(from Knoxville News Sentinel) Financial planner Brad Fullington believes he knows why highly paid professional athletes often run out of their money.
“No matter how much money they make, they can outspend themselves,” he said. “The numbers are all relative; you make more, you spend more. You just double your budget.”
Fullington has a career in financial services spanning almost two decades. He has worked with more than a dozen “recognizable names” in professional football, baseball, golf and even fishing, he says. (No, he won’t reveal the names, for ethical reasons.)
“Professional athletes are constantly sold things — life insurance, real estate, business opportunities, product endorsements,” he said. “They trust all of these different advisers, but there are hidden fees and exorbitant commissions. I have to be the guy that keeps that from happening to them. We want to be sound stewards of their financial blessings.”
For years his clients would call him for advice and tell him he should be offering his services to other athletes. His solution: This month he is launching a new service, called Concierge Family Office, or CFO, to work exclusively with athletes.
“The core is the financial business,” Fullington said. “But what will be fun and valuable to the athlete is the concierge aspect.”
CFO doesn’t charge commissions, just an annual fee. And as part of the service, the client might ask the firm to act as their travel agent to budget and book a vacation for them.
Or perhaps a baseball player gets traded from the Mets to the Dodgers, has to sell a house, move across country and buy another house. Fullington says CFO can do that, too.
“We’re letting them have more time for them,” said Melissa Warren, a para-planner who will be working alongside Fullington. “They want to do the things they like, they don’t want to deal with the minutiae.”
Fullington stresses that their services are for their clients only.
“They’re paying a fee, but we are saving them tons of time and money,” he said. “Helping them pay their bills, schedule their vacations, get their data plans, book a moving company — we’re very diverse.
“One agent asked if we could get Justin Bieber tickets for a client,” he said. “I’m a certified planner; the financial part is the easy stuff for us. The learning curve is going to be getting the Justin Bieber tickets.
“While the agent negotiates a contract, we protect and preserve that money,” Fullington said. “Just paying bills is a hard task. They travel for seven months out of the year, and when they get back to their hometown, family and friends are coming at them with business opportunities.”
CFO offers business-evaluation planning, which allows them to play the role of bad guy with the family member or friend.
“The athlete gets them to contact us,” Fullington said. “We evaluate it, and if we don’t think it’s a good idea, then we tell Cousin Joe ‘no.’ Then at Thanksgiving they’ll just be mad at us.”
Part of the service includes a web-based dashboard that feeds a client’s financial data into an easy-to-monitor display. It’s called Myconcierge. life and gives clients 24-hour access to all of their financial information, in real time.
Financial data could include; asset management, retirement planning, life insurance, cash-flow management, real estate transactions, mortgage, credit card statements, budgeting and business-opportunity evaluations.
“They can log in and see their net worth and see their favorites; it’s very user friendly,” Fullington said. “We set it up with them.”
Instead of logging into several different online accounts and portfolios or waiting until they return home months later, they can easily keep tabs on their finances while they’re on the road, he said.
“It’s your financial life in a box,” Warren said.
With the software, they can evaluate their clients’ portfolios, spot holes in a financial plan and see where their clients might be vulnerable with too little life or disability insurance.
“You can do ‘what ifs,’ ” Fullington said, providing different financial scenarios. “While an athlete might be earning $10 million per year, he may only have 10 years to earn what he is going to have to live on for 60-70 years in retirement. We help them plan for that.”
There is no cookie-cutter financial plan, according to Fullington and Warren. A baseball player might come out of college with multimillion-dollar signing bonuses and have no credit; another client may want to grow a portfolio. Fullington takes the time to get to know his clients’ goals, and help them plan accordingly.
“We work alongside the agents, we don’t sell product endorsements,” he said.
And unlike an investment banker, his job as a certified financial planner means he doesn’t have to sell specific products, just serve the best interests of his client.
While some people may not see this area as a magnet for professional athletes, Fullington begs to differ. “There are a ton of athletes out of Atlanta; for baseball, Vanderbilt is a factory; and Coach (Butch) Jones at UT really has a lot of prospects that will be going into the NFL.”
Fullington says a lot of players like to fish and hunt in their downtime, and the greater Knoxville area and mountains are a natural draw for athletes. His favorite part of his job is spending time with his clients when they’re in a duck blind or out fishing.
“I really get to know them, hear things they don’t share in an office,” he said. “Everybody has a back story, what drives them to get there.”
Fullington is officially launching Concierge Family Office during the Major League Baseball Winter Conference in Nashville this month.
“I sent it to agents, then I started getting calls,” he said. “It’s been an incredible response.”
Read the story by Ali James in the Knoxville News Sentinel by clicking here.