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Another Wealthy Athlete Goes Bankrupt

By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large

You sports fans out there will certainly remember Antoine Walker, the former NBA star who rose to prominence with the Boston Celtics before ultimately winning a championship with the Miami Heat. As befitting a pro basketball superstar, Walker made over one hundred million dollars over the course of his career; however, in an eventuality most unfitting for a successful professional in any field, Walker went bankrupt.

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Walker now counsels young pro athletes about the pitfalls of coming into a lot of money at a young age, as part of his role with Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment. What makes Walker’s task particularly important is that the backgrounds of so many of his charges are not conducive to making good financial decisions; it can be exceedingly challenging for someone who may have had little in the way of sound financial guidance…or any reason to need it, frankly…as a younger person, to wisely handle a windfall to the tune of millions of dollars.

Although Walker acknowledges that a variety of circumstances contributed to his financial downfall, he traces the core of his collapse to two things: the creation of an “expensive lifestyle,” as well as his unwillingness to say “no” to anyone who asked for some of what he had.

There are, once again, good lessons to be had from looking at the unfortunate financial experiences of a wealthy person, particularly when those experiences come from lifestyle and behavioral choices. For starters, Walker reminds us that the safest way to stay out of this kind of trouble is to live well within one’s means. That term may mean something different to a person whose baseline is in the millions, but the core idea is applicable to all. Additionally, there’s the matter of simply saying “no.” In Walker’s case, he admits he should have said it to a lot of different people who had eyes on his fortune, but one does not need a fortune to make good use of the word with others…and even one behalf of oneself; in fact, the inability to say “no” to ourselves may well be the single biggest cause of personal financial calamity, when it comes down to it. Walker’s example provides useful lessons to us all.

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