Written by Chris Taylor
NEW YORK (Reuters) – If your child happens to be at a public school in Portland, Dallas, Los Angeles, or Oakland and will attend a personal finance workshop in the coming months, ask him if he’s seen one of the founders. from the program.
If he’s 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), weighs over 300 pounds and looks like a defensive tackle in the National Football League – that’s because he’s a one player.
That would be Ndamukong Suh, 36, an American football star who strikes fear into the hearts of rival teams. As much as Suh enjoys firing quarterbacks and tackling linebackers—the Philadelphia Eagles are in a playoff game with hopes of making it to the Super Bowl—there’s something else he enjoys just as much: teaching kids about financial literacy.
“They need to understand how to take care of their finances,” said Suh, whose Suh Family Foundation and his wife, Katya, partner with Intuit Inc. to bring personal finance curricula to schools across the United States. “Especially in marginalized communities, this can be a difficult conversation, so I want to shed some light on it.”
Some well-paid NFL players and other professional athletes face financial problems after their playing careers end. Indeed, when young players are suddenly into the millions of dollars, without much financial education, amid high-spending lifestyles, with agents, managers, and fans all taking their cut—the money can go much faster than one might think.
In contrast, Suh, 36, has been mapping out his post-football life for years. He traces his money savvy back to his childhood in Portland, Oregon, and his parents—his mother was a teacher, and his father was an engineer. As a child, he would go to work sites with his father, doing odd jobs like sweeping and cleaning, while his mother would give him $10 or $20 to mow the neighborhood lawn.
In fact, it was his mother who first introduced him to the importance of credit scores, by adding him as an authorized user to one of her cards, in order to build his own record.
“When you get to the NFL, the first thing they do is help you manage your credit — mine was close to 800,” Suh said, “an exceptional credit score.” “It was all thanks to the lessons my mom gave me.”
It’s a long way from those early beginnings to his current line of work, with his largest contract averaging more than $19 million annually, according to sports finance website Spotrac.
But Suh fell into a typical money trap early in his career, spending more than he should have.
“Most athletes make the mistake of looking around the locker room and comparing themselves to others,” said Suh. “You see veterans with their Mercedes, and you end up living beyond your means. I personally made the mistake of going to nightclubs and spending $25,000 to $50,000, versus taking that money and investing it.”
After these missteps, he became more thoughtful of building wealth for his family, and—knowing that in the NFL, “your career could end at any moment”—worked hard at building his own empire.
This included setting up his own real estate development company, with several projects completed and more in the pipeline. He also manages an investment portfolio under the House of Spears Management, owns several restaurants and is a fan of private equity, which includes working with famed venture investor Andreessen Horowitz.
His business decisions and philanthropic work — everything from offering scholarships at the University of Nebraska, his alma mater, to helping victims of domestic violence in Tampa — are executed with the help of his wife.
“I would say she hates taking risks more than me,” Suh said with a laugh. “Some investment pulls me back in, and you say, ‘Hey, maybe we should wait and see.'”
The financial literacy curriculum for kids involves hitting all the basics – spending, saving, taxes, budgeting, and investing. It is his hope that the Smart Money with Intuit initiative will go global alongside the existing target cities.
Soh’s main advice for kids?
“Keep it simple: spend only what you need, and save the rest,” he said. “Learn how to create and grow generational wealth, which is what I’m trying to do for my twins. And don’t be afraid to ask for help, or ask for guidance. As my mom always taught me, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions—and there are no stupid questions.'” (Editing by Lauren Young and Will Dunham Follow us on @ReutersMoney)