Chances are you’ve never heard of Joejuan Williams.
You might not follow the NFL. If you do, he isn’t on your fantasy team. He’s on a team that you probably hate. He’s probably the 35th best player on the 53-man roster.
Joejuan Williams plays defense for the New England Patriots. Growing up a Bostonian, I’ve been rooting for that team for almost 35 years.
By the end of this post, I think you’ll agree he’s something a lot more special than any of that sounds.
I gave away the goods in the title. He saves 90% of his income. That’s extraordinary in his profession. Professional athletes tend to blow all of their money faster than you might think. There’s a great ESPN documentary on it called Broke
Yes, Williams has a four-year, $6.6 million contract with 4.1 million dollars guaranteed. Living off of 10% of that kind of income might not sound too amazing for you and I. However, at his nearly $500,000 salary this year, he spends around $50,000. That’s not too crazy for a 22 year old.
What made Williams make this decision when so many of his peers go in the opposite direction and spend all their money? From this Boston Globe article it was simple a financial literacy class in high school:
“Joejuan Williams still remembers learning about mutual funds in a personal finance class he took as a junior at Father Ryan High School in Nashville.
‘I just raised my hand and was like, “So, you’re saying we can sit on money and watch it grow?”‘ Williams, now 21, recalled. ‘[My teacher] was like, “Basically, yes.” I was like, “Bet, sign me up.”‘
The whole Boston Globe article is worth reading. Williams had always been an extreme saver due to the difficult circumstances he grew up in. He had a need and desire to learn more about money and the opportunity presented itself in that personal finance class.
He keeps his expenses down (after paying off his mom’s student loans and car) and invests 90% of his money. He’s looking to pay for his mom’s home next. It sounds like he’s learned from the Broke documentary:
“I want to be set in the future when I’m not working. Grind now, sacrifice now, be happy later. I’d rather live like a prince for the rest of my life than live like a king for my NFL career and then go back to square zero.”
He knows that in the NFL, square zero can be just around the corner. One of the longest running jokes is that the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Just this week, ESPN wrote about the 5-year anniversary of The Jonas Gray story.
Jonas Gray was another Patriots who came out of nowhere to have one of the best games in football history – only to disappear into obscurity the following week… and every week since. Reading the story of Gray, you realize how much luck plays an impact in your life. He caught just about every kind of bad break you can think of and at 29, he’s just trying to get another chance where he can prove he belongs in the NFL on his own skill.
When Williams isn’t grinding away on the football field, he hopes to create a formal financial literacy program to reach students and get them excited about learning about money. (Joejuan, if you are reading this, contact me).
For now, he’s got his work cut out for him on the Patriots. They’ve got a lot of depth at Williams’ position, which means that he doesn’t get much playing time.
I’m not worried about the football aspect of Williams’ career though. For all these words about his money habits, he’s just as invested (pun intended) in the game of football itself. Before news got out about his personal finance accomplishments, it was suggested he might be the NFL’s biggest football fan. He can often be found watching kids from kindergarten to high school play football. That’s simply not the kind of thing that NFL players do on their time off.
I love to share inspiring personal finance stories. Some may argue that because Williams’ income is so high, it’s not too inspiring. I don’t buy that. It’s very different than what almost every professional athlete does.
The other thing I want to focus on is the role that personal finance education played in Williams’ life. I’ve had some conversations on Twitter and they feel that kids aren’t interested in personal finance education and requiring them to take it in school isn’t going to change anything… they just won’t listen. I have always argued that if you pitch the class as a way to make money doing nothing, kids will generally be interested. I think it would certainly interest them a lot more than trigonometry, right?