Professional Athlete

Game On.

Coach, agent, trainer, nutritionist, attorney, accountant, broker, psychologist, publicist, foundation, friends, family. Remember when it was just you . . . and a ball?

Because it’s no longer just you and a ball – and a dream – you may need a personal financial advisor to help you navigate the many complexities of life as a professional athlete. We know this from serving over 100 professional athletes – and serving at the center of the evolving spiral of relationships and requirements that naturally occur when stepping onto the big stage. We understand your discrete and complex financial management needs and the relationship you have with your agent, management company, and other advisors guiding your career.

Not only do you need financial guidance and expertise, you need to discover the purpose for your talents and your wealth. It’s more than just the numbers.

Confidence and reassurance from having a trusted advisor will free you to focus on your career. We handle the cash flow management, tax planning, estate planning, investment management, charitable planning, risk management and other matters while you hone your craft.

Read more about our services here.

Perspective

"We apply biblical principles when guiding clients, helping them practice stewardship vs. ownership, wisdom and wealth, avoid conflict and anxiety about money, and develop a plan that can help them find – and follow – their generous path.”

– Don Christensen, Executive Vice President and head of the Professional Athlete Division

Running the Same Play.

Sometimes metaphors say it best. In this case, a sports metaphor really says it best: Ronald Blue Trust serves as your quarterback, coordinating all areas of your finances and working closely with your agent, management company, attorney, accountant, and other advisors, to make sure we’re all executing the same game plan. It’s all so that you can benefit from a playbook based on more than 35 years of experience working with professional athletes in the NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA TOUR, and NASCAR, with a process and expertise that can be applied to other sports.

Professional sports has certainly changed during the last 35 years: Today, many professional athletes will enjoy lifetime earnings between $5 million and $25 million, work 35 to 45 years with only 7 to 12 of those in their chosen sport, and earn 70 to 90 percent of their lifetime earnings before the age of 35. However, the principles of comprehensive wealth management haven’t changed. In fact, more sophisticated and complex demands on athletes and their families – coupled with rapidly increasing wealth – makes even more critical the need for a team skilled in wealth management and experienced in understanding the athlete’s unique circumstances and opportunities.

Our financial planning process is comprehensive and personalized to help you meet specific goals and objectives. We understand the importance of cash flow planning for athletes and can help you capitalize on your peak earning years.

We design and implement an investment strategy based on your needs and time frame for investing. Our Principles-Based Investing approach combines our investment philosophy with rigorous investment research. Strategic tax planning and payment management is a year-round process, requiring a dedicated account team with a specialized skill set. Our total cash flow management process offers complete bill paying and cash flow services, including comprehensive reporting designed to help guide important lifestyle decisions. Our “gatekeeper capability” role allows you to share all business and giving opportunities with your Ronald Blue Trust advisor – he or she can affirm your “yes” when it fits your plan or deliver that hard “no” to people who may not have your best interests in mind. All of our services are offered in a fee-only model to give you objective advice based on your specific needs.

Total Cash Flow Management

One of the most valuable custom services we offer our professional athlete clients is total cash flow management. This service relieves busy professionals from the detailed and time-consuming routine of handling their expenses and bills and is designed to provide clarity and confidence around your finances through timeliness, accuracy, and a system of checks-and-balances. Our total cash management group provides the following services:

  • Develop a 12-month cash flow plan that correlates with the comprehensive financial plan.
  • Coordinate with vendors so that correspondence, invoices, and cash receipts are directed to Ronald Blue Trust.
  • Record cash receipts daily.
  • Review invoices for accuracy, comparing them against scheduled transactions and the 12-month cash flow plan. Code bills according to client input.
  • Pay invoices, interim cash requests, and wire requests and record transactions as incurred.
  • Update cash flow plan with bank account status.
  • Prepare reports that include bank reconciliation, bank register, cash flow update, itemized category listing of all activity, and copies of bills. Duplicate copies of bank statements are sent directly from the bank to the client as one of our many controls.
  • Research prior transactions.

This dedicated client service group is available every day for personal service to our clients, by phone and email.

Tax Planning

Every athlete deals with similar issues when it comes to their taxes. Because athletes have to pay tax in every state and country they play a game in, taxes can become very complicated. That is why as part of our service fee, we work closely with an experienced CPA firm who specialize in preparing personal tax returns for athletes. Our goal is to keep things as simple as possible for you to allow you to focus on other priorities that are most important to you. Through careful planning and strategy, we work closely with the CPA firm in order to help you save on your taxes.

Here are some tips and tools that we use with our clients to help them capture the different expenses they incur while performing across the country and around the world.


Click here for a list of deductible expenses for baseball and golf.


Q. What are some organizations that you speak at or work closely with?

There are a number of different organizations that we work closely with, including but not limited to:

PAO www.pao.org
CTO www.coachestimeout.org
FCA www.fca.org
Baseball Chapel www.baseballchapel.org
UPI www.upi.org

Q. At what point in their careers do professional athletes need a wealth management advisor?

There are several cycles in a professional athlete’s career, all of which require thoughtful advice, but generally we like to begin working with athletes from the beginning. For example, a very talented athlete might receive significant wealth at a young age without much life experience. A 19-year-old can’t be expected to know and understand that even in the first couple of years, he may make some of the most important decisions of his life that can have lasting consequences, sometimes detrimental financial consequences. And because of the typical length of the athlete’s peak earning years, it can be hard to recover from a financial misstep.

