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The one thing 'American Ninja Warrior's' Akbar Gbajabiamila says will put your financial future in a tailspin

Key Points
  • Akbar Gbajabiamila says lifestyle creep can create chaos for your financial future.
  • Planning your spending is the most important rule for taking control of your finances, he says.
  • The co-host of "American Ninja Warrior" and "American Ninja Warrior Junior" is devoted to teaching young kids how to manage money to avoid costly mistakes.
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Akbar Gbajabiamila: The importance of planned spending

Akbar Gbajabiamila doesn't have to worry too much about his financial future — not because the "American Ninja Warrior" co-host and former pro football player has a reported net worth of $7 million but because he has an effective financial plan in place that outlines his long-term goals and maps out the steps he needs to take to achieve them.

Even so, Gbajabiamila admits he has made a few mistakes along the way, having come from humble beginnings in South Central Los Angeles — he is one of seven children of Nigerian immigrants — with little to no preparation to deal with the wealth that came his way at such an early age. He says his career in entertainment has given him the opportunity to make money he never imagined possible after football.

To help others avoid the mistakes he made, Gbajabiamila is now passionate about paying it forward. In 2005 he completed a certified entrepreneurship program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and, while still in the NFL, started a financial literacy campaign with the nonprofit organization Athletes for Education, which brought him to elementary schools to teach children about the importance of how money works.

So what is Gbajabiamila's secret to gaining financial freedom? "Planned spending," he says, explaining that it really comes down to simple math. He urges people to ask themselves, "How much money is coming in? How much money is going out?"

People often spiral into unplanned spending habits largely due to lifestyle creep — the tendency to raise your standard of living and spend more once you earn more, he says, adding that this lifestyle can be "crippling."

"Unplanned spending is where all the chaos happens," he says.

American Ninja Warrior Junior hosts Matt Iseman, Victoria Arlen, and Akbar Gbajabiamila (left to right). Season 2 of the show began airing in February 2020.
USA Network

"You're always being marketed to. Somebody's always trying to sell you something," says Gbajabiamila, adding that when you don't plan your spending, you are susceptible to listening to all this noise.

Today Gbajabiamila hosts "American Ninja Warrior" and "American Ninja Warrior Junior," in addition to NFL Network's "NFL Fantasy Live." His first book, "Everyone Can Be a Ninja: Find Your Inner Warrior and Achieve Your Dreams," was released in 2019.

More from Invest in You:
No car, no job, no home: What a female karate master gave up to go for 2020 Olympics gold
Sure, the money's great, but young people get a lot more than cash when they run a successful side hustle
Rodney Williams gave up a six-figure salary for start-up debt, and succeeded

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Akbar Gbajabiamila: The benefits and dangers of compound interest