was diligently poring over some important-looking paperwork.)

Lesson No. 3: Have an actual strategy.
One of the biggest mistakes players make, Doman explains, is acquiring things, making investments, and allocating their money in a short term fashion, without a big-picture financial strategy in place. Although every client is different, with variations in things like—feel free to look away if you aren’t actually a millionaire—earning potential, anticipated career length, spending habits, and risk tolerance, he generally recommends that they invest in some combination of investment-grade, short-duration bonds; especially for players with longer investment horizons, blue-chip stocks that reliably yield dividends; and, once a player has some geographic stability, a home that they can commit to for between 7 and 10 years.


Some pretty sound advice, even if you haven’t just signed a 4-year rookie contract at around $13.4 million, including a $9.3 million signing bonus like Texan’s rookie QB DeShaun Watson.




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