Financial Literacy for Professional Athletes

Financial Challenges Among Retired Professional Athletes

Financial problems are common among professional athletes, as many professional athletes lack the skills necessary to effectively manage their personal finances. Our research shows that athletes start declaring bankruptcy as early as two years after the end of their athletic careers and 16% of NFL players will go bankrupt within the twelve years following retirement. Conducting research relating to the NFL and NBA, GFLEC highlighted financial issues among professional athletes and is working to create effective solutions for this group.

Our Findings About NFL Players

NFL Stats v 100 jpg

NFL Research Highlights

  • Regardless of total wealth accumulation during their careers, many NFL players go bankrupt.
  • One out of six NFL players will file for bankruptcy during retirement.
  • Bankruptcy filings start as early as two years after retirement.
  • NFL stars or long-term players have the same risk of bankruptcy as any other NFL players.
  • Retired players are a vulnerable group and are an important target for money management programs designed to ensure successful retirement transitions.

Read our work published in the American Economic Review, May 2015.


Colin F. Camerer
MacArthur Fellow, Neuroeconomist, and Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics, CalTech

Annamaria Lusardi
Academic Director

Kyle Carlson
Data Scientist

Joshua Kim
Economics PhD Student
Stanford University

Working with Athletes

GFLEC wants to be part of the solution and help athletes make successful financial decisions in the short and long term. Financial knowledge is a critical part of an athlete’s transition out of an active professional career. Due to a lack of financial literacy, many professional athletes are unable to appropriately manage their wealth and are susceptible to scams and poor financial advice. The right program can ensure that athletes can succeed financially after the end of their professional careers.

Director Lusardi has worked to improve financial literacy rates of professional athletes through personal financial management courses specifically designed for them.

Click here for more course information.

We are in the process of developing new initiatives for athletes.

For more information contact Kristen Burnell at

Director Lusardi with participants from the STAR EMBA program.

New Research Projects: NBA Players

GFLEC is now working on collecting data on NBA players and looks forward to extending its research to other sports in collaboration with board member and former WNBA player Rushia Brown. Through conducting research pertaining to the NFL, NBA, and other professional sports leagues, GFLEC aims to both highlight the issue of professional athletes’ financial illiteracy and create solutions that lead to professional athletes’ long-term financial success.

Preliminary Findings:

  • On average, NBA players who declare bankruptcy will do so
    within 7.3 years after retirement
  • 6.1% of all NBA players will go bankrupt within 15 years of retirement
  • The median career earnings of NBA players are $12.67 million

GFLEC is currently developing a new research project on NBA players.

For more information contact Kristen Burnell at

John Rogers Jr. Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans; Rushia Brown, Former WNBA player and Alumna of STAR EMBA; Arne Duncan, then U.S. Secretary of Education; Kristen Burnell, Executive Director of GFLEC

Learn More About Our Work