Professional athletes in the United States are among the highest-paid individuals in the world, but despite making a comfortable living, many of them don’t have the education necessary to save the money to fund the rest of their lives if an unfortunate event claims their career early.
A study conducted by Sports Illustrated showed that about 80 percent of pro athletes in the NFL and NBA go broke two years after retirement, mainly due to the fact that these athletes are splurging on unnecessary things like luxury cars, exotic animals or enormous houses.
Their collegiate counterparts have the opposite problem.
The NCAA offers almost $2.9 billion in scholarships to Division I and Division II colleges and universities in the U.S. Although the NCAA covers more than 150,000 students, only about two percent of college athletes attend school on a full-ride scholarship.
Cal State Fullerton athletics are a part of the Division I program, allowing some of its student-athletes to be covered for room and board, tuition and other means of basic living necessities, but not much else.
Student-athletes like CSUF men’s soccer forward Bass Sarr is one of the few students who was lucky enough to receive a full-ride scholarship to bear the colors blue and orange, but the hours required to be a successful student-athlete makes his scholarship his only form of income during the school year.
“I make sure that I do things the right way and spend my money on things that I need and not things that I want,” Sarr said. “I have enough for me to stay through the month until my next payment comes, but I try to manage my money and my time as much as possible.”
Sarr said that although he is not working a typical college students’ job, his time on the field is enough work, even if it can get a little expensive.
“This is my workplace, and that’s my office,” Sarr said of Titan Stadium. “They don’t know the struggle we go through … We need to eat 24/7 so I think that’s why people think we can’t manage our money. We manage our money well, but we wish we could have more.”
Sarr recently transferred to CSUF from State University of New York College at Buffalo. As a first-time scholarship recipient, he believes his money is managed responsibly — with a little help from the athletics department.
“They give (us an installment) every month, we have to pay rent, buy groceries (and) food,” Sarr said. “I think it’s a better idea because if you give it to us all at once … We don’t all know how to manage our money.”
Sarr isn’t the only Titan on the men’s roster who receives a scholarship.
Alex Juarez, a freshman from Downey, California, joined the men’s soccer team straight out of high school. His performances as part of the LA Galaxy Academy earned him a spot on the scholarship list.
Juarez also receives his scholarship in monthly installments. Although Juarez still lives at home, he said that the extra money he receives doesn’t give him an itch to splurge on unnecessary items.
“I like that they give it monthly because I have (a) budget so I don’t spend it on whatever,” Juarez said. “I keep an amount and put some away for when I need it or when my parents need it.”
Juarez said that often, professional athletes go broke because they let the money “get to their head” and advises that huge income should be taken as an opportunity to make huge investments.
Although Juarez doesn’t have the means of investing as he finishes off his first season as a collegiate athlete, there is one takeaway from his spending activity that he learned early on from his parents.
“If I see something that’s too expensive…I think to myself, ‘I could find something else,’” Juarez said. “I don’t like to spend too much.”
But despite Juarez being able to limit himself from purchasing expensive accessories, the biggest contributor to the holes burning through the pockets of collegiate athletes, and anyone else for that matter is the need to eat.
Juarez and Sarr both agreed they spend the most money on food, and that it’s inevitable that an athlete who trains almost every day for an intense amount of hours is going to have a huge appetite.
Sarr said the way to work around this is to fire up the stove and stay home, something that can help even the most basic of college students.
“Rent, food, and bills,” Sarr said. “I don’t really go out, especially when I’m in the season I like to focus.”