Nat Borchers: Every Pro Needs Flow

I was still wearing my #7 Portland Timbers uniform as I sat in a wheelchair on 18th street outside the stadium of Providence Park.    

The throbbing pain had reduced to a dull ache as I waited for my ride to the hospital.  A half hour ago I had been stretchered off the field with a possible career-ending injury.  Although the team doctors seemed convinced of the diagnosis, I needed to be 100% sure.

Photo via

Photo via

You mean to tell me my career is over?

I glanced over at the parking lot adjacent to the stadium and spotted a brand-new BMW.  It was painted jet black and it sparkled in the hot July sun.  It was the car I had always wanted since my rookie year as a professional soccer player.  

I closed my eyes.  Had it really been 14 years?

Stay away from alligators Nat.  It’s all about flow.

The year was 2003.  Standing in the parking lot outside the locker room, I marveled at the new car.  Sleek, low to the ground, big rims, and clean.  Really clean.  It was what a successful professional soccer player should drive.

It belonged to him.  He was a younger guy who had been in the league a few years longer than me.  Brand spanking new:  huge rims, sunroof, clean.  It stared at me seductively.

I want one too.

Looking over to the other side of the parking lot, I saw a veteran player about to get into his older sedan.  Compared to the new car, the sedan looked well used.  Other players would crack jokes about the car, calling him “Grandpa” when they saw him driving it and claiming that it looked like a “cop car”.  It never seemed to bother him.

He flashed a smile at me and waved me over.  

“You like that car, huh?”

“Yes.”  I said, glancing back at the brand new ride.  “When I get a new contract I’d like to buy one of those for myself!”

"Stay away from alligators Nat.  It’s all about flow."

He laughed and asked if I knew the price tag.

I thought for a second, a brand new ’03 BMW, 5 Series, fully equipped.

“$40,000,” I said confidently.  I’d been pricing these cars ever since I signed my first contract with the Colorado Rapids.  

“MSRP is $35,000 and fully loaded it’s $40,000.”

“Wrong.”  He said.

I was annoyed, “Wrong? What? I just went on-line and priced one the other day.”

He sighed and spoke slowly, “There are other expenses for driving that new car aside from the cost of buying it.  Taxes, insurance…oh, and don’t forget about gas.  All that stuff doesn’t come for free.  It can add up to another $200-$300 each month!”

“Oh,” I said.  “I guess you’re right.  I didn’t even think about that.”

“No, you probably didn’t.”  He laughed.  “You young guys don’t think much about the financial consequences of buying things.”

He went on, “That car is what I call an alligator.”  For a brief moment, I thought about the movie Crocodile Dundee “That’s not a knife.  This is a knife.”

Seeing me confused, he explained, “Alligators are things that take your money.  You see that sleek BMW that you want?  It’s an alligator.  It will eat a chunk of your cash up front then it will slowly eat you every month with all of those expenses.  And you know what’s worse?  When you go to sell it – it’s worth less than what you bought it for.  That’s an alligator.”

I stepped back for a second and tried to process what he said, “So you’re saying that buying a new luxury car like that will not only take money from my pocket every month… I also won’t make any money when I sell it?”

“Nope.  You see, a new car loses value every time you put mileage on it.  That $40,000 car today might be worth $39,000 tomorrow.  You may actually have to pay someone else to take it off your hands!”

“Whoa.  I guess I’ll be thinking twice about buying that car.”

bmw car.jpeg

He continued, “Cars, mansions, jewelry, those are all examples of alligators.  They take a big bite out of you up front then they take money from you slowly while you own them.”

I felt frustrated.  “What is my other option man?  I mean I want to drive a nice car, not some old thing like…”  I trailed off as my eyes settled on his car.

He put a hand on his car and spoke in a more serious tone.  “A car shouldn’t define who you are Nat.  What you see is a beat up old family car, while what I see is freedom.  For me, being able to take care of my family when I’m done playing professional soccer is much more important than the kind of car I drive.”

He went on, speaking more passionately, “Do you know how much this old car costs me every month?”  I thought for a second, not wanting to give a wrong answer.  “$200-$300 a month?”  I asked.  

“Wrong again!”  He said, “It doesn’t cost me anything because I have flow.”

Though I wasn’t sure I was following, this piqued my curiosity. “What is flow?  How do you get a car for free?”

He laughed again and put a hand up.  “One question at a time Nat.”

“No, I didn’t say the car was free.  I said I have flow.  My investments pay for my car.  For example, the car payment and other expenses for the car all total about $300 each month.  

I own an investment property that makes $300 in cash flow.  I use that money to pay for the expense of owning a car.”

Whoa.  This guy drives a beat up old sedan but he owns real estate?  Don’t you need to have a ton of money to invest in real estate? I wondered to myself.

He went on, “Because I invest in things that increase in value, like real estate, I won’t have to worry about money after my professional soccer career is over.”

He stepped closer, leaned in, and spoke softly, “And I own 10 more of these properties, all around town.  Each one gives me flow each month so that when I do retire I won’t have to work if I don’t want to.  If I had purchased that luxury car as a rookie, I’d still be paying for it.”

“Stay away from alligators Nat.  It’s all about the flow.”

All about the flow.

“Hey Borchers!  Borchers!”  I opened my eyes.  I was back outside the stadium sitting in my wheelchair.  The game was over and Timbers fans were streaming out.  Some stopped to shake my hand and ask how I was doing.  The beautiful BMW stared at me from across the street.

I looked around, “Where the heck is my wife?”  Around the corner, I spotted her driving our ’08 Chevrolet Malibu.  

However, despite my predicament, I smiled.  Flow pays for that.  As we drove by the BMW I smiled.  

See you later alligator


Nat Borchers

is a retired professional soccer player, ambassador, broadcaster, and real estate investor.