James was lucky because he had owned Mooyah Burgers, Fries and Shakes franchises while he was a player. After retirement, he got offers to come to the corporate side of the company, and is now the director of brand engagement for Mooyah.
"When you're playing a lot of it is they want you to focus on playing football, but it's a delicate balance when we all have an expiration date," James said.
This year, James was a mentor and panelist at the NFL Business Academy, one of the league's initiatives to help players with career and professional development including financial planning. Over the last few years, the NFL has added several initiatives to educate players on financial readiness. In addition to the NFL Business Academy, which was held in partnership with University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, it also holds the NFL Personal Finance Camp in partnership with the University of Miami and TD Ameritrade. It also has a partnership with Money Management International to provide one-on-one assistance and online education tools.
These multiday classes teach about budgeting, managing credit, saving and investing for the future. There's an emphasis on "generational wealth," or how to make sure large paydays can go past one player's lifetime and help support future generations. Costs are covered under the Tuition Assistance Program, which is part of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association.
Charles Way, vice president of player engagement for the NFL, pointed out that while other students could take internships or gain work experience for their future careers during the summer, he was focused on preparing for an NFL career.
"I went to the University of Virginia, graduated with a civil engineering degree, and I wasn't ready from the transition from to the field — and I went right into the front office," said Way, who played fullback for the New York Giants for five seasons. "It took me a year to understand how to communicate properly and in an efficient manner. I think that's everybody from college. The thing is professional athletes, we don't have the same opportunities as college grads do."
Jiri Crowder, chief of airman and family readiness policy for the Air Force, said that four years ago the Air Force found through internal surveys that the average millennial airman was entering the service with high credit-card debt at an early age. Being in debt can limit top-level clearance and prevent advancement in one's career, Crowder said.
Since the 1990s, the Air Force has mandated a two-hour budgeting course during basic training, as well as a four-to-six hour class on more in-depth budgeting once servicemen and servicewomen get to their first duty station. In 2011, Congress mandated that every military member about to retire take another budgeting program where they submit an actual budget for post-retirement life in order to combat military homelessness.
"In the military we emphasize readiness," Crowder said. "We have to prepare our airmen to be fight-fit ready. We can't have an airman who is so stressed out about money deployed and worried about his financial situation. We focus on a whole person concept, and finance is a part of that."
There have been 4,300 financial planning workshops this year and 52,000 Air Force members have attended. In addition, 43,900 servicemen and servicewomen have used in-office financial planning counseling.
To help millennials especially, it got rid of paper handouts, instead pointing employees to online resources. It's added more courses that are millennial-friendly, including how to using savings apps and deal with generational issues around wealth.
"We focus on having them make purchases on their needs instead of their wants, and having good financial decisions about those wants and needs," Crowder said.