Why you should take financial advice from the Washington Redskins

WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins are in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, when Robert Griffin III led the team to a 10-7 record to win the NFC East.

Much has changed in the past few years, and I’m not just referring to the quarterback. Something remarkable changed off the field, and you may want to take note.

What I’m referring to is the frugality of the Redskins’ players, as evidenced by what I consider to be Kirk Cousins’ greatest statement — about his finances.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Redskins players stand out not just for their completion percentage or yards gained after the catch (I’m looking at you, Jordan Reed), but for their frugality.

When you look at the players’ parking lot, you’ll find a few of the fancy cars you might expect, but you’ll also find a conversion van, a bicycle and Alfred Morris’ beat-up Mazda, which is almost as old as he is.

This team seems to be taking a sensible approach to their finances.  After all, why spend 100 percent of your paycheck when the average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years.  For many, that’s just three years to save enough to sustain a family for the remainder of their lives.

Cousins, our local hero for taking us to the playoffs, said it best in the article: “But you don’t know how long you’re going to play, you’ve got to save every dollar even though you are making a good salary.”

We all face the challenge of deciding what portion of a paycheck to spend, and what to save.

But it’s the statement Cousins made about what to do with those savings that was so intelligent and striking.  “But it’s better to buy appreciating assets than depreciating. No yachts, no sports cars,” he said in the article.

Material items all typically go down in value over time — perhaps as soon as they leave the sales floor.  But buying the right assets can pay you back over time.

It sounds like Cousins is learning his lessons, not just from the team playbook, but from personal finance books as well.  Take one of my favorites, “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” In this best-selling book, Robert Kiyosaki shares his story of two fathers.

One, his real dad, worked for a company and spent what he made. His other “dad” (a friend’s father) taught him to take the money he earned and invest it in businesses, himself and assets that would generate future cash flow.

Sure, people can look at the upfront costs of owning an expensive sports car, but they have to look at the opportunity cost — what those funds might have made if invested elsewhere.

While advising clients at Glassman Wealth, I have found that sometimes people confuse an asset that may not plummet in value with an appreciating asset.

Take my wine friends as an example: Many of them have purchased wine that has maintained its value or even appreciated over time.  However, very few of them ever sell the wine, and those who have tried have been disappointed that the amount they received after commissions was far less.

An asset is only worth what someone is willing to pay you for it, and it sounds like Cousins and his teammates understand this.  After all, nearly 16 percent of retired NFL players go bankrupt, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

This can occur for a variety of reasons, one of which is lifestyle inflation — the tendency to spend more as you earn more. Cousins takes a more sensible approach: “You never know what’s going to happen so I try to put as much money away as I can,” he said in the article.

If players skimp on the fancy cars and invest appropriately, my guess is that this team of underdogs will do just fine.

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