Amar'e Stoudemire spent 15 seasons in the NBA, playing for the Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. In 2015, he was the seventh highest-paid player in the league, raking in $26.4 million in that year alone.
But Stoudemire didn't grow up wealthy. Although his family was stable, they didn't have much, so when he received his first NBA-sized paycheck, he was overwhelmed by the amount.
"When I got the first paycheck and I saw all those zeros — it was for like $300,000 — I thought, 'Man, this is like the Richie Rich movie.' You wake up and now you're rich," he tells Wealthsimple.
Stoudemire was excited and astonished by the money he now had, so he decided to splurge on a few gifts for himself and his family. In addition to getting some new clothes and jewelry, a truck and a nice apartment, he bought his mom her own house and took his brother shopping.
"When you see tears in your mother's eyes and the joy in your brother's face? Those moments only come once in a lifetime," he says.
Stoudemire had always worked to help take care of his family. As early as third grade, he spent his winters shoveling snow for his neighbors and his summers rising with the sun to help out at his father's lawn service company to earn extra cash.
The promise of a high income had influenced his decision to skip college and go straight to the NBA. "I wanted to make sure I was able to take care of my family," he says.
Stoudemire is hardly the only athlete to splurge on his loved ones. Within an hour of signing his first professional contract in 1992, Shaquille O'Neal had already blown through $1 million. The star's first purchase was a $150,000 Mercedes Benz for himself, but he immediately followed that up with a matching one for his father and a smaller $100,000 one for his mother. O'Neal also paid off his mother's house.
O'Neal later learned how to get his spending habits under control. But looking back on that day, he says, "it was well worth it."
Stoudemire learned his lesson as well. He now works with a financial advisor and makes saving a priority. "If you save properly, you can live off your interest," he tells Wealthsimple.
While that's not possible for everyone, it's system that works for him and could work for other pro athletes. "It keeps you out of your pockets — you spend the money from the interest before you're spending your actual money," he says.
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