The National Football League can be like a tale of two Patricks: Patrick Mahomes and Patrick Johnson.

Patrick Mahomes is the superstar quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, as they defend their NFL title against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII (58) in Las Vegas this Sunday. He was picked 10th overall in the 2017 draft, and he snagged a $16.4 million four-year contract, plus a $10.1 million signing bonus. Nice.

In 2020, he re-upped to an 11-year contract extension valued at up to $450 million. Which is a mindboggling number for anybody doing anything. 

Patrick Johnson is a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles, which lost to the Chiefs, 38 to 35, in last year’s Super Bowl. This Patrick was picked 234th out of 259 players taken in the 2021 NFL draft, and only in the seventh and final round. His signing bonus was barely 1% of Mahomes’: $105,000, on top of a three-year $3.5 million contract.

He was thrilled and thankful to have it. The striking thing about Patrick Johnson’s story is that he resisted any temptation to go on a spending binge blow $20,000 on a 24-karat gold chain and throw lavish parties fueled by $400 bottles of vodka.

Instead, Patrick Johnson has socked away most of it. He waited three years before making his one splurge, trading his Jeep and paying $85,000 cash for a fully loaded Ram truck. Though he earns just over $1 million a year before taxes, he holds his spending to $125,000, including $10,000 or so for vacations. He aims to save 80% of his after-tax paycheck.

Patrick is a superstar as a saver, which is the first step to being a superstar as an investor. He is my client, and though we talk once a week, I claim little credit for his approach to investing so conservatively, cautiously, and carefully.

As he told me in a recent conversation: “I’ve always known the life expectancy of an NFL player is what, like, two years or something like that. And that’s if you’re lucky. I realized I might have to save a lot of money and be patient and make smart decisions, because I don’t know, as a seventh-rounder, whether I’m going to be in the league after two or three years.”

Patrick says he learned a lot from his parents as he was growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the middle son between an older daughter and a younger daughter. His parents cut back on other expenses to invest in private school for their kids, which taught him the importance of spending on the right things that can pay a return.

His sense of responsibility was sharpened by the sudden death of his father, at age 48, from COVID-19 in 2021, just before Patrick was drafted into the NFL. Suddenly, saving money was about more than just himself. He wanted to ensure he could help his mom and his sisters if they ever needed it, even though everyone was doing well.

“I was super close with my parents. Dad was an extremely hard worker,” he says. His father always would tell him that money doesn’t fall from the trees, and to observe the practices of rich people to learn how to handle money. “My dad participated in every single thing I ever did. Growing up, he was a great father.” Patrick offers three pieces of advice:

      1. Avoid buying flashy items: new cars, jewelry, high-end fashion. Buy high quality and durability rather than overpriced designer names. Patrick wears Lululemon because NFL players get a 30% discount.

      2. Surround yourself with the right people who follow good, sound habits. One teammate, a close ally, is “a great saver, he’s even tighter with his money than I am.” Another Eagle has earned $95 million over 14 seasons, and he preaches the value of preserving savings.

      3. The communication you have with people, and the bond you build with them, is paramount. “Because that’s how you actually come across deals, opportunities. And if you don’t have that, if you just feel like you’re trying to be everything yourself, you’re not going to go far in life. Always treat people with respect and hear them out, because you just never know when you might need them in the future.”

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