Well it was inevitable. Given my love for football and personal finance, I have written up some similarities I’ve noticed between the two. I’m surprised it took so long actually. I always thought that sports really transcend what you’re actually seeing on the field and that there are some life lessons to be had if you really look into them (Check out what running and soccer can teach you about your finances). Football especially has these characteristics as each game is a blend of athleticism, history, philosophy and art. Non sports fans probably think I’m crazy, but it’s there trust me. You just don’t see it.
There are lots of lessons to be learned financially if we give a critical eye to football. Football is a pretty unique sport in that it is only really played in North America and has a rabid following at the high school, college and professional levels. It can also help you get your finances into shape if you really pay attention to the game. I specifically enjoy watching the NFL and, videotaped displays of domestic violence notwithstanding, it has been a fun week of football as usual. It would have been better if the Giants could actually win a season opening game, but there are still many games to be played. Without further ado, here is what football can teach you about your finances:
Think Long Term
If there is one thing that nearly all the Super Bowl champions have in common, it’s that they took a look at the big picture to get where they are. Football is the ultimate team sport, and it takes a combination of shrewd moves on the part of management and hard work and dedication on the part of the players to make a championship team. This means you have to hire the right personnel, draft the right players and make sure they stay motivated. This takes years of implementing a plan and executing it to its perfection. Football is one sport where you can’t just sign a star player or two and expect to have success. Teams have tried this in the past and fell flat on their faces (ahem Washington Redskins).
Thinking long term is important for your finances as well. It is actually essential for your finances. Your short term savings, retirement planning, college investments and income potential all need to be in order to have success. This takes time and can not be fixed overnight. While there can be emergencies that crop up such as emergency medical bills and job loss, those are usually temporary and if you have your long term financial picture in mind, you should have enough savings to weather the storm. One great way to measure your financial success is to track your net worth. If your net worth is going up over time, you’re generally doing well. If not, changes need to be made.
Football has has 3 main phases: offense, defense and special teams. To define them simply, offense is in charge of scoring points, defense is in charge of stopping the opponent from scoring points and special teams scores some points but mainly tries to put the offense and defense in a good position. Most teams that have continued success do well in all 3 phases. There are some teams that have won the championship by having one overly dominant aspect, but that usually doesn’t last. NFL coaches and players are too smart and work too hard to be fooled by the same thing every time. In order to be successful in football, you need to keep the other team on their toes all the time by having a good offense and defense. Being well balanced also allows you to overcome injuries. If a team only relies on offense and has a poor defense, an injury to their star quarterback will all but spell their doom.
Diversification is needed for success in personal finance as well. Diversification is usually talked about in the sphere of investing because putting all your eggs in one investment basket can be a very risky venture. This is most definitely an important point to remember, but diversification can also apply to your personal finances as a whole. I like to think of your income as your offense, expenses as your defense and investments as special teams. Most people get the majority of their income from their day job, which is great if you have a great paying and stable job that will be around forever. But if you are at a risk for job loss, which everyone is to some degree, it’s important to have other diverse streams of income. This can be in the form of a side business. While it may not net you as much as your day job, it is still something to expand upon in case you do suffer a job loss. Keeping expenses low is also important because if you spend as much as you earn, you’re not going anywhere. So just like football, income, expenses and investments must all be in good shape.
Plan for the worst
One thing that is unfortunately ever present in the game of football is injuries. Football is a brutal game, with huge athletic men running into each other at full speed. No amount of pads or protection can fully protect the players from damage. Injuries will happen and need to be factored into the long term plan for any team. This means that you need great reserve players who know their assigned role and will be able to fulfill it. These reserves need to be found ahead of time because teams will be hard pressed to find a quality emergency player just sitting around and waiting.
This couldn’t be more true in the world of personal finance. Finances can be brutal at times as well, and bills can come fast and hit hard. This highlights the importance of having short term money in reserve. Call it an emergency fund, tranquility fund or whatever you want, the name doesn’t matter. What matters is that you need a stash of money that you can access in a pinch, because emergencies happen to everyone at some point. You just have to be ready for them. It can be the difference between paying an unexpected medical bill and not losing a beat to having to get into credit card debt and set yourself back for years.
I firmly believe that there are life lessons to be found in almost anything, but especially so in football. If you’re not a football fan now after reading this, then I can’t help you anymore. And if you want a team to start rooting for, pick the New York Giants.