A local group in Madison wants to help area young people plan for a future of financial independence. Prosquared works to teach students the importance of building personal wealth and making worthwhile investments for the benefit of the communities in which they live. Addressing, in particular, the interests of minority student athletes, this networking organization hosts regular meetings to discuss how to manage money called the Sports & Business Talk Luncheon.
“I felt that there was a huge disconnect within communities of color because you have some individuals that are hyper-wealthy and then you have athletes who are not actually wealthy but have temporarily high incomes,” said Prosquared board member Robert Wynn. “They miss the opportunity to convert their high income into to sustainable wealth in a way that they might not only help themselves and their families, but they would also have more resources to plow back into the community.”
Many young people today dream of a successful career as a professional athlete. Talented men and women bank their highest aspirations upon earning a college scholarship to a division one school in the hopes of one day making it to the NBA, NFL, WMBA or NWSL. Particularly, those growing up in poverty look to sports as a way to improve their life circumstances through fame and fortunate in a world of high-stakes athletic competition.
Unfortunately, even the top students who are accepted into the best colleges and universities don’t make it as leading sports stars. And those who do still must face the challenges of life off the field or court once their physical abilities start to fade. Whether due to a career-ending injury or merely the inevitable decline that comes with age, all athletes must be prepared to earn a living and generate family income using a different set of skills.
“That’s why we started working with the university and some other individuals on financial literacy,” Wynn said, “but we wanted to do it in more of a macro way.”
Big-picture thinking is at the core the Prosquared vision. At luncheon meetings held at the Madison Club they bring together business owners, entrepreneurs, investors and athletes to discuss how they might create a productive community of mutual support in which they might encourage the generation of wealth. Guest speakers at a recent event included former NFL wide-receiver and success coach Brandon Williams and Dr.Jerlando Jackson, the Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the founder of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory. Through exhaustive scientific research, Jackson strives to create practical solutions for student athletes who are often divided in their priorities of academic verses athletic excellence.
“The current system set up as competing interests. We need to think about constructing them as dual interests,” he said. Unfortunately, we have placed students in a predicament where they either have to self-regulate opportunities that are not easily constructed for them or that they choose either school and sports. We have to work, I think, to make more opportunities for them to excel equally at both.”
The speakers offered compelling arguments for a more thoughtful, long-term approach toward building a successful career throughout one’s professional life. Although Williams attended the UW-Madison, he did not graduate before he became an athlete in the NFL. And when he could no longer play football, Williams had to learn the hard way the importance of financial planning.
“I was making $30,000 a month, but still had $10,000 in bills,” he told the audience. “When I left the NFL, you know what happened next. I went bankrupt.”
But motivated by the necessity to provide for his family, Williams pulled it together so that he could build back much of the wealth he had lost. He now counsels student athletes on the basic principles of networking and relationship building to help them avoid some of the mistakes he made.
“Understand what your talents are. Your sport is not the only thing that you’re good at. You’ve had a lot of levels of success in that, but there are a lot of things that you love to do that you haven’t applied yourself to,” Williams said. “Start identifying and exploring those opportunities and then start to align yourself with people who are doing that at a very high level, because at the end of the day you will leave the game but you will leave the game with those relationships to do those things that you really want to do.”
Now back at the UW, Williams will earn his bachelor’s degree in the spring. The author of the book “The Millionaire Mindset: 7 Principles Athletes Need For Financial Freedom,” he offers advice on how to generate personal wealth that will last for decades.
“Wealthy people plan for generations. They don’t talk about what they’ll do with their money ten years from now,” Williams said. “They’re talking about what they want their kids to do with their grandkids. When you have that in mind, it’s a totally different mindset.”
Bringing together these high-minded financial thinkers, the organizers of Prosquared want to define a culture of wealth creation. As student athletes start making plans for their futures, the group hopes to create a supportive network they can tap into in order to make the most of their time and money.
“We describe ourselves as a network of networks,” said Robert Wynn. “Ideally, what we want to do is help existing networks to synergize more and better and with one another so that we can find ways to elevate one another more and better than ever before.”