Momma Always Knows Best: The Money Mindset


by Steven Cohen 08-11-2013 03:55 PM

My mom is the type of person who gets to the airport three hours early, whether she’s flying internationally or not. My mom is the type of person who feels physically uncomfortable not getting to the airport three hours early, whether she’s even the one flying or not. I’m the type of person who packs three hours before I’m supposed to fly and feels vastly superior to all the nervous shmucks toughing it out in the food court. But I am also in a permanent rush, and I knew even before I missed my first flight that momma was probably right.

Momma, it turns out, is just about always right, about just about everything.
 
But momma is also boring. That doesn’t make her any less right – in fact, she’s boring specifically because of how consistently right she is – but it does make her a lot harder to listen to. And that is how it should be. A hip mom is probably a bad mom. A mom with anything but dull, clichéd things to say about life probably isn’t doing her job.
 
And I mention my momma because it is basically impossible to give professional athletes good financial advice without sounding exactly like her.
 
There is no conceivable way to approach the topic of disability insurance, for example, as anything other than a sober reflection on the very real possibility of becoming permanently crippled (especially if your career involves running away from 300-pound men who want to eat you), and the financial implications involved if you do. If CPA were the name of a rap group, it might be vaguely cool, but nothing says unsexy like an acronym for “certified public accountant.” A watchdog that monitors your bank statements and tax records is neither fun to play with nor intimidating to look at nor fuzzy to sleep with. Spending plans and estates are things that moms have.
 
Whenever I read things like NCompass Financial’s Money Mindset For Athletes Handbook, I am struck by how redundantly obvious all the information and suggestions they offer are. Of course if you are living by yourself in a city where you will spend approximately 4 months out of the year, it’s probably better to rent than buy. Of course nothing is permanent – the ability to whack a ball traveling at 97 mph with a stick less so than most things. Of course more saving now will mean more spending, for longer, later. Of course insulating yourself from every third cousin thrice-removed and friend from that one week that one summer in elementary school is smarter than serving as a bottomless ATM for any person that ever knew you. Of course of course. Of course of course of course.
 
And then I read stats that say things like 80% of NFL players go bankrupt within 3 years of leaving the league (or is it 40%? And does that matter?), and I ask myself how so much of course could possibly slip through the cracks.
 
Well, there are certainly plenty of answers floating around out there. People will tell you it’s a youth thing. Or it’s the inevitable result of giving people who tend not to come from money lots and lots of it really quickly. Or that the greater education system is to blame for not focusing more on practical skills like money management and financial planning. Or that society bears the burden for its fetishistic worship of athletes – the myths it makes that the gods themselves are only too willing to indulge in. Or that the killer psychology instilled in some of the most naturally competitive, aggressive people on the planet is fundamentally incompatible with things like caution and foresight.
 
And ultimately, I think there’s a good deal of truth in all of them (minus the personal responsibility nonsense blaming rappers, bling-bling and a lack of father figures). But momma used to tell me that the simplest answer is often the best, and the simplest answer in this case is that managing money is boring.
 
On the most intuitive level possible, the act of saving goes against the very idea of money. And you don’t need statistics to tell you that people receiving large amounts of cash in big chunks – even people who aren’t professionally confident – are more likely to allow all that theoretically valuable paper to fulfill its basic purpose (and achieve actual value) than people who don’t.
 
Adopting the money mindset means thinking like a mom does, and no matter how much you love the woman who birthed you (hi mommy!), no one ever grows up wanting to think like their mothers – until they’re actually grown up, at which point they simply do, whether they like it or not.
 
It seems to me that the problem with money management is one of messaging, and in that sense, the NCompass guide is wonderful. It’s easy to understand, if a bit easy to get bored with, and seems so self-apparent it can’t possibly not be true – in other words, it sounds exactly like good information on money management should.
 
There’s nothing condescending about “mommying” professional athletes. What’s condescending is to assume that the message needs to be ginned up, needs to be made cool or relevant. The more professional athletes with experience in financial matters, positive or negative, come out and speak about money, the less taboo of a subject it will be, the easier it will be to convince people to take responsible steps in their lives. And that’s extremely important for improving the financial stability of athletes, the people who make the professional sports industry the ridiculously consistent money machine it is. 
 
But that’s also a separate battle. Money culture in sports will only ever develop on a peer-to-peer level: making things cool is what friends do. Providing good information, on the other hand, is a distinctly motherly pastime.
 
Money Mindset is as easy to read as it is broad in scope. It tells you the truth – it doesn’t try to sell you a product. It contains no revolutionary secrets, just thorough, well-vetted information relayed cleanly. It errs always on the side of simplicity, without shooting for the lowest common denominator. Money Mindset, to say it another way, explains money in sports the way a good mom would. No athlete has to listen to it, but all athletes probably should.
 
 


Published 08-11-2013 © 2018 Access Athletes, LLC


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