NFL Rookie Took Finance Class to Heart

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Photo of Joejuan Williams
Joejuan Williams
Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots.

Joejuan Williams, a rookie defensive back for the New England Patriots, has received a lot of attention for his practice of saving 90 percent of his game-day paychecks. He credits his frugality to a personal finance class at his Nashville, Tenn., high school.

“It completely changed my life,” Williams told The Boston Globe recently. “I’m going to sacrifice now for me to be happy later.”

Williams, having signed a $6.6 million contract this season, isn’t exactly living on the edge. But keep in mind that these sky-high earnings are often temporary for football players. When one considers that the average NFL career lasts about three years, Williams is just playing it smart.

But read on in the Globe article, and a more complex and touching explanation for Williams’ frugality seems to emerge – one that revolves around a childhood watching his single mother live paycheck to paycheck.

“I’ve been stingy with money ever since I was young just because I saw what my mom had to go through,” he told the Globe. He said that he has paid off his mother’s student loans and purchased a car for her.

Although he credits the influence of his personal finance class, psychologists say that adult financial behavior has deep roots in childhood experiences like Williams’. In fact, endless research papers have debunked the effectiveness of financial education. There are numerous reasons for this, including a widespread aversion to math. Human nature is another obstacle: people regularly sacrifice their long-term goals to whim – credit card spending is the classic example.

Williams is different. He has his eye on the future. He is focused on one long-term goal for himself – investing his savings for the future – and one goal for his mother.

“I’m going to give my mom a home,’’ he said. “That’s the only big purchase I have my eyes on.’’

Williams’ high school finance class clearly influenced him. But maybe the lessons stuck because he took them to heart.

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Jersey Joe

Your site could use as many of these types of stories as possible.
My situation was better than Mr. Williams, but I know my parents were living week to week. I’m not sure of their debt load, but my dad worked two jobs and my mother worked too. They didn’t have much choice with three children and we never questioned where the money came from, but knew that things were tight at the end of each month.
My first job paid me $5200 per year. I was married and we bought a $25 savings bond each month. Always tried to keep debt down and paid off credit card, in full, each month.
You can’t always control what dollars are coming in, but you can try to control what is going out.
Understand that some folks can’t get to that point, but where you can you have to have self control.

    Ken Pidcock

    Your reference to savings bonds reminds us that few people used to save for retirement by investing in equities. Too much risk, too much volatility. (Not even the wealthy, by the way; they had investments, but their retirements were secured with bond ladders.) Today, there’s no other choice. Not risk-free assets, not bonds, not annuity contracts, can provide close to the return needed to accumulate savings adequate for retirement. Which is a shame. People don’t like to lose money, and when they inevitably do in volatile markets, it can distort their behavior.


$6.6 million less tax is very nice. But if it has to last a lifetime, it will permit no more than a comfortable middle class lifestyle. Saving 90% is the right decision. Let’s hope he is getting some financial advice from a fiduciary.

Janet Brazelton

It upsets me to hear about the “widespread aversion to math” in our society. What can we do differently? I’m especially upset whenever I hear a primary or preschool teacher express their aversion to math. Are they inserting their own biases to our youth?

Tim Ranzetta

Why so quick to dismiss the impact of his high school finance class? Numerous studies have proven the effectiveness of financial education. Here’s a list:

It clearly provided him with the tools to manage his wealth and not fall prey to the “advisors” that circle NFL draft picks like vultures. Why not accept him at his word that the class made a difference instead of falling back on flawed academic research?

Every personal finance teacher knows that an engaging, hands-on and relevant curriculum impacts students in a positive way. This community of 25,000 educators (and growing) is making a difference every day in classrooms across the country.


I suspect the issue of financial education supposedly not working is less an aversion to math and more an aversion to delayed gratification. Living within your means (a.k.a. having a budget) may not be fun, but it certainly doesn’t require higher math.

Anyway, kudos to Mr. Williams–and to his mom, who obviously raised him smart!

R. K. Mohan

The Wall Street Journal just had a couple of well researched articles on how teachers and union members are getting rooked by their unions and insurance companies into buying high cost annuity contracts and other investments. Teachers need to be taught to recognize the predatory actions that they are subjected to so that they in turn can communicate it to their students.


It has been a pet peeve of mine for years that in the US a financial education class is not a required course for high school graduation. Everyone should have a basic understanding of how money is made and how to best handle it for lifelong economic security. Everyone should have a basic understanding of tax law. This stuff is not that difficult, but a large percentage of the population seemingly does not have a clue about how to successfully conduct their financial lives, which contributes to enormous personal and therefore societal problems. I don’t believe classes in this subject would be ineffective; to throw up our hands in defeat because some research says education in this subject isn’t successful is ludicrous. You could say that about any topic. Is the answer to just give up on educating kids?

The CryptoStaunch

Financial freedom starts with knowing when to start saving more than you spend on daily basis.

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