8 Things Every Athlete Should Know Before Going Pro

Uncle Sam will find you

When you get those checks, there are no taxes taken out of them. And claiming ignorance is not a feasible excuse when dealing with the IRS and their money. Ex-NBA superstar Latrell Sprewell owes Wisconsin over $3 million in back taxes. “We’re not budgeting for Uncle Sam, and that’s the most important relative you got,” says Kearney. “’Cause he’s going to get his no matter what.” Also, donating to charitable organizations, or starting your own, will soften that tax hit.

Make Sure Your Inner Circle is Small

Keep your entourage to a minimum. Former NBA player Antoine Walker’s spending exploits were legendary, which of course led to him being bankrupt. Bad investments were one of his excuses but one glaring mistake that landed him in ridiculous debt bankrolling family and friends. “Even before I ever signed a piece of paper, I would go back, have some alone time, and think about all the people that was there for me when I was nobody,” Kearney says. “Not the people that invested in me once I became a great athlete.”

Start Preparing for Life After Sports, Now

Hall of Fame careers are few and far between. Pinch pennies and even a short stint in a pro league could set you up for life, really. “One of the things is just being smart with your money,” Shareef says. “The average career in the NFL is like 3 years. You have to make sure that money last from now on. Say if the player signed a 3 year minimum deal, you get $370K, $460K and $550. So you made a little less than a million and a half dollars. That should really set you up for the rest of your life if you invest wisely and take care of certain things. But a lot of guys will just blow throw that million and a half and then that goes to the reason why 70 and 80 percent of NBA and NFL players three years out of playing in the league file for bankruptcy.”

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