Dana Hammonds won an Excellence & Innovation Award for helping a unique population: young professional athletes who must plan for retirement in their 20s or 30s because their careers can be quite short.
Ms. Hammonds is the Washington-based senior director of player affairs and development for the National Football League Players Association. As part of that role, she educates players and former players on the need for financial planning.
“The players need to be prepared for a career after retirement from football,” said Ms. Hammonds.
The NFLPA has been providing financial education to its members since 2009, but Ms. Hammonds said the program was revised this year to focus more intensely on the individual needs of specific groups — early career, midcareer and late career players as well as former players.
“As a player passes through different life cycles, their needs are different,” she said. For example, emphasizing budgeting is important for rookies, but “it won't resonate with veterans.”
And those career life cycles can be dramatically compressed: the average NFL player's career is 3½ years. The average salary last year was $2.5 million.
However, massive wealth earned in a short time presents its own problems. Within 3½ years of retiring, 25% of former players seek financial aid via grants from the NFLPA through a foundation to assist those “experiencing financial hardship,” she said. Within 12 years, 15.7% file for bankruptcy protection.
The financial education plan for new players includes explaining financial planning and budgeting, emphasizing the need for financial management in their first year and making sure NFLPA members make the maximum contribution to their 401(k) plan, which is a negotiated benefit provided by the league. The NFLPA worked with Financial Finesse, a provider of workplace financial wellness and retirement education programs, on the financial education program.
In the past, Ms. Hammonds said, the NFLPA didn't segment education efforts. “Our business model is now based on the individual needs of the membership,” she explained. “Instead of "If we build it, they will come,' we now say "Tell us what you need and we will build around it.' ”
The NFLPA's newest effort, which started in mid-October, is a microsite called Bank On It, providing financial literacy information for rookies. The site asks participants to take a pledge to create and use a budget throughout the year, manage credit by reviewing their credit reports and scores, and continue educating themselves on financial wellness, credit, debt and budgeting.
The site provides interactive information on each of the pledge items as well as featuring videotaped comments from players extolling the importance of financial literacy. “This is peer-to-peer messaging,” Ms. Hammonds said. “Players talk about their best savings strategies.”
Although Bank On It was launched after the Excellence & Innovation Award judges reviewed the NFLPA's efforts, other aspects of the education program scored a touchdown with them.
The NFLPA effort is “groundbreaking for a participant base that desperately needs fair and objective guidance preparing for life after sports,” wrote one judge.
The association created “a very insightful campaign,” another judge wrote. “It identified unique needs of a target audience — young athletes with large salaries — and delivered clearly developed materials.”