As an athlete moves through the various cycles of a professional career, the challenges, demands, and needs become more complex. During the first few years, a large part of the focus is on budgeting, cash flow management, and educating the athlete on how to make sound financial decisions and navigate new business relationships. After the first few years, contract sizes or earnings can increase significantly, bringing the need for more sophisticated investment management and tax planning. When an athlete marries and has a family, more asset protection and a more involved estate plan are needed. At some point, significant wealth requires a detailed wealth transfer plan and also can lead an athlete to want a more strategic charitable giving plan, which in turn increases demands on the player’s time and commitment level. And then there’s a career’s end and the need to create a plan of action for retraining and moving on to the next stage in their life, as well as pension and retirement plan management. At every point in the career cycle, we want to make sure we’re that trusted advisor, helping our athlete clients toward the goal: long-term financial independence.

Q. What are some of the unexpected challenges athletes face?

Athletes get bombarded from every direction with “can’t miss” investment opportunities, appeals from charities, requests for speaking engagements, offers for limited-involvement ventures – “Just let us put your name on our restaurant . . . Oh and, by the way, we need a big check from you for this special opportunity” – pitches from life insurance agents and, often most troubling to them, requests for financial help from friends and family. Many are simply overwhelmed by the requests and opportunities coming at them. We know that sudden wealth can bring new complexities to family dynamics, and to relationships with friends and early supporters, but the newly successful young athlete, in particular, may not be prepared for that.

While we understand their desire to help, we can take a lot of pressure off them by playing gatekeeper. It allows them to have an out by just saying, “You need to talk to my Ronald Blue Trust advisor.” Most athletes are relieved at not having to always say no and feeling like they’re letting people down, or that they’re saying yes to the wrong things. The same scenario often applies to an athlete’s spouse, putting him or her in an equally uncomfortable position, perhaps more so as the spouse’s interest is in protecting and supporting the athlete and the family. We want to take that pressure off both of them.

Q. What are some of the common misconceptions about the role you play?

First, it’s important to point out that we do not try to take on the role of an athlete’s agent – that’s a special role requiring special expertise, just like ours is. We certainly rely on the agent to negotiate contracts, bonuses, and endorsements and we work closely with the agent so that we can anticipate, prepare for, and manage the financial implications that come from those developments.

Second, we don’t control an athlete’s money, dictate how it’s spent, or prevent them from living as they wish. We do manage the entire wealth planning process, help them sort through financial questions, evaluate alternatives for them, illustrate through reports the potential impact of decisions, and support and help implement financial decisions. We also hold our clients accountable to the goals they’ve set for themselves. Because of the environment in which they operate – let’s call it the environment of locker room talk – one of the most important roles we can play is as a sounding board and an expectations manager. It’s very easy for athletes without a lot of life experience to get caught up in what teammates are doing, or what their always-widening circle of “friends” is recommending.

Q. What are some of the specialized services that you offer?

The reason we call it specialized services is because the service that we provide can vary depending on the client’s unique needs and circumstances. We essentially step in and help with whatever is needed like getting permission from a state regulatory agency to dig a water line under a train track, helping find a builder that is properly vetted and licensed and negotiating a fair price (not settling for the “athlete price”), assisting with making phone calls when credit cards are lost or stolen, and so much more. Foundation management is another one of those specialized services. It’s one thing to set up a foundation for charitable giving and quite another to help manage it. We can be a sounding board and provide advisement to the foundation as well as ensure that all the paperwork and tax filings are in compliance. When we first started, we didn’t think that one day we’d be arranging a big-name musical act for an athlete’s foundation event for 9,000 guests. The point is that we become part of the athlete’s extended family in many cases. We’ve gone on mission trips with some of our clients, we help them celebrate the big events in their lives, and we get their first call on so many things. Our main goal is to make sure our clients don’t get any financial surprises that may take their focus off being able to operate at peak performance.

The Real Numbers.

As an athlete, you hear all sorts of numbers like the average salary for your sport, the number of years most athletes play, and the percentage of athletes who go broke, but what do all of these numbers really mean? Which ones really relate to you and which ones should you discount? We want to boil it all down to the numbers that we think are important for you to understand.

These numbers are constantly changing and not always exact, but the point is that a high percentage of athletes lose it all after they retire from the game. Let’s look at the statistics for the percentage of players who file bankruptcy.

  • 60% of NBA players file for bankruptcy within 5 years of retirement.
  • 78% of NFL players file for bankruptcy within 5 years of retirement.
  • MLB players file for bankruptcy 4 times more often than the national average.

The average salary can be misleading because of the superstars’ contracts that most people hear about. A more realistic number to consider is the median player salary or what the middle player will make, which is 40% of the average. Over a 4.8 year career in the NBA, someone who makes the median salary is earning $15 million less than an athlete who makes the average salary (before taxes).

After you take out the percentage that you pay in taxes and agent fees, you may only bring home 50% of your original contract. The bankruptcy numbers in the chart may now be making more sense. Most athletes aren’t being paid what they report in the media, and after taxes and other fees, their take-home pay is reduced dramatically. This is why it is so important to have a plan in place and to stick to it.


“Being wealthy isn’t a function of how much you make, but rather it is a direct result of how much you spend.”

– Russ Crosson, Executive Vice Chairman

We invite you to read about our division’s leadership team and learn more about the breadth and depth of their experience and skills.

Leadership

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Don Christensen

EVP, Professional Athlete Division
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Barb Senum, CFP®

Sr. Financial Advisor & Operations Manager
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Reed Crosson, CFP®

National Coordinator

Advisor Team

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Zack Fulmer, CFP®

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Scott Kiesel, CFP®, CKA®

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Bob Baker, CFP®

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Gary Bell, CFP®

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Greg Gilbert, CIMA®

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Brett Whitley

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Tom Milajecki, CFP®

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Morgan Chalk, CFP®

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Connor Lowery, CFP®, CPA

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Andrew Clement, CFP®, CPA

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