National Football League
Study: One in six retired NFL players bankrupt within 12 years
National Football League

Study: One in six retired NFL players bankrupt within 12 years

Published Apr. 15, 2015 8:02 a.m. ET

NFL retirees might have more to worry about than just the physical toll of their careers.

According to a new study, one in six NFL players goes bankrupt within 12 years of retirement. The research found that the duration of a career or the amount a player earned had little bearing on the results.

"Having played for a long time and having been a successful and well-paid player does not provide much protection against the risk of going bankrupt," Kyle Carlson, Joshua Kim, Annamaria Lusardi and Colin F. Camerer wrote in a paper released in the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Data collected by roughly 2,000 players drafted between 1996 and 2003 was used in the study. The researched then looked at the earnings data (available for roughly 900 players) and bankruptcy court records.


"Players with median-length careers earn about $3.2 million in a few years. If they are forward-looking and patient, they should save a large fraction of their income to provide for when they retire from the NFL," according to the study.

The study also showed that the bankruptcy rates were similar to or higher than estimates for similarly aged people in the general U.S. population.

The researchers found that bankruptcy filings from former NFL players increase two years after retirement, "likely due to a combination of players rapidly drawing down limited savings and having leveraged investments."

Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Terrell Owens was part of this alarming trend. Despite earning an estimated $80 million during his career, Owens, who played for 15 years in the NFL, filed for bankruptcy in 2012.


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