The Norman Transcript

Opinion

October 4, 2012

Smart risk-takers know when to walk away

NORMAN — I know a wealthy, self-made man who made most of his money before age 45. I looked at his financial information and told him, “You are not going to stop working until you drop dead. If you wanted to retire, you could have done that a long time ago. You like what you do and will never stop.”

My statement shook his inner psyche, and then he realized I was right. He never truly plans to quit.

He realized I operate in the same fashion. Sitting in a rocking chair and playing shuffle board are not in my plans. Someone once asked when I would retire. I responded, “Death. My work brings me great joy. I can’t imagine giving it up.”

The great Kentuckian Al Smith wrote his first book at age 84. At age 85, he just finished his second book, “Kentucky Cured,”

to be released in November. Al always has something to do and some place to go. He is an interesting role model in that he had a full-time job for 20 years. Years ago, he sold his chain of newspapers and devoted the rest of his life to helping others.

I’m not privy to Al’s financial information, but I suspect he and his wife set up their finances with a long-term view. Which is what some former professional athletes should have done.

Sports Illustrated did a fascinating study in 2009 titled “How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke.” The statistics were stunning. By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of former NFL football players were bankrupt or under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce. Within five years, 60 percent of former NBA basketball players were broke.

These people made millions. What happened? Many blow money on large entourages and wild spending. A lot more get burned by getting involved in businesses far away from their area of expertise.

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