Mariano Rivera's advice for athletes: 'That money will never come back'

Four years out of professional baseball, legendary New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is hardly at rest. He’s building a new house for his family in New York; he owns a Toyota dealership and plans to open another; he has business partnerships with companies like Bank of America, The Hartford, and OrthoLite.

And he has advice for current athletes in any sport once they prepare for their “second life” after retirement: “Do the right thing,” he says. “And ‘the right thing’ meaning one thing for sure: you should give back. You should give back to communities that have helped you, communities that embraced you as one of their own. And then also, watch what you do with your money because that money will never come back.”

The pro athlete retirement playbook

Rivera made $169.4 million in baseball salary over the course of his career. That slips him into the current top 20 of highest total career earners. (The top three are his fellow Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and CC Sabathia.)

You might think someone who made that much money never has to worry about money again, but sports fans are constantly surprised to see former high-paid stars file for bankruptcy.

It happens all the time. In many cases, it’s because no one ever helped guide young athletes on how to manage their money — they enter their sport straight out of high school or college and are suddenly earning tens of millions of dollars without knowing where to put it.

Mariano Rivera throws out the ceremonial first pitch before a Yankees game on Aug. 14, 2016. (Getty)

“We don’t grow up with financial advisers,” Rivera says. “Financial advisers on what, when you have nothing? But now, once we have it, you’re going to have a lot of people thinking, ‘I’m going to take advantage.’ So you need to make a very smart choice with choosing a financial adviser, and you go from there. Make sure that you invest it right. If you do that, you can keep the same life that you were living — but understanding that that money that you made, you will never make that kind of money again. With that in mind, once you’re done, you have to watch what you do. Because players believe sometimes they will keep making the same money, and they’re not.”

Rivera’s belief in the importance of a trustworthy financial adviser is why he’s a good fit as spokesperson for financial firms like The Hartford and Bank of America. For a recent Bank of America “MLB Memory Bank” campaign, Rivera surprised kids at a youth baseball game in the Bronx’s Castle Hill and pitched to them.

Working with the local community in New York is his priority, he says — and cars. “That’s where I think I’m moving towards in business,” he says. “We own right now a Toyota dealership here in Mount Kisco, and hopefully very soon we go to another one, and that will lead to another one.”

Rivera on Jeter’s model

Rivera’s longtime teammate Derek Jeter, who retired one season after Rivera, has attracted a lot of attention for his flurry of business activity in retirement.

Jeter launched The Players’ Tribune, a sports website where athletes write their own posts, often deeply personal in topic. He launched a book publishing imprint with Simon & Schuster. He owns a handful of 24-Hour Fitness gyms in New York.

And he is the new part owner of the Miami Marlins.

“I’ve known Derek since we were boys in the minor league, and that was one of his dreams,” Rivera says. “I don’t think the other things that he has started were his goal, but his goal, to me, was owner of a Major League Baseball team. And he got that. So I believe that he will do okay with that.”

Would Rivera want to follow his lead, and own or manage a team? The closer is unequivocal: “No. Not at all. I have a different mentality and different goals. And believe it or not, I believe that I’m doing it, and that’s giving back to the community. It’s never about business, although we have business going on. It’s more giving back.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwriteSportsbook is our sports business video and podcast series.

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