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Former New Orleans Saint Jed Collins leading with his mind these days

'I wanted to capture the opportunity to have a financial platform to start my life'

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For three seasons as a fullback with the New Orleans Saints, and six years with eight other NFL teams, Jed Collins led with his head.

These days, he's looking to create paths to financial stability and prosperity with his mind.

Maybe you've seen the tips on Twitter. Collins' Money Vehicle Challenge, a multiple-choice financial question offered by a present or former NFL player, is in Day 17 of Financial Literacy Month. And it seems to have come along at a good time, with many idle hours being filled during stay-at-home orders for COVID-19.

The fact is, many struggle with financial literacy. And presently, many are more concerned about their financial well-being than ever, with the economy ground to a halt, unemployment rising and the possibility of salary reductions and furloughs staring others in the face.

With that backdrop, Collins' challenge tees up questions that can generate reflection, self-critiquing and proactivity.

The target isn't solely athletes. But athletes could find a healthy portion of value in the exercises (big checks don't equate to wisdom; pro athletes do dumb stuff financially, too).

Day 16 of the challenge was presented by former Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod.

Question: What is the #1 drain on an individual investor's returns?

a. Bad Timing

b. Allocation

c. Emotions

d. Bad Advice

Answer: Emotions.

"It was a weird timing sequence, but that's often how some good things happen," said Collins, a Saint from 2011-13. "As I look at athletes, I am so thankful that this did not happen during the NFL season, because I know how many of the guys are dependent on the weekly checks, the game checks coming in.

(But) that being said, it is an ideal time for all athletes. I've talked to MLS players, MLB players, collegiate athletes. Everyone can take this month, two months, whatever the time period is, and begin to invest in themselves. I call it a great time to sharpen your axe.

"And what this challenge is doing is allowing you to sharpen your money axe, allowing you to better empower yourself around your finances. So this is a perfect message for student and professional athletes, anyone who is trying to better understand what their journey looks like."

Collins is a certified financial planner, with a degree in accounting. Early on, he figured out what his journey would look like, and it led him to wanting to help others along the way.

"I have an accounting degree," he said. "I was a business guy but truly, my first paycheck my rookie year came and went just like everybody else's. And that's what really alarmed me and woke me up to the reality: Even though I was an accounting major, I knew just as much about money as everybody else in the locker room, which was nothing.

"I began by going to a bookstore and getting books. But then a mentor of mine, who's also a former NFL player, challenged me and said, 'If you really want to speak this language, start studying for your certification in financial planning.' And so each offseason – actually, while I was down in New Orleans, I was taking most of the tests – I would take another test of my CFP. And so, I was passing all of those as my time in the league was continuing.

"And as I got more educated, I got to explain a lot more to guys in the locker room. And then when the lightbulb really started to go off was when my brothers, who have a master's (degree) in engineering from (the University of California) Berkeley and a Harvard law degree, started asking the big, dumb jock brother about money."

Now, the jock brother is dispensing the wisdom on money.

Granted, it took a bit of convincing. Collins was a fullback and the truth is, there could be skepticism about taking advice from a guy who, at times, had used his head as a battering ram.

"In the stereotype of football player, especially the stereotype of fullback, you have to overcome this sense that you aren't diversified in your expertise," said Collins, who had 27 carries for 68 yards and three touchdowns, and 44 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns, in 63 regular-season games. "And most aren't. Most, myself included, were told from a young age, 'Hey, go do this one thing, do that and everything else will be taken care of.'

"But what the modern day athlete is waking up to is this realization that we have to be in the driver's seat. We can have expertise, we can have teammates, we can have other people assisting us, but ultimately we are responsible for our money vehicle and our journey and our career in its entirety.

"A lot of people question, 'What does a fullback know about money?' and 'Isn't he a little rung upstairs?' But truly, my journey began out of that fear. My journey began because I looked at what my position was going to take from me physically, and I did not want to end up another statistic. I was already an undrafted guy, I was never going to be a big-contract guy. So how was I going to be in the minority that walked away from the game with the true dream?

"And that is the message I continue to tell young players, is, 'Your dream was not to walk across the stage as a rookie. Your dream is to leave this locker room with something to show for it.' I knew the physical toll and I wanted to capture the opportunity to have a financial platform to start my life."

Collins created his platform, and has written a book. "Your Money Vehicle" is available on Amazon.

"'Your Money Vehicle' is the first 10 questions on a financial journey," he said. "I don't like putting an age demographic; it's really for anybody. If they're 13, 23, 33 or 43, anybody who wants to start out on a financial journey, we go through the first 10 questions and each section has stories, has questions and answers, and then an exercise and an action item to take following each chapter.

"So you not only start out answering the first 10 questions, but you take your first 10 steps on a financial journey. I wanted to provide a book that was really more of a workbook, that made it about you the individual. That's why we call it 'Your' Money Vehicle.'"

You get to drive. Collins hopes he helped clear the path.

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