Lessons From NBA Players Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy

Unfortunately, money management skills don’t get better the bigger your paycheque. Here’s what you can learn about managing your funds, from NBA basketball players who lost it all, only to pick themselves back up again.

Rebuild with the right attitude
First, the good news: whether you’ve lost millions in NBA earnings or a middle class income, there’s hope yet—but only if you have the right attitude. After losing an estimated $100 million to substance abuse and alcoholism, former All-Star Vin Baker is making a humble new beginning as a manager in training at his local Starbucks. The newly minted barista took stock of what he had going for him—namely, his notoriety and connections with Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz, who once owned the Seattle SuperSonics Baker played for—and made it work. No job was too small for him, and Baker’s, baby. His next stop? A coaching position in the NBA.

Live within your means
Allen Iverson is the unofficial poster child of down-on-their-luck athletes, and for good reason. The former Knicks star was known for spending lavishly on jewellery, property and cars, not to mention harbouring a knack for gambling. Iverson filed for bankruptcy after his debts piled up and a creditor sought nearly $860 million from him. He now claims to be back on his feet, but what he didn’t do back then was live within his means. For you, that might mean keeping only one credit card active and adhering to a strict budget.

Have a smart backup
Former NBA champion Antoine Walker had to restart his life after losing a $110-million fortune. Some would say that he spent almost as lavishly as Iverson, but the key difference between the two was that he also invested in real estate to ensure he could sustain his lifestyle. Unfortunately, he didn’t pay much attention to his financial plan and the real estate market tanked, forcing him to liquidate his assets. With that backup plan out of the picture, he later told Bloomberg he wished he had completed a degree instead. Other solid failsafes include safer investments (certificates of deposit, savings bonds), creating a long term financial strategy (complete with a rainy day fund) and developing a secondary skill set that can make money.

Don’t take security for granted
Shane Heal, one of the few Aussies to play NBA basketball, did everything right. He played through the 90s while working hard to safeguard his wealth. He opened a group of franchises and other businesses that were successful, until they weren’t. The fallout, coupled with a crippling lawsuit, forced him to file for bankruptcy and work his way back up from scratch. The lesson here is that whether it’s a disability, an unexpected expense, or something else, you must plan for the worst.

Learn from others’ mistakes

These four NBA players were hardly the first athletes to go broke from lavish spending, substance abuse, or just plain bad luck. They all saw the signs and chose to ignore them. Remember that contrary to that feeling of contentedness or routine you may be experiencing, every day is a struggle. Stay sharp and manage your cash.
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