Why this NFL player worth millions puts himself on an allowance and cancels his cable every year

Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey #88 of the Pittsburgh Steelers takes part in pre-game warm ups before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 12, 2015 in San Diego, California.
Jeff Gross | Getty Images

In 2009, a viral Sports Illustrated feature shared 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."

But a few athletes have fought back against the numbers by living frugally and making their earnings last.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, originally drafted to the Oakland Raiders in 2009, is among them.

As of last year, the 30-year-old had earned around $35 million throughout the course of his career. But instead of treating himself to an abundance of possessions, he managed to save most of it, he told ESPN during a 2016 interview.

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Despite his success, Heyward-Bey doesn't give himself carte blanche to spend recklessly. Instead, he keeps himself on an allowance he worked out with his mom, a certified public accountant, he tells ESPN.

"I grew up knowing what to spend and what not to spend," Heyward-Bey says. "It's easy when you don't have money to not spend. That's how I grew up."

Those choices include cancelling his cable during football season every year when he's not home to watch it.

"I keep things real simple," he says. "I'm not really a flashy guy. I understand what I want to buy. I invest my money well and pay my taxes."

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And even though he declined to share the exact breakdown of his allowance, he assured ESPN that the "pot keeps growing because he doesn't spend much of that money."

Heyward-Bey joins the ranks of several other frugal athletes, such as wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2012 and is currently a free agent, who also keeps his budget in check. Broyles and his wife have lived on about $60,000 a year throughout his career, he writes on The Players' Tribune.

"I don't have cable. I use Apple TV and Netflix," Broyles says. "My wife and I don't go out to eat a lot, and I make sure I pay off my credit cards every month."

Others keep tokens that remind them of their pasts, like Dallas Cowboys running back Alfred Morris, who still drives a 26-year-old Mazda 626 sedan from 1991.

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"It just keeps me grounded, where I came from and all the hard work for me to get to this point," Morris told the Washington Redskins' website in 2012.

And former Oakland Raider Nnamdi Asomugha still has the 1997 Nissan Maxima his brother passed down to him in high school, which he drove to his prom.

"That car is the one thing that everyone makes fun of me for," Asomugha 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.'"

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