Luke Kuechly is a star linebacker for the Carolina Panthers who was selected in the 2012 NFL draft.
Though he's made millions throughout his NFL career, the 28-year-old has not lost sight of what it means to properly manage his money. That lesson, he tells The Charlotte Observer, is all thanks to his first job in high school, when he worked at his dad's auto shop in Ohio.
"I worked in the warehouse, and I would pick up orders," he says. "I would go to the computer screen, print off the order from a customer and then it would have where all the stuff was located in the warehouse. I'd go get a big gray cart, and you had to fill up these bins with all the parts. And it wasn't air-conditioned in there."
After working extra long hours in a hot shop, Kuechly says he would often get his paycheck and think to himself, "Dang, that's it?"
"And you start to realize that stuff costs money, and then you start to assign value to money," he explains. "Like if my mom goes to the grocery store and she buys a gallon of milk and the gallon of milk costs this, then you start to run it back in your head, and you're like, 'Dang, that's a half hour of work!'"
Kuechly adds that working his first job as a young teen ultimately helped him to assign more value to the things he had growing up. "Because once I was working, my Dad's like, 'You've got money now. You can go buy things if you want them. And then it starts to teach you: 'Oh, do I really need it?' You start to understand what 20 bucks really means."
Besides Kuechly, several other professional athletes have held menial first jobs as a teen. In fact, on an episode of the "Kneading Dough" podcast, three-time Pro Bowler and NFL star Michael Bennett says he used to save his money as a young kid to help buy clothes for some of his siblings.
"I had different jobs, and I used to save my money to buy me and my brother's school clothes," he says. "I worked at a water park, a grocery store and most of the time I was a lifeguard. I was a lifeguard for four years."
Bennett, who grew up as one of five children in Louisiana, says the budgeting lessons he learned as a young teen have stuck with him throughout his NFL career. Not only does he admit to being tight with his money, but he also says that he opts out of direct deposit so that he can receive all of his checks by hand and save them until the end of the season.
"I keep my checks until the end of the season to make sure I don't spend any money," he says. "And then at the end of the season, I deposit it."
To survive, the football veteran says he lives off the money he budgeted and saved from previous years.
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