From Hero to Less Than Zero

August 9, 2019by Alex Willard0

Despite earning the title of “Highest-Paid (Cumulative) Running Back in the history of the NFL,” collecting just shy of $100 million throughout his 12-year NFL career, Adrian Peterson has gone from hero (money wise) to less than zero.

We’ve all heard the rags to riches stories in the athlete realm, whether it be Michael Oher, Lebron James, or Manny Pacquiao. Unfortunately, we’ve also commonly heard the contrary. Poor investments, reckless spending, and even divorce (but not limited to) have each been a cause of reduced wealth. Whatever the circumstance, there are usually three commonalities between each rich to rags story – behavior, mistrust, and a result of shame.


I know what you’re thinking… “if only.” If only I had $99 million, there would be no way I could possibly spend it to zero.

Let me propose a short scenario to show you how this happens to the average individual/household:

Your gross salary is $50,000 annually and you live a comfortable lifestyle. You are able to cover your daily living expenses, your mortgage, and your car payment. In addition, you aren’t too conscious about your spending, because you think you have no reason to be. You also spend almost every dollar after your fixed expenses are taken care of. You spend your “extra” on entertainment, eating out multiple times a week, and taking spontaneous weekend trips once or twice a month.

One day your boss walks into your office and praises you for your efforts and dedication to the company you’ve displayed over the past two years. He rewards you by increasing your annual income by 50% effective the following year – resulting in a $25,000 pay raise.

As you receive your pay raise, you begin to get excited and your “dreamer” mentality begins to take over. At the beginning of the next year, your monthly income has significantly increased. You “suddenly” begin to get tired of the car you drive and decide to purchase a new one – doubling your monthly payment. You also decided to move into a new home on the opposite side of town, which increases your monthly mortgage payment significantly. Oh, and that jet ski you’ve seen your neighbor pull into their garage… Yeah, you bought one of those too.

See how quickly your $25,000 raise can be wiped out. This is a result of poor behavior and impulse spending. Just like APs multi-million-dollar contract(s) got the best of him; your raises can get the best of you.

Solution: Create a zero-based budget. A zero-based budget is simply taking your income and subtracting your expenses to equal zero. This means give each dollar you earn a purpose.


“The truth behind Adrian Peterson’s current financial situation is more than is being reported at this time. Because of ongoing legal matters, I am unable to go into detail, but I will say this is yet another situation of an athlete trusting the wrong people and being taken advantage of by those he trusted. Adrian and his family look forward to sharing further details when appropriate.”

The statement above made by attorney Chase Carlson claiming fraud on AP’s behalf may be accurate, of course only time will tell. Yet, although AP may be a victim of this classless act, the problem is deeper, and it cannot be pawned off just on mistrust alone. Trust is assured reliance. Most point fingers, but from my experiences when one is pointed, there are four pointing back. In any situation whether it be with $99 million or $50k, at times trust is initially misplaced in ourselves. We believe we have the awareness and financial acumen to manage our new circumstances, even without previous experience or insight. AP had choices, whether he pawned off responsibility in a “trusted” attorney or businessman, AP is still left in a situation resulting from a form of mistrust.

Solution: Seek wise counsel and properly conduct due diligence.


$99 million to $0. That is a shame. Unfortunately, this story is too common and unfortunately (or fortunately if someone will learn from it) it is public knowledge. Whether it’s a businessman, a movie star, an athlete or even the common man – shame is the result of poor behavior and misplaced trust. AP has sacrificed his body for years – pee-wee football, middle school, high school, college with the Oklahoma Sooners and now 12 years on the grandest stage. All these years of brutal wear and tear on his body with no financial gain to show for.

Solution: Stand in the shoes of AP and observe his shame to avoid shame for future self. Start beginning with the end in mind.


• Implement a zero-based budget and if you don’t like the word budget, call it a spending plan. Spending plans are implemented to minimize regret and maximize your freedom while staying inside the guardrails you placed.
• We all think we know what we should and would do when facing a new circumstance, especially when it comes to a windfall of money. If/when this occurs to you, take a step back, seek wise counsel and conduct due diligence before you place your trust and financial future with them.
• The only way to avoid shame is to internalize someone else’s “mistake” and do the opposite. One way to do that is to follow Stephen Covey’s advice of beginning with the end in mind.

Alex Willard

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