Frugal Footballers

Victor Levinson Comments, Financial Life 101

What do Kirk Cousins, Alfred Morris, and Ryan Kerrigan have in common?

If you answered that they’re all key members of the NFC East champion Washington Redskins, you’re right – but only in part. That’s because they share another meaningful attribute: a commitment to saving, despite their multi-million contracts.

As detailed in Kevin Clark’s NFL Journal column in the January 6, 2016 edition of the Wall Street Journal, the young stars live a life of surprising frugality. Cousins, the quarterback, drives a dented GMC Savana passenger van to the office. Kerrigan, the outside linebacker, makes most of his own meals and shares an apartment with a childhood friend. And Morris, the running back, bikes to work — unless it’s cold or inconvenient, in which case he drives his 1991 Mazda 626, or as he calls it, “his Bentley.”

Cousins had a career year in 2015, throwing for over 4,000 yards (and helping me win my Fantasy Football league, to boot). Despite his good current salary, and an imminent big payday, he remains committed to saving. “You’ve got to save every dollar even though you are making a good salary,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen so I try to put as much money away as I can.”

At a basic level, there are a few ways to build wealth: one is by increasing income; another is by increasing your investment return; and a third is decreasing expenses. Yet only one of these is entirely within one’s personal control: saving. Unlike your income and investment returns, which depend on a host of macro- and microeconomic factors (along with the ongoing success of your firm), your expenses are, to a significant extent, up to you.

Branded or store label? 87 octane gas or some higher octane alternative? Paying down your credit card balance every month, or letting that debt linger? While certain expenses are fixed, many are variable, the reflection of a host of small choices we make daily.

In the words of Jonathan Clements, former personal finance columnist for the WSJ, “Wealth is born of great savings habits.” Having read Clark’s article, I’m now interested not just in whether the Redskins win the game, but what savings-conscious celebration Cousins, Morris, and Kerrigan will enjoy if they do.