The NFL and IOU:  10 Debt Lessons You Can Learn from Football Players

I played the nation's most popular sport, and I did it very well for a little while. But then it was over because NFL careers average just over three years. I beat that limit, but I couldn't beat time. Time has an undefeated record.

My years in the NFL taught me almost as much about staying out of debt as my subsequent career as president of So let's kick off 10 Debt Lessons You Can Learn from Football Players.



1. Brains Beat Bucks

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Money will get you out of debt, but it won't keep you out of debt. I saw that up close for years. Give someone $1 million and don't teach them how to budget, save, and invest – and I promise you they'll be down to their last dollar before they retire.

For the past four years, has polled Americans about budgeting. Typically, about 6 in 10 adults keep a monthly household budget of income and expenses. During the pandemic, that jumped to nearly 80 percent. But, it should be 100 percent.

2. Budgeting is Your Game Plan

3. Shorten the Field with Technology

There are secure online tools that do the boring math for you. Mint is free, while YNAB (You Need A Budget) charges $84 a year but offers more personalization. Many banks and credit unions now provide budgeting tools that make it easy to predict, say, how much you'll save per month if you drink one less Starbucks latte a day or buy fewer lunches during your workweek.


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4. Prepare for the Trick Plays of Life An emergency fund isn't just peace of mind. It can save you money because when disaster strikes and you're not prepared, you often run up your high-interest credit cards – and carry balances for months or even years before you can pay off what you owe.

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5. Recruit a New Teammate

If you really want to run up the lead on your emergency fund, ask your boss or your Human Resources Department if they'll help you.

Almost every bank and credit card – and even many municipal utilities – offer automatic bill pay. You set the day when you want a bill to be paid, and that amount is automatically deducted from your bank account right then, and not a day sooner. So you'll never pay a late fee again. Best of all, after you set it up, you don't have to do anything.

6. Automate Your Money

7. Check Your Credit Reports

Checking these reports is free, and shows you how to check your credit report quickly and painlessly. Considering a third of all credit reports in this country contain errors that can result in higher interest rates, you should be highly interested in checking them out for mistakes.

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