Nathan Sturgis: An MLS Veteran's Prospective

Q: You were drafted after two years at Clemson University via the Generation Adidas program, how did you feel in terms of preparation not only as a professional soccer player but now handling a healthy amount of money on your own?

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A: I was so young at the time that I don’t think I ever really thought about whether I was prepared or not. All I knew was that I wanted to play professional soccer and the Generation Adidas program gave me that opportunity so I took it. I believe my first year I made around $70-80k, which in 2006, as an 18 year, was really good money but not life changing money. Fortunately my parents taught me the basics of how to handle money and the importance of saving so I knew that my goal should not be to spend all of my paycheck. That first year I kept my rent low in an expensive city, Los Angeles, by having a couple roommates. I bought the basics: car, TV, bed, Xbox, and some golf clubs. I contributed money into my 401k and then tried to save some money outside of retirement accounts to fall back on in case the next contract didn’t come.      

Q: You are now a long time veteran, can you talk about some ways you have grown from a financial standpoint whether it is dealing with taxes, 401k contributions, etc?

A: I have grown a lot. My first few years in the league I did not know much about 401(k)s, the stock market, investing, or taxes. I had to hire someone to help with my investments and do my taxes. As I learned more about these topics though I began to be able to handle all of them on my own. I now pick my own investments, do my own taxes, and have a much better understanding about how to match my financial strategies with my personal circumstances.    

Q: Do you feel athletes have a firm grip on understanding their finances? What are ways you feel athletes can increase their financial literacy without feeling overwhelmed?

A: It’s tough to make a blanket statement about all athletes. I suppose some athletes have a good grip on their finances and some don’t. Finances were not always the topic of conversation in the many locker rooms around the league that I played in. I think a great way for athletes to increase their financial literacy is to read. Athletes spend a lot of time traveling and resting so it’s not too difficult to get through a couple books about investing and personal financial management. I have educated myself on those topics just by reading books.

Q: You are known as financial guru amongst MLS circles, can you talk about how you got started into investing and financial independence? Also please take us inside the investment club you started?

A: Not sure I would qualify myself as a financial guru, but I’ll take it. I got started in investing just by signing up to contribute into my 401(k) when I got my first MLS contract. I didn’t know much about investing at that time but I wanted to learn so I went to a book store and bought a book on the topic. I have been hooked ever since and ended up earning my degree in finance. It wasn’t an investment club per se but when I played in Houston I would get together with a few other guys on the team every once in a while to talk investing. It was a lot of fun and we mostly just talked about the 401(k) plan we were in and the options for investing outside of retirement accounts.     

Q: When it comes to investing, athletes always want to hit a homerun whether it’s the next big startup or a penny stock that is supposed to blow up, can you talk about your values and mindset when it comes to investing?

A: I am pretty conservative when it comes to investing. I am a big fan of index mutual funds but I don’t mind investing in active funds as long as the fees are reasonable and the performance is good. I also like to buy and hold individual dividend paying stocks. The important thing with investing is to know what investment strategy fits your personality and risk tolerance.     

Q: What are some key takeaways with the information you have learned that you would like to share?

A: Start investing as young as you can. Try to have at least a basic understanding of whatever it is you invest in. If investing interests you and you have the time to learn, manage your own investments. If investing does not interest you then find a good financial advisor that you trust to help you.

Q: Your younger brother is also a professional athlete, but he plays in the NFL. What are some things that you have shared with him from the financial side in terms of properly taking care of your money?

A: I have talked with my brother a bit about finances. He is smart and a saver, so I think he will do well. The advice I gave him was to not do anything financially that will disrupt your focus on football. Try to educate yourself as much as you can before making any major financial decisions. And ask for help if you need it.  

Q: What are your top 5 favorite financial books?

1. "A Random Walk Down Wall Street" by Malkiel

2. "The Bond Book" by Thau

3. "The Intelligent Investor" by Graham

4. "Unconventional Success" by Swensen

5. "The Ultimate Dividend Playbook" by Peters

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Nathan Sturgis

Nathan Sturgis is a long time veteran in Major League Soccer who recently won the 2016 MLS Cup with Seattle Sounders. Well traveled, Sturgis is known for his ability to play multiple positions on the field.  Sturgis was a key figure on various youth USMNT teams growing up in Florida including the 2007 U-20 World Cup that reached the quaterfinals.