The average career of an NFL players is 3.5 years, in those years the average salary per season is $1.1 million. The average salary of an NBA player in 2012 was about $5 million. The average career length in the NBA is about 4.8 seasons. The MLB has the highest average career length at 5.6 seasons with an average salary of a little under $3.5 million. As for the NHL, the average salary is $2.4 million with an average career lasting 5.5 seasons. When reading these numbers, it is important to understand the word average. The average is skewed because the highest paid players in all leagues make considerably more than the lowest paid players. The income disparity that I previously wrote about gives a better understanding of what the minimum players can make. Even the players being paid the minimum salary, is a dream salary for most Americans.
The solution to the problem of broke athletes is not simple. Players who are broke due to a short career have only one option. That option is to become skilled in something else besides their sport. The solution for successful players becoming broke is more complicated. One solution is for players to have better control of their money (stop spending so much). This is easy for the average person to say, but many athletes have little money growing up and it is difficult to resist the temptations once acquiring such copious amounts of money. Another solution is to better train the players on how to use their money. The leagues currently have programs, often mandatory, in financial management. These could possibly be better utilized. Unfortunately the real solution for all broke athletes is personal choice, there is little that any outsider can do to fix that.
When I see a former athlete selling his championship ring to make enough money to pay the bills, I can't stand it. It would be much easier to see players save their money and live comfortably after retirement. The issue is, that it's their money. No person should have the right to tell athletes how to spend or save their money. Hopefully stories of broke athletes will help change the culture for current athletes, unfortunately this does not seem likely.
Statistics from NFLplayers.com, USAtoday.com, Cbssports.com, Yahoosports.com, Forbes.com