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Rookie seminar: Financial literacy with Eric Smith

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Eric Smith sure knew how to grab the attention of the Broncos' rookies.

As the "Financial Literacy Coach" began his speech on Wednesday about how to succeed in the financial world, he brought players to the front of the room to answer questions in front of their peers.

Smith, a former lender and banking executive from Atlanta, called on the rookies to answer true-false questions that ranged from mutual fund myths to facts about how often players get paid during the season. And the Broncos certainly paid attention.

"It's a big deal," rookie fullback Andy Janovich said. "A lot of guys live outside their means when they get to the NFL because they're making all this money, but that doesn't last forever."

During the hour-long talk that tried to help players learn to navigate the difficult financial situation in which they find themselves, Smith constantly involved the players to keep the difficult material fresh and interesting.

When he talked about compounding interest, he had two players guess how much $50,000 of savings would appreciate over the course of 50 years. Neither player was close to the $1.3 million answer. But the message was clear: If a player is responsible with savings and investment, he should have plenty of funds to support his family over the coming years.

He also asked players what they planned to buy with their money and then talked to them about how to make a responsible purchase. Some wanted to buy cars or clothes, while at least one player wanted a 70-ounce steak. When Smith asked them about long-term goals, rookie QB Paxton Lynch said he wanted to make sure his future kids have money. 

Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen, Smith said.

"Did I do anything wrong?" Smith said. "No, I just overspent."

That's where the S.M.A.R.T. program comes in. Smith focused on the following topics which he said were key to avoiding financial distress: Save, make a budget, avoid debt, resist overspending, think of others. To do so, Smith suggested a player implement the 50-40-10 ratio for spending.

In this plan, a player spends 50 percent of their income, saves 40 percent and gives 10 percent to family, friends, the community, etc. If they do this, they'll be in good shape.

The message certainly seemed to make an impact.

"Actually it's probably the first meeting we've had that I wanted it to last a lot longer," Janovich said. "It was just a lot of useful information. I got a lot of notes down that I'm actually gonna look up to see more of the what guy had to say. So I'm pretty excited about that."

Here are a few more tips from Smith:

  • All professional athletes should get an umbrella insurance policy to protect themselves in situations (ie. car accidents) that could leave them open to lawsuits or penalties.
  • Every player should open two separate banks accounts: one for game checks, and a smaller one where they keep their spending money. Then, they should only carry a debit card for the smaller account. That way, if someone gains access to the debit card, their other account will remain protected.
  • Within the next few years, everyone should hire a CPA, draft a will and, if they have a child, purchase a life insurance policy.
  • Smith warned about the dangers of investing in night clubs, inventions and restaurants.
  • Smith also advised the players to keep six months of living expenses available – either in cash or in a savings account – but to invest other savings in index funds.

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