Personal Finance Battle: NHL vs. NFL

Posted in Budgeting & Planning, Saving on

At the start of the National Football League season I wrote a post titled Why Are So Many NFL Players Broke As a Joke? It touched on the financial ruin many pro-football players face shortly after retiring.  I didn’t want to pick on just one sport so now that the National Hockey League season is FINALLY starting (go Sharks!) I thought I’d see what we can learn about personal finance from hockey. 

There hasn’t been nearly as much personal financial research done for hockey players as there has been for football players. However, that doesn’t mean these athletes don’t face similar challenges. Let’s see how athletes from these two sports compare financially.

The Hockey Financial Advantage?

In some ways hockey players might be a little better off than football players. For instance, their average career is longer, 5.62 years versus football’s 3.5 year average. Additionally, the minimum hockey salary is higher at $525,000 in 2011-12 compared to the NFL at  $355,000.

One might think a greater minimum salary would give those players a leg-up. I would argue that without the proper planning it could work to the players financial detriment. They increase their lifestyle based on that salary and when they retire that lifestyle is nearly impossible to maintain. If instead, they saved the majority of that money and lived more modestly they could position themselves for more financial security.

Another possible advantage of hockey players might be that the culture and lifestyle in the league isn’t as flashy as that of other pro sports, at least according to popular stereotypes. Therefore, players might not feel peer pressure to spend as lavishly. Additionally, the Professional Hockey Players Association offers financial education to its members which addresses topics such as, “budgeting, debt management, credit and collections, saving and investing, basic tax planning, buying a car, home buying and renting, saving for college, bankruptcy, estate planning and wills” according to its website. This sounds like a helpful resource and perhaps it is. However, the NFL has a similar program and unfortunately, they have yet to have an impact on improving the personal finance of former players.

What can you learn from this?

1. Put a plan in place – No matter how much (or how little) money you have a plan is critical for long-term financial success. You’ll need to revisit and adjust your plan periodically and as your circumstances change.

2. Don’t increase your lifestyle just because your salary increases – Increasing your lifestyle with your salary is a very common thing to do. We simply spend what we have. However, if we have a plan in place, we are more likely to make purposeful decisions with our money because we have clarity about what we want to accomplish and the amount of money needed for each of our goals.

3. Be prepared for emergencies – Ask yourself what you would do if you had to take a drastic salary reduction or if your career was cut short. Do you have an emergency account, disability insurance, long-term care insurance or other resources to help you through a time of financial hardship? How would you prioritize necessary lifestyle cutbacks?

I hope learning from the financial challenges of hockey players will help you SaveUp!

This post was written by SaveUp’s personal finance contributing writer, Catherine Hawley, CFP®.

Image source: Book of Odds

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Written by Catherine Hawley

Catherine is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM) who offers accessible and objective financial advice to individuals and families. Her aim is to help clients gain clarity and confidence so they can pursue their definition of financial success. You can find more information about her independent practice at She has worked at Rhodes & Fletcher, LLC as a Personal Benefits Specialist and at the firms of Bernstein Global Wealth Management and Barclayʼs Global Investors. Catherine has a bachelors degree in communication studies from the University of California, Los Angeles where she was a scholarship athlete and captain of the womenʼs tennis team.