Shortly after Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Phoenix Suns mid-season in 2008, he moved into a new empty apartment. Eager to furnish it quickly, he took a trip to Walmart in the middle of the night and spent about $70,000.
"I have the highest purchase in Walmart history. The CEO will confirm that," O'Neal says on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Walmart did not respond to request for comment.
"I spent so much American Express thought my credit card was stolen," he says. The card was declined twice, and then he received a call from the security team notifying him of what they suspected was a fraudulent charge.
Once O'Neal confirmed that it was, indeed, "Shaq," the four-time NBA champion worth $400 million, in the Walmart checkout line, they lifted the hold and allowed the purchase to go through. The shopping list included "pants, socks, underwear, tank tops, TVs, printers [and] computers," he says.
In general, O'Neal considers himself a savvy spender, in large part thanks to a lesson his drill-sergeant father taught him. "Every time an athlete would do something crazy, I would get in trouble for it," he says. "So my father did a very great job using scare tactics."
He recommends living off only 25 percent of your income and saving the remaining 75 percent for retirement or long-term goals. "Money isn't going to last forever," he says. "You've got to save it, you've got to invest it and you've got to be smart."
But as the Walmart episode demonstrates, every once and a while he's prone to make an impulsive purchase. That's how he spent his first NBA paycheck. "I blew it in like 20 minutes," he tells CNBC's "Fast Money." He's not being entirely fair to himself, though, because he didn't throw the money away: "I bought my mom a car, dad a car, paid off their credit, bought them a house."
After that, he says, he started saving.
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