NEW YORK, Jan 18 (Reuters) – If your child happens to be attending a public school in Portland, Dallas, Los Angeles or Oakland and is attending a personal finance workshop in the coming months, ask them if they’ve seen one of the founders has of the program.
If he’s 6-foot-4, weighs over 300 pounds, and looks like a National Football League defensive tackle, that’s because he is one.
That would be Ndamukong Suh, 36, an American football star who instills fear in opposing teams. As much as Suh enjoys firing quarterbacks and taking on running backs — his Philadelphia Eagles are on a playoff push in hopes of making the Super Bowl — there’s something else he enjoys just as much: teaching kids financial education.
“They need to understand how to take care of their finances,” said Suh, whose Suh Family Foundation with Ms. Katya is partnering with Intuit Inc (INTU.O) to develop personal finance curricula in schools across the United States bring to. “Especially in marginalized communities, this can be a difficult conversation, so I want to shed some light.”
Some NFL players and other well-paid professional athletes face money problems after they retire. In fact, when young players suddenly come into millions of dollars, without much financial education, amidst a high-spending lifestyle, with agents and managers and henchmen all taking a cut, the money can be gone a lot quicker than you think .
In contrast, Suh, 36, has been charting his life after football for years. He attributes his money sense to growing up in Portland, Oregon and to his parents – his mother was a teacher and his father was an engineer. As a child, he would go to construction sites with his father and do odd jobs like sweeping and cleaning, while his mother would give him $10 or $20 to mow neighborhood lawns.
In fact, it was his mother who first introduced him to the importance of credit scores, adding him to one of her cards as an authorized user to build his own record.
“When you get into the NFL, the first thing they do is help you manage your credit — and my score was almost 800,” said Suh, an exceptional credit. “It was all thanks to the lessons my mom gave me.”
It’s a long road from those early beginnings to his current tenure, where his largest contract has averaged more than $19 million a year, according to sports finance site 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 other guys,” Suh said. “You see veterans with their Mercedes and end up living beyond your means. Personally, I’ve made the mistake of going to nightclubs and spending $25,000 to $50,000 instead of taking that money and investing it.”
After those missteps, he thought more about building wealth for his family, and — knowing that in the NFL “your career could be over at any time” — he has worked diligently to build his own empire.
This included starting his own property development company, with several projects completed and more ongoing. He also oversees an investment portfolio under his House of Spears management, owns several restaurants and is a fan of private equity, which includes working with famed VC Andreessen Horowitz.
His business decisions and community service—from providing scholarships to the University of Nebraska, his alma mater, to supporting victims of domestic violence in Tampa—are made with the help of his wife.
“I’d say she’s more risk averse than me,” Suh said, laughing. “She pulls me out of some investments and says, ‘Hey, maybe we should wait and see.'”
His financial literacy curriculum for kids covers all the basics — spending, saving, taxes, budgeting, and investing. He hopes that Intuit will expand the Money Smarts initiative globally beyond the current target cities.
Suh’s top piece of advice for kids?
“Keep it simple: spend only what you need and save the rest,” he said. “Learn to create and grow generational wealth which I am trying to do for my twin boys. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek mentorship. As my mom used to teach me, ‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions — and there are no such things as stupid questions.'”
Edited by Lauren Young and Will Dunham Follow us @ReutersMoney
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