There was a point in my career when I worked with a number of professional athletes. While this certainly sounds exciting, it in fact, was not. It was some of the most challenging work that I had ever come across. And it’s not necessarily because of the stereotypical free-spending ways of professional athletes. Were there Bentleys? Sometimes. Were there tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry? Sometimes. Were there inconsistent paychecks which led to budgeting problems? Absolutely.
How often do you get paid? 52 times per year? 26 times per year? 24 times per year? 12 times per year? Well, NFL players, for the most part, get paid 17 times per year. And those 17 pays are not spaced out. They get 17 paychecks in a row that coincide with the 17 regular season games of the NFL season. Then, if they don’t make the playoffs, they don’t get another paycheck for 35 weeks. Shhhhhh. I know what you are thinking: if I made that much money, then who cares if I only got 17 paychecks. I used to think the same thing, but then I realized that cynicism only serves to distract us from the important lessons we can learn.
I feel very strongly that if you were given your entire paycheck in one lump sum, you would struggle very very badly. It’s not that I don’t have faith in you. It’s just that I don’t have faith in human nature, or innate human resourcefulness. An abundance of money often hinders our progress towards true resourcefulness. Scarcity, the one thing that we don’t want, is actually our saving grace. You are able to pay your bills every single month because there is a consistent paycheck, not because you have money. Our habits are triggered by the consistency of our income. And in the case of NFL players, their habits are a product of huge paychecks that dwindle as the year goes on.
So, as you sit back and look at the NFL lockout debate this weekend, just know that you would have a hard time managing their income structure too. Seriously, you would. Disagree? Then go ask your employer for your entire paycheck right now. Would you even show up for work the next day? Or the next 364 days for that matter? It’s harder than you think.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.