Everyone has heard the stat that 60% of NBA players and 80% of NFL players are bankrupt 5 years after they leave the league. Most people are incredulous — how could someone who makes millions spend it all?
I decided to run the numbers for myself and see just what kind of lifestyle an NBA career could guarantee somebody for the rest of their life.
Now, NBA players only take home between 40-55% of their headline salary after taxes and fees are taken out.
So, I built a calculator to assist in answering my question. Using assumptions detailed on the calculator page, we can see that an NBA player’s ability to spend in retirement matters greatly on how much they spend during those NBA years.
If the player makes $7.7 million for five years and keeps 50% of that after taxes, agent fees, etc., if he spends $1 million per year, he would end his career with about $17.5 million put away, and be able to spend about $700,000 per year throughout the rest of his life.
According to Time, the average NBA player spends about $500,000 per year. In that case, the player would retire with over $20 million saved up and be able to spend $825,000 per year – more than when he was playing!
Of course, the numbers go the other way as well, a player who spends $2 million per year while he is playing would have to adjust his lifestyle to less than a quarter of that, below $500,000 per year to make it last in retirement.
Let’s have a little fun. What do the numbers look like for a number one pick? Markelle Fultz is set to make about $15 million guaranteed for the first two years, followed by a couple of team option years.
If all he gets (and I hope greatly that this is not the case) is this $15 million, and he’s spending $1 million per year while he plays, he can set himself up to spend about $250,000 each year for the rest of his life. Not bad. If the team picks up both of those options, that doubles – $500,000 per year! What if he buys a $2 million house in addition to his regular spending? That reduces his future spending by about $100,000 per year!