What regular people can learn from LeBron James' show about money



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Reporter

Myles Ma is a senior reporter at Policygenius, where he covers personal finance and insurance and writes the Easy Money newsletter. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

Published March 12, 2018 | 3 min read

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Featured Image What regular people can learn from LeBron James' show about money

For the most part, "Kneading Dough," a series from LeBron James' Uninterrupted website, is unrelatable self-congratulatory crap. In the series, Maverick Carter, James' business manager, interviews professional athletes about money. Most of it is rich people talking about how rich they are.

For instance: Draymond Green, forward for the Golden State Warriors, says his biggest money mistake was spending $21,000 on a night at the club. It's a funny story, but not one you or I can learn from. James' big regret? Buying a house in Las Vegas. Whoops! Remind me not to do that.

(Also, "Kneading Dough" is a dumb name. It's a reference to a Jay-Z song that I guess James likes because it mentions his name, but it is not one of Jay-Z's stronger efforts.)

But amid the humblebrags, there are a few useful money tips for non-millionaires. Here are some of the best.

1. Ask questions

Carter asked his high school buddy James about how he decides to invest his money. While James is a genius on the basketball court, he acknowledges that he's not an expert at everything off of it.

"I have to accept there's certain things I don't know or don't know enough of, so I have to ask questions," James said.

It's OK if you're not an expert at money. Just make sure you seek out good advice. If you're not sure about something money-related, there's no harm in asking for help from someone you trust or a professional.

2. Have an emergency fund

James grew up poor, but his uncles taught him the value of saving. Any time they'd slip him some money growing up, they advised him to set some aside just in case.

"I'm always in my head about stashing and keeping my money sacred and to myself, because I didn't know when my uncle was going to give me another dollar," James said.

In a sense, none of us knows when our uncle will give us another dollar. In other words, you don't know what the future will hold, so it's good to have a little rainy day money just in case.

3. Find work you love

On "Kneading Dough," Serena Williams told Carter that when she first went pro as a tennis player, she always forgot to cash her tournament checks. Playing tennis was reward enough. While most of us can't afford to skip paychecks, we should all aspire to find work we love even outside of the livelihood it provides.

"I loved what I did and I never wanted to be anything else," Williams said.

4. Maximize your 401(k)

My favorite interview in the series was with Nneka Ogwumike, forward for the Los Angeles Sparks and president of the Women's National Basketball Players Association. Perhaps because WNBA players make a fraction as much money as their NBA colleagues, Ogwumike had the most relatable money advice in the series. (Seriously, the thing Serena Williams "splurges" on is property.)

Ogwumike said she maxes out her 401(k) contributions every year (who knew professional athletes even had retirement accounts?). The WNBA matches a quarter of every dollar she contributes, so she's getting a bunch of extra money for her retirement without doing extra work. For 2018, the IRS raised the 401(k) contribution limit to $18,500 a year.

The more you can contribute early, the quicker your retirement fund can grow, thanks to the power of compound interest. And if your employer offers a match, there's even more of an opportunity to grow your retirement fund.

5. Don't deprive yourself of everything

Ogwumike doesn't own a car. She spends much of the year playing professionally in Russia, where her team provides her with a driver. When she's in Los Angeles, she rents a car, even though she sometimes gets jealous of her teammates' cars.

"I'm not going to buy a car until I have a house," she said. "I don't have a house. Where am I going to park it?"

While she tries not to get carried away with her spending, that doesn't mean Ogwumike lives like a monk. When she's in Russia, she'll indulge in the occasional fancy meal.

"You can't completely cut yourself off from things that you want," she said.

Image: TaManKunG