Every day, there are epic battles waged over your money. People, situations and events conspire to take your hard-earned cash. And in each interaction, the person who understands why they do what they do, and most clearly understands what money means to them, will win every time.
This is what I tell the 50 NFL professional athletes sitting before me. I was invited to keynote the Sports Entertainment Group 2014 retreat by attorney and sports agent Adisa Bakari, partner at Kelley Drye & Warren and chair of the group, because of my expertise in turning sudden wealth into lasting wealth. The theme of the retreat was "Ensuring Today's Athletes Remain Tomorrow's Millionaires."
It was a successful event, and the sort of thing that not enough agents do for their players. "Ensuring that our athlete clients remain successful beyond their playing days is essential to our representation of them," Bakari said. "As agents, we work tirelessly to ensure we maximize a player's money. Once that contract is negotiated and signed, we work even harder to ensure our clients keep their money."
A Taunt to a Room Full of Athletes
I decide to taunt my audience a bit. "Who thinks they can beat me at arm-wrestling?" Hands shoot up. Several players laugh. A few of the larger players -– heck, they are all larger players –- don't even bother to raise their hand. They think I'm joking. I'm not.
"Who thinks that if we put our elbows on the table right now and clasped hands, that they could beat me?" I continue undaunted, but also hoping nobody takes me up on the challenge. The group is unfazed by my rhetoric or arm-wrestling confidence.
"Why do you think you could beat me?" I ask. Few want to state the obvious -- that they are professional athletes who could easily bench press me. I ask again, "Why do you think you could beat me?" They can tell I'm really looking for an answer.
Someone yells out, "I just know I can."
Dee Ford Takes the Bait
"Who said that?" I ask as I look around, searching for my vocal participant. Then I see Dee Ford smiling like only a 23-year-old first-round NFL draft pick can when asked by a 165-pound, 42-year-old guy about arm-wrestling. He's trying to avoid stating the obvious and desperately trying not to hurt my feelings.
"I just know I can," he smirks.
"This is the kind of confidence you need when it comes to your money."
"I don't know what money means to you, but here's what money means to me. Money is freedom. Look back at any point in history, and the people with money were the people who were free. Money provides opportunity. Money can provide experiences and options. Money can give you the opportunity to live in a better neighborhood and provide better education for your children. Money can provide better health care for you and your family. Money can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Money is power.
"This is what money means to me. Money can give me the life that I want. The question is 'What does money mean to you?' Think about it. Come up with a reason for why you do what you do. Get confident about what money means to you and the value that it has for you. I guarantee that once you start thinking about money differently and once you start thinking about what it means to you, you will look at spending it differently. Money will go from being something that can buy stuff to something that creates options and provides freedom. Because if you just have a shallow meaning of what money is to you, it will flow through your hands and you will lose it. But if you have a deep understanding and belief about what money is and what it can provide, you will win the battle for your wealth every single time -- and you'll start to make different and smarter financial choices when it comes to how you're going to spend it."
This is a lesson for all of us. Get specific about the true meaning of money for you. Think about what it has the power to do for you and you'll have a much deeper respect for earning it and saving it.
I only hope this is one Vegas story that doesn't stay in Vegas.
Robert Pagliarini is a best-selling author and wealth manager who focuses on sudden wealth recipients. Connect with him on Twitter at @rpagliarini.