Buchanon: When a childhood dream becomes a nightmare
Becoming a first-round draft pick was everything I imagined it to be; however, the reality wasn’t something I was prepared for.
I was ready for the NFL, but I sure wasn’t ready for life off the field. I wasn’t prepared to deal with how my family and friends would react to me becoming the new richest kid on the block.
I felt the tension at home right away. There were a lot of negative vibes coming from my mother and certain other family members. They felt that I picked the wrong agent.
They said if I chose the agent that they wanted (he told them he had a lot of connections with a lot of NFL teams), I would have gone higher in the draft and made a lot more money. Perhaps so, but if I made double the money, my problems would have likely doubled as well.
I didn’t know how to spend my money properly; I just knew how to keep spending and spending. I wasn’t prepared for any of it. Damn, if only I knew then what I know now.
When you are blind to the little things, you end up creating monsters. People thought I should play Santa Claus and pass out money like it was candy on Halloween — $500 here for a family member, $1,000 there for a friend. I even had someone I didn’t know come up to me and say, “I need some help, so your mother told me to ask you.” A neighborhood friend that lived down the street from my grandmother claimed to have made a verbal agreement with me on the playground when I was a little kid for $1 million and came to cash in when he heard I signed a contract.
I kept making withdrawals from Bank of America, while the whole city of Fort Myers was cashing checks that I’d signed at Bank Buchanon. The problem was that they were only making withdrawals, never depositing anything back. No bank can stay in business operating like that. Bank Buchanon had to stop, drop and shut down. I needed to protect the end zone.
When you’re new to things, you do stupid things. I was doing what I felt was right; I had no clue how to transition my lifestyle