Professional athletes can pull in large paychecks. Their careers, however, can be short-lived.
"Unfortunately for us athletes, retirement age is 32, 34 — if you're lucky, 37 like myself," five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant tells CNBC. "Once you retire, you don't have that source of income that's coming in. Even if you save over a 15-year career, if your spending habits remain the same, eventually the well will run dry."
That's what happened to Antoine Walker. The NBA All-Star made more than $108 million over his 12-year career but ended up filing for bankruptcy two years after retiring from the league. And Walker is far from the only former athlete to end up broke.
Bryant, who retired from the NBA in 2016 after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, has some money advice for young pro athletes: Prepare for a career off the field, but don't just consider the most lucrative path.
He tells CNBC: "The question needs to be, 'What is my passion?' Not, 'Where can I create the most value or generate the most revenue?' But, 'What is my next passion?' When you find that next passion, everything else will make sense."
For the NBA legend, his next passion is investing in entrepreneurs. He and his partner Jeff Stibel have invested in 15 businesses together since 2013, and recently unveiled a $100 million venture capital fund, which they'll use to invest in technology, media and data companies.
Former NFL Pro Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha, who retired in 2013 after 11 seasons in the league, agrees that young athletes should be thinking about life off the field. After seeing a close friend in the NFL get cut unexpectedly, "I learned early in my career that I had to be prepared for life after football because you never knew when it would end," he tells Davy Rothbart of Wealthsimple, an online investing service.
"Something clicked, and I was like, 'I gotta be prepared. This could end at any time.' That was my second year in the league. From that point on I started doing broadcasting and things like that in an attempt to find my passion — something I could do after football."
He found a passion in acting and producing, which he pursued immediately after leaving the NFL. "After 11 seasons, I retired from football," he tells Wealthsimple. "Four months later I was in Ghana shooting 'Beasts of No Nation' as an executive producer."
Ultimately, a sports career can be over in a split second. "As a player, you're not really in control of your destiny and the way you make a living," says Asomugha. His and Bryant's advice to athletes is to take back that control by finding a passion off the field that can double as a career.
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