How 1 NASCAR Driver Plans to Avoid Going Broke in Retirement

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Aric Almirola with his son
Aric Almirola with his son, Alex | Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Stories hit the news every day about celebrities who made a fortune and then squandered it all. One sports star who has made a decision not to let this become his story is NASCAR driver Aric Almirola. The Cheat Sheet chatted with Almirola to learn more about his quest for financial security.

The Cheat Sheet: What prompted you to start learning about personal finance?

Aric Almirola: I started learning about personal finance at a really young age. My grandfather took us racing, and we left our race shop with a budgeted amount o­f cash. That was the cash we had to put gas in the truck that pulled the trailer, buy our pit passes, get food from the concession stands, and all of the things we needed when we were out racing. So I learned about budgeting and personal finance really early on in life. And, with my own personal finance, I got a crash course in finance as soon as I left college. Once I told my parents I was leaving college to follow my dream of becoming a professional race car driver, they said that if I wanted to move away from home and quit school then I was on my own. I had to figure out how to start paying for my own truck payment, insurance bills, cell phone bills, rent for an apartment, and everything that you need to survive on your own. So that forced me into learning how to manage my personal finances.

CS: What are some things you are doing to prepare your finances for retirement and life after NASCAR?

AA: The number one thing I’m doing to prepare for retirement is saving. I’m very blessed and fortunate to have a great career and make good money. To be able to do what I love is obviously a blessing, but at the same time, I have to live well within my means and save for the future. I think that’s important regardless if you’re a NASCAR driver or if you’re an everyday business man. You can’t spend more than you make because it just doesn’t work. I have the luxury of being in a position that allows me to save money, and because I do that, it’s helping me prepare for retirement.

Another important thing I’ve done to prepare for retirement is have a fiduciary adviser help me with my investments. There’s a lot of opportunity out there to invest your money, but there’s also a lot of vehicles you can use to invest your money that will also cost you money. If you’re an average investor like me and you’re not aware of what is out there and all of the hidden fees, then it can cost you a lot of money in the long run. I think it’s very important to hire a fiduciary adviser you can trust.

The purpose of a fiduciary adviser is to have someone in your corner that will help you get the right unsolicited investments that they will not be getting kickbacks from or reaping the benefits of a fee structure. That’s what I’ve done and it’s been an important step in the process for me.

You also need to take an interest in your finances. I’ve taken a very aggressive interest in my personal finances and my retirement planning because nobody will have my best interest at heart more than I will for myself. It can be very confusing and challenging to understand at times, but I’m continuously digging deeper into the financial world to educate myself.

CS: What is your opinion of athletes who have gone broke after retirement? Are you ever afraid that could happen to you?  

AA: I think that’s a shame. I feel like any professional athlete is very similar to a lottery winner. There are so many people out there that are good at baseball but will never get to play in Major League Baseball. There are a lot people that are great at football but will never be professional because they weren’t on the right team in high school or college and didn’t get noticed. And it’s the same for a race car driver. I raced against thousands of kids growing up that I know had every bit as much talent as I did, and some had even more. But they just didn’t get the same lucky breaks that I did to make it to where I am today. So I really view making it to the professional level of any sport like being a lottery winner.

The pay comes along with both. It’s such a shame to see people get that money and blow it all. They don’t have any sort of reality or sense that the money will stop one day. The flow of income won’t always be there. There’s a small window of opportunity for professional athletes to make as much money as they can for as long as they can. The best professional athletes will play for 10 or 15 years. Then at the end of that they are a middle-aged person that has to figure out how to live until they’re 90 years old. If you’ve blown it buying expensive houses, cars, jewelry and all of the same stuff for your friends, then it’s really hard to plan for life after sports.

CS: What lessons are you teaching your children about money?

AA: Something that I’ve really been on our kids about is to not be entitled. That’s the biggest thing for me. Money is out there. Money is out there to be had and to be made, but you have to work for it. People aren’t just sitting around waiting to throw money at you. My son Alex is three years old and my daughter Abby is two years old, so they’re really in the infancy of learning about money. But, one thing that my wife, Janice, and I have made them do is pick up their toys in the playroom and put them all away. We ask them to help us when we have to take the garbage out. We ask them to walk out to the street with us to help us get the mail.

We do all this to help them understand the value of work because at the end of the day we give them a coin or two to put into a jar that we keep in our kitchen. They get to watch that jar fill up. It’s their piggy bank, so to speak. They don’t care much about the denomination right now. Two pennies are currently better than one quarter. They are so young that they don’t understand the denomination part, but they do understand that if they help clean up and do work that they’ll get money for that. So right now we’re mainly focusing on helping them learn that if they work, help and pitch in, they’ll earn their money.

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