As a professional athlete, you're working hard to make time to be the best at what you do among demands from everyone around you. You have interviews, guest appearances, charity auctions, contract meetings, team meetings, physical therapy, practices and gym time. Your time has never had more demands. Welcome to the big time.
Your first step should be to seek out the professional help that you're going to need to build your business around you and allow you to grow, not only in your sport, but in your personal brand. You'll often find that your management team will have these services available to you. The NFL Player's Association provides a list or professionals with whom you can work.
You'll want to be sure you're working with people who understand the special circumstances of a professional athlete. Above all, you'll want to feel comfortable with the people with whom you choose to work.
Paying taxes at your level of income can be quite a shock and I often hear from the athletes that we work with that they would rather save money in taxes than make more money anywhere else. It's painful to write those checks. For those of you who find yourselves with income from several states or even in other countries, you'll need to deal with a multitude of tax laws and tax credits. Finding a CPA that can help you navigate these laws will save you a lot of stress. Be sure to work with a CPA and not just a tax professional. If you are ever audited by the IRS, the CPA is legally required to defend his work and appear in court whereas a tax preparation specialist is not.
Hire a payroll company. A company like Paychex or ADP will make sure your personal account receives a paycheck from your business account each month. They'll take care of all your tax deductions, cut checks to those you hire, keeping track of it all and providing and accounting to your CPA. While the cost depends on the range of services required, some of my clients pay just under $100 per month. They would tell you that the time it saves is worth every penny. Their CPAs would agree.
Your financial planner will help you create a plan that will support your lifestyle both during your competitive career and after your transition from sports. This plan will consist of saving and investment directives that fit your goals. Most of all our goal in this respect is keep you from becoming a sports statistic. As you may have read, more than 80% of NFL players are broke or declaring bankruptcy within five years of retirement.
It may not be a surprise that the sports industry receives more paternity suits than any other field. Lawsuits follow deep pockets and that may make you a target. It won't matter how much you actually make, the perception of the public is that all professional athletes make tens of millions each year. That perception is the reason you'll need an attorney that can take care of any disputes that may arise. Lawsuit disputes are another reason to make sure you're incorporated. Adding what's known as a "corporate veil" can protect your personal assets. State homestead protection laws may also help you shield your residence. Another reason to consult an attorney.
Insurance is a key factor to protecting the king's castle. Find an insurance professional who knows how to accurately assess the risks you deal with including kidnapping, fraud, and overseas health insurance which are commonly overlooked.
Your world is much larger than the average person's as is your exposure to risk. Putting together a team that can help you plan for avoidable challenges and support you the unpreventable is an absolute necessity. These people and services will provide a foundation that will grow with you and support the weight of your success as you do.