Amobi Okugo recently retired after 13 years as a professional soccer player. In 2010, Amobi was drafted in the first round (6th overall) in the Major League Soccer (“MLS”) SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union. Over the course of his stellar soccer career, he played on six different MLS teams. Recognized as Forbes 30 under 30 for achievements on and off the field, Amobi Okugo is a first generation Nigerian American professional soccer player, founder of Frugal Athlete (https://www.afrugalathlete.com/) which helps empower athletes through financial education, a philanthropist launching the OK U GO Foundation (https://okugofoundation.org/) to help black and brown youth by creating the foundation for future financial stability, and a content creator on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Apple Podcasts. MLS star Amobi Okugo has taken his experiences as a professional athlete and applied them to his next adventure in life, which is being a financial advocate, planner, and advisor.
Given Amobi’s focus on financial literacy and the importance of proper planning for athletes and underserved kids, the attorneys at Norton Basu LLP (https://www.nortonbasu.com/) and Kim & Rosado LLP (https://www.kimrosado.com/) invited him to share his thoughts. Here is what we learned in our interview with Amobi on November 21, 2022:
Q: Tell us about your soccer career before you turned pro?
Amobi: I was fortunate enough to play soccer at a very young age, at a very high level, so I always joke around that I was a pro before going pro. My parents got me in soccer because it was a way to stay active first and foremost, and to stay busy with extracurricular activities. I built skills that can only be learned through sports.
Q: What was your experience as a Major League Soccer Player?
Amobi: It was amazing, but it went by quickly. There are so many things that you take for granted until you’re done playing. Soccer is truly a global game. I played with people from various countries and cultures such as Africa, South America, and Europe. I was able to compete at a high level and get paid for it. As athletes we’re naturally competitive, we’re naturally greedy, so we don’t really come to appreciate those moments. At the end of the day what are you really complaining about? You’re playing soccer for a living!
Q: What did you know about how to manage your financial situation when you first became a Major League soccer player?
Amobi: When I first became a professional soccer player, I didn’t know much about managing finances. I thought: You make money, and you save money. But when it comes to investing, taxes, and estate planning there are different factors to consider when you’re making substantial money.
And it goes deeper than that, depending on how you live, where you live, and what you want for your life. All those factors play a big role in your overall financial performance and there’s a lot of lessons that I had to learn either through trial and error or just by asking questions.
Q: What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you entered the world of professional sports, in terms of finance?
Amobi: I wish I knew different tax strategies and estate planning. As athletes, we want to build a legacy.
Q: When did you finish your career as a professional athlete?
Amobi: I’m done playing, I retired last year.
Q: How has your experience as a professional athlete impacted your career path?
Amobi: I think it’s impacted everything, especially me right now, as a pseudo-entrepreneur. I’ve applied what I learned to the work that I’m doing now, which is financial literacy, a little bit of sports business, a little bit of marketing.
Q: What are a few key financial lessons that you think are important for people to know?
Amobi: I think the biggest one for me is the legal and tax ramifications to various types of investments. I think another one is understanding your budget. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the simplest thing. And then, lastly, investing, because there are many ways to get to the top of the mountain. Some people like to invest in real estate. Some people like to invest in alternative assets. Some people like to invest in the stock market, so it’s finding what works for you and staying diversified within that. Everyone has their main asset-grower or asset-builder.
Q: Now that you’re rich and famous, and knowing that there is a legacy of many very famous, wealthy, and accomplished people passing away without an estate plan such Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Prince – and so many others – what do you know about estate planning?
Amobi: This is a great point that you bring up. I think, as athletes, we think we’re going to play forever and we’re going to live forever. We never want to have a GoFundMe page to take care of our family if we’re gone. That’s why we work so hard, to make sure that our family and our loved ones are supported long after we’re gone. And we don’t want our family fighting over, “Who gets what?”
Q: Do you plan to have total assets over 12 million dollars during your lifetime?
Amobi: Ideally, yes.
Q: Then we’re going to talk about what’s called the Basic Exclusion Amount. The acronym is BEA. It’s about 12 million dollars. It goes up every year, but based on projected tax law, it may go down dramatically. If your estate is valued at less than 12 million dollars, you pay zero estate tax. The estate tax rate can vary between 18 to 40 percent, which is separate from income tax.
But what if your estate is above the estate tax limit? Knowledge is power, and you must plan for it.
Should tax and estate planning be part of personal financial planning?
Amobi: Most definitely, I think it’s part of the holistic financial portfolio. That would be like working out and only working your upper body and missing out on your legs, your core, and your cardio.