Zach Pfeffer: Young Gun Has Serious Financial Game
Q: You became a professional athlete before you even got a driver’s license. Can you talk about your experience of being such a young professional?
A: My path to becoming a professional athlete was certainly a unique and unconventional one, having started my career while still in high school at sixteen years of age. However, my journey provided me with innumerable opportunities to grow and mature as a player, and even more importantly, as a person. At first, I was a boy amongst men, and thus had to quickly learn and adapt to my new environment.
Having entered the professional world at such a young age, I was able to witness firsthand what it was all about. The professional sports world is a business, and having that early exposure was priceless, as it allowed me to fully comprehend how competitive the world is that we live in. The multitude of experiences that I was lucky enough to gather at such a young age, along with the myriad skills and traits that I developed throughout my playing career, have been immensely beneficial throughout my transition into the academic and financial realm. There exist so many similarities between athletics and the world of finance, including the competitive and team-oriented nature of both, as well as the need to perform under pressure and in time-critical situations.
Q: How did you manage your finances being such a young professional?
A: Having begun my professional career while still in high school, I had not yet been exposed to any true business- or finance-related courses. However, since my very first Major League Soccer paycheck at sixteen years of age, I have always made it a priority to save and invest a large portion of my income. Lacking the sufficient knowledge and expertise at the time, I made certain to ask my veteran teammates, along with my family’s financial advisors, how to begin setting up and contributing to my 401(k). For those who may not fully understand how retirement accounts and other investment vehicles work, it is imperative to seek the advice and help of those who possess such knowledge, and that it exactly what I did from the beginning. I consider myself very lucky to have had such helpful people around me when I first began my professional career, and that certainly played a size able role in my learning to manage my finances at a young age.
Q: How helpful were your parents in how you managed your money?
A: My parents played a significant role, and were extremely helpful, in how I managed my money. I must give an immense amount of credit, and express my whole-hearted gratitude to my dad, as he has always stressed to my brother and me the importance of saving, frugality, and financial savviness. My dad has been a great role model, especially when it comes to managing one’s finances. Although not a financial professional himself, he constantly underscores the need to educate oneself and the importance of financial literacy. I can still remember the day I received my first paycheck in the mail. Still living at home with my parents, my dad brought in the mail, placed it on the kitchen island, and told me that I better start investing that money!!
Q: What are some ways you made sure you were smart with your money?
A: Staying in-tune with one’s finances is essential. The key to long-term financial security is being smart and disciplined early on in one’s career. For me personally, I have always been a big saver and constantly try to limit unnecessary purchases. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy going out to dinner with friends and family, or make the occasional purchase at Zara and Topman! However, I make certain that I am disciplined financially, and limit those discretionary purchases.
Additionally, I would just add that there are unfortunately many younger people who have a bit of hesitancy and trepidation when it comes to investing, fearful of volatility and the vagaries of the stock market. However, since my first paycheck, I have always allocated a portion of my earnings to my 401(k) and to other investment accounts. I can’t stress enough the importance of not only saving money and maintaining financial discipline, but also of using the benefit of TIME to grow one’s wealth!
Q: How did you learn to be financially prudent with your money considering you went pro before most kids pay their own bills?
A: For this, I would jump back to where I mentioned the significant role that my parents played early on, constantly underscoring the importance of saving. However, I would say that the majority of my financial knowledge and understanding has been a direct result of me endlessly applying myself to the craft. As a person who is enthralled with, and very passionate about, the capital markets, banking, and the financial spectrum as a whole, I make it a priority to learn as much as I possibly can. It truly comes down to the individual applying his or herself, taking the time to read and watch as much as possible, so as to become educated and aware of the best ways to achieve financial freedom.
Q: To my understanding, you are now very passionate about finance and business, can you talk about how you got into that?
A: Yes, I am certainly very passionate about finance and business…I honestly can’t seem to get enough of it (I probably check the stock market app on my phone WAY too much, but I simply love it). Specifically, I think my interest in the equity markets really took significant leaps forward throughout my playing career, as I was receiving a full-time salary and investing a large portion of it, and thus wanted to be as informed and educated about the market as possible. I just became fascinated by the excitement of the stock market, and the seemingly endless opportunities that finance and business provide. During my playing career, I would constantly come home from training and turn on the T.V. with CNBC or be reading the Wall Street Journal. I always make sure that I am staying up-to-date and informed with what is going on in the markets and the economy!
Q: What has been the best advice you received in terms of money management?
A: I would say that the two best pieces of advice that I have received, as it relates to money management, are to remain disciplined (i.e. sacrificing certain discretionary expenses that are obviously unnecessary, as these add up over time) and to take advantage of TIME! Not to be overly redundant, but for young professionals of all types, taking advantage of the power of time and compounding is vital, and will greatly assist one in achieving his or her financial goals.
I would also throw in a famous Warren Buffett quote… “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” I always try to take advantage of the extreme sentiment shifts in the market, which can often times provide some pretty compelling investment opportunities.
Q: After experiencing it yourself and now working in the financial spectrum, what do you think are the most important factors as an athlete when it comes to smart financial practices?
A: As a broad answer to this question, I would advise all athletes to try and educate themselves as much as possible, and to continue building their financial literacy. Unfortunately, our country’s school systems do not provide enough opportunities for young adults to develop their financial acumen, and thus it is essential to do so on your own! Take advantage of the down time on away trips or after training to read and watch what is going on in the markets.
In addition, for those athletes seeking the advice and assistance of a financial advisor, take the time to ensure that the individual has your best interests in mind, and that they possess a higher degree or certification. Most importantly, remain financially disciplined, as constant unnecessary expenditures will add up over time. Money has a tendency to slip away without you even realizing it, so remain aware of your spending habits and stay FRUGAL!
a top youth international prospect, was the first ever homegrown signing for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer at only 15 years old. While his fellow high school classmates were picking out prom outfits, Pfeffer was competing against grown men every day. Pfeffer holds a number of records for his accolades as a professional soccer player. Zach Pfeffer decided to follow his passion for business and retire at just 22 years old with over 7 years professional experience. He is currently enrolled at Temple University Fox School of Business and is a wealth management intern at Morgan Stanley.