This might offend a few of you, but I have been a fan of the New England Patriots for a long time, and was excited to see them win their sixth Super Bowl Sunday night. There is just something about the standard of excellence they have maintained for nearly two decades that is rare in professional sports. I think this level of success is primarily due to the quality of leadership within the organization. Not only from its ownership and coaches, but also its veteran players.
During the seemingly endless amount of pre-game coverage building up to the game, I saw an example of this leadership in action by one of their team captains Rob Gronkowski. While most fans know him as one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game, what is less well known is how financially savvy he is. In fact, he serves as a mentor and financial advisor for younger players in the league. He shares with them both his knowledge and experience to help them make wise financial decisions. One of the things I found most incredible about his story is that in his eight year NFL career, he has never spent a dime of his NFL money. Instead, he lives conservatively on the money he makes from endorsements. His advice to others is simple, “Get what you need to live comfortably but don’t go crazy with splurging.” He explains that unlike other professional sports, NFL contracts are not guaranteed and careers can be short, so you have to be prepared for a time when you are no longer paid to play football.
While not making anywhere near the kind of money ‘Gronk’ makes, my wife and I have a similar story. When we first married, we made the decision to live on only one of our incomes. At that time, she was a first year teacher and I was working at a restaurant. It wasn’t always easy, but learning to reduce our lifestyle and save a large portion of our income allowed us to pay off our first house in about 5 years and eliminate our debt. As we have gotten older, both our expenses and our incomes have increased, but the practice of living on only one salary has not changed. This strategy has allowed us to put away a good amount of money for retirement, college savings and emergencies, while also making it easier to bless others through giving.
I recognize I’m part of a small minority of people who save such a large portion of their income. The recent government shutdown placed a spotlight on just how little most Americans have in reserve for an emergency. According to a recent study by careerbuilder 80% of all full-time workers live paycheck to paycheck. As you might imagine, for these individuals, a delay in receiving even a single paycheck can be more than inconvenient, it can be catastrophic.
While the government shutdown was in full force a local TV station did a news story on the impact this shutdown was having on people in the metro. One of the federal employees interviewed admitted on camera that she had $20 left to her name, and with tears in her eyes said she didn’t know how she was going to feed her children until the shutdown was over.
This is why having an emergency fund is not just a good idea, but an absolute necessity. We all have unforeseen events in our lives and if we have no savings to rely on, our lives can be forever damaged.
While my advice might not reach as many people as an NFL player’s does, I hope it resonates for those who do hear it. You must do what it takes to build an emergency fund of 3-months’ worth of expenses, or at the very least $1,000. I guarantee you the peace of mind it brings will be worth infinitely more than the dollars it costs to create it.