I was reading a story last week about the financial troubles of Vince Young. Young was once on top of the world. In 2006 he led his Texas Longhorns to a National Championship victory over USC. A few months later he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the first round with the 3rd overall pick. He signed a 5 year contract that contained almost 26 million dollars in guaranteed money. After a fairly successful rookie season he appeared to be well on his way to stardom.
After that things began to unravel for him. By his 3rd season he was benched for long time veteran QB Kerry Collins. Eventually he was let go by Tennessee. He bounced around a couple places. This year he was signed by Buffalo but failed to make the team and spent the year out of football.
Sadly as is all too often the case that 26 million dollars is long gone. He is currently involved in a lawsuit with his former financial adviser regarding a 1.9 million dollar loan he took out during the recent NFL lockout. At first Young claimed he never signed for the loan. Now he admits that he probably did sign for it, but he isn’t really sure since he just signed whatever papers were put in front of him.
I think there is a very real lesson here for all of us.
Know what you don’t know.
First, you need to be aware of what you don’t know. Obviously, you can’t be an expert in all areas. Recognize the areas where you need help and seek out a trusted adviser.
Maybe it’s insurance. Maybe it’s investments. Perhaps real estate. Perhaps it’s finding a good auto mechanic to work on your vehicles. We all have areas where we lack knowledge.
So who qualifies as a trusted adviser?
The big key is you want to find someone that is a teacher at heart. Probably the first rule of dealing with any adviser is if they ever suggest you do something because “they said so” you should fire them on the spot. By the same token if when you ask questions, they seek to belittle you or in any way suggest that your question is a dumb question, you need to find a new adviser.
What you want to find is someone who will answer your questions. Someone who will take the time to explain things to you in common everyday terms, not someone who uses industry lingo to confuse the issue. If they use a term you don’t understand ask them to define it. If they suggest a course of action and you don’t know why, ask questions. And keep asking questions until you fully understand their recommendation. If they are not patient and willing to explain things as many times and in as many ways as are necessary for you to understand, they are not worthy to help you make decisions.
If you couldn’t explain the product or investment to a teenage student, then you don’t understand it well enough to put your money into it. The adviser is there to serve you. Never feel you are asking too many questions.
Your finances are your responsibility
One big reason that many athletes find themselves broke is because they “trust” others with looking out for their welfare. When asked about financial matters you often hear them respond that they have a “guy”. He takes care of all of that for them. It’s obvious that this is what Vince Young did as evidently he simply signed whatever papers were placed in front of him with little understanding of what he was actually signing. It is a story that is all too common.
The problem is you don’t have to be a star athlete to be duped. A few years ago a big name in the news was Bernie Madoff. Many people lost their life savings when it turned out their investments weren’t really handled as they were told. I suspect many of them simply trusted what they were told but didn’t really understand what they had signed.
The bottom line is your financial decisions are your responsibility. I don’t mean to suggest all financial advisers are crooks looking to steal your money. Unfortunately, there are some that are more interested in selling what gives them the greatest commission as opposed to what is best for you. Most though are honorable folks that are truly seeking to help.
You need to make sure that whomever you get to assist you, whether it be with investments, insurance, real estate, or whatever, you find someone that will work to find that best solution for you. Not the solution that provides them with the biggest commission. Not the solution they are most comfortable with. You want the solution that is best for you. And your adviser needs to be willing to take the time to work with you, understand your situation, and explain things until you are comfortable you are making the right decisions for you.
Have you ever felt taken by someone that you had trusted to help you with important decisions?
Photo credit: vermillion (creative commons)