Money

Why an ex-NFL player and actor worth millions still drives the 20-year-old car he took to prom

Nnamdi Asomugha has had an impressive career so far. He played 11 seasons in the NFL after being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2003, where he earned up to $11 million a year. Since stepping away from football, Asomugha transitioned into acting, recently starring in the feature film "Crown Heights."

But despite earning millions, Asomugha chooses to live modestly.

"I was never a big spender," he told Davy Rothbart in an interview with Wealthsimple. "We didn't have much growing up, so I guess I got used it. Even when I was a Pro Bowl player in the NFL, I lived the same way because that's what I knew."

His frugal habits include keeping the 1997 Nissan Maxima his brother passed down to him in high school, which he drove to his prom. He still uses the car today.

"That car is the one thing that everyone makes fun of me for," he tells Wealthsimple. "Even after I started earning good money, I was still in the mentality of 'I know this is all I need so I'm doing fine.'"

Although Asomugha's frugal mentality may seem strict, it helped keep him from going broke. A viral Sports Illustrated feature from 2009 cites a humbling statistic: "By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce."

And yet, the actor feels for his teammates who weren't as lucky. "For athletes, it's extremely tough to trust people with your finances. It's so easy to be victimized," Asomugha says. "When I hear about a player losing his money, I'll rarely, if ever, point a finger at the player because I know how difficult it is. It's not always, 'Look at this idiot who got paid all these millions of dollars and lost it all.' It may be more like, 'This naive kid with a million things going on in his life put his faith in the wrong people.' I know because I was that person."

It was during his second year in the league that Asomugha realized he needed to be prepared for life after football. "It was a clear message that, as a player, you're not really in control of your destiny and the way you make a living," he says.

So when a director approached Asomugha after he filmed a Nike commercial to discuss other acting opportunities, he accepted. He took a role in NBC's "Friday Night Lights" while still playing football and served as an executive producer on "Beasts of No Nation" just months after retiring.

Since the fame and money the NFL brings has led to ruin for many, Asomugha isn't the only player to tread carefully. Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris still drives a 26-year-old Mazda 626 sedan from 1991 that he bought for $2. And, despite earning nearly $20 million last year, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins chooses to live in his parents' basement with his wife during the summer and drive a dented GMC Savana passenger van that he bought from his grandma for $5,000.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, one of the highest-paid athletes in the NFL, still uses a flip phone, and free agent Ryan Broyles chooses to live on a modest $60,000 a year.

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