A-Rod says athletes need an 'oops fund' for their money they can't touch until age 45

Here's the money advice A-Rod would give his 20-year-old self

Despite bringing home massive paychecks, a surprising number of former professional athletes end up insolvent. NFL players, for example, make an average of $1.9 million a year, yet a full 15 percent of them go broke.

"If you look at the data," former MLB star Alex Rodriguez told "Squawk Box," it "suggests that a lot of our players are going bankrupt way too soon."

Rodriguez, who now runs his own company, A-ROD CORP, says pro athletes would benefit from what he calls an "oops fund."

"I wish we had a vehicle that athletes early on can put money away first," he said on "Closing Bell." It would work similarly to a 401(k) plan or individual retirement account (IRA) in that athletes could put away up to 10 percent of their income and let it grow over time.

Alex Rodriguez at eMerge Americas conference in Miami on June 13, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC

And, like a 401(k) and IRA, there would be an early-withdrawal penalty: "You can't touch it until you're 45, because we have to make a bet that they're going to make better decisions at 45 than they will at 25."

Rodriguez's proposed fund is less restrictive than current retirement accounts offered to American employees: With a 401(k) and IRA, you can't withdraw money without penalty before age 59½. There are also contribution limits for these accounts: $18,500 per year for a 401(k) and $5,500 per year for an IRA.

While the notion of an "oops fund" for athletes would need to be more fleshed out, the basic idea is that athletes would benefit from a vehicle that encourages automatic saving. If they can pay themselves first and take advantage of compound interest early on, says Rodriguez, they're much more likely to hold onto their wealth in retirement.

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Part of the reason so many athletes wind up in financial trouble is because their careers can be brief: On average, an MLB player can expect to last only 5.6 years. The average career length for other professional athletes is even shorter: less than five years for NBA players and just 3.3 years for NFL players.

Since most athletes can't rely on big salaries after age 30, it's even more crucial to think long term and plan for life off the field, says Rodriguez, who now helps former athletes turn their finances around in a new CNBC show, "Back in the Game."

"Athletes have to understand that no one is going to do for you as you do for yourself," he told "Closing Bell." "It's important to know the numbers, know your spending, know how much you're making and understand that your career is probably going to last until 30. The question that you have to ask yourself is: What happens from age 31 to 80?"

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