Andrew Luck shocked the sports world on Saturday night when he announced he was retiring from the NFL. The former #1 Draft Pick was in the middle of what many considered the prime of his career. He was widely regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in the league and the Colts were likely going to be a Super Bowl contender for the next few seasons. A player of his caliber retiring at the age of 29 is almost unheard of. The owner of the Indianapolis Colts speculated that Andrew was leaving potentially $500 million on the table by retiring now rather than playing out his career into his late 30s or early 40s like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.
I thought it would be interesting to see what can you learn from Andrew Luck’s retirement and how you can apply it to your own situation. Whether you are a professional athlete, young professional, or pre-retiree – there is something for you in this post.
Do Not Have A “Live For Today” Mindset With Your Money
The biggest takeaway I had from the retirement announcement is it was clear Andrew was not “living for today.” By that I mean two things: First, he was smart with his money, spent less than he earned, and has enough to live off of to do whatever he wants. By sacrificing a little today, he is now able to live the life he wants – he is beholden to no one. There are definitely some issues with FIRE, but one could make the argument he is the poster child for the movement.
Second, Andrew isn’t living for today because his severe injury history, and the increased likelihood it would diminish his life after football, was putting his future health in jeopardy. He held his future with his family in higher regard than the fame and fortune of being a player in the NFL. And by having savings in place, he didn’t need to keep putting his health on the line every week to put food on the table.
The non-professional athlete reading this post should prioritize on saving for retirement and determining what their future goals are. They should keep their eye on the prize, even as temptations to spend those savings happen.
Do Not Put Your Entire Self Worth In Your Career
It was well established that Andrew Luck had many interests outside of football. Had he come out of college after his Junior year at Stanford, many anticipated he would be the #1 Draft Pick that year. Instead, he stayed in school to earn his degree while risking injury and thus millions of dollars in guaranteed money. He valued the education he was receiving rather than viewing it as a platform for the NFL. He might be the only player in the NFL that earned a degree in Architecture before he took a snap in a game. It’s also well documented that he holds many interests outside of football and architecture.
So many professional athletes do not know what to do once their athletic career is over. In the NFL, the average player only spends 2.66 years in the league. And as I detailed in a prior post, most do not have enough career earnings to completely live off their savings while playing in the NFL. They will need to find some sort of career after they are done playing. Their entire lives have been formed around being an exceptional athlete; so, when they are no longer an exceptional athlete – who are they? Likewise, the non-professional athlete should not wrap their identity in their career. If you start now by having an identity outside of that, you will help avoid an existential identity crisis when the day comes you no longer can do that job.
Know Your Priorities
For Andrew, he mentioned in his retirement press conference
"I haven't been able to live the life I want to live. It's taken the joy out of this game ... the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.”
His top priority wasn’t a Super Bowl, fame, endorsements, record contracts, or league records – his top priority was his well-being. His well-being took precedence over everything else because without it, he couldn’t be the person he needs to for the ones he holds most important – his family and teammates.
There are so many people working jobs they hate because they’ve built a lifestyle that can only be supported by the earnings from the job they hate. This is “lifestyle creep” and can have a debilitating effect on your personal life. One needs to be aware of lifestyle creep in order to avoid it at all costs. Would you rather get your mortgage paid off faster or have that new BMW even though your current vehicle is only 4 years old? Would you rather retire 10 years earlier or live in in a house you can barely make payments on? Where you spend your hard-earned money reflects what you hold as a priority. Start looking at your budget and you may be surprised at what you find.
Life Happens – So Have A Flexible Plan In Place
As I like to say, life does not happen in a straight line. There are ebbs and flows – highs and lows. One needs to let go of control and adapt to the new situation when things don’t go as planned. I’m sure when Andrew was walking across the draft stage he wasn’t anticipating retiring 7 seasons later. I’m sure he wasn’t anticipating not finding joy in a game he once loved. But he did the things he needed in those 7 seasons to put himself in a position to decide whether to play or not play.
The non-professional athlete can do the same thing by knowing where they need to go and having a flexible financial plan to get there. That financial plan can be adapted and updated as “life happens.” If things don’t go exactly as planned, that doesn’t mean one needs to panic. You need to look at your new situation and update your financial plan accordingly.
On a personal note, I did not expect my wife and I to start a family 8 months into starting my company. Life happened – in the absolute best way. But that did mean we had to make some adjustments on our financial plan. We still know where we need to end up, it’s going to take a slightly different path to get there – and we couldn’t be happier.
There is a lot we can learn from Andrew Luck’s decision. Turning down $500 million in future earnings and the fame that comes with being a top quarterback in the NFL is not something many of us would have the integrity to do. It’s clear Andrew marches to the beat of his own drum. In a world where climbing the corporate ladder for a job we don’t want is encouraged, seeing Andrew Luck decide to retire from professional football at 29 to protect the life he wants is a breath of fresh air. It was inspiring to watch. Take the time to assess whether you are on the path you want to be – and if you aren’t, do not be afraid of making a change. It might be the best decision of your life.
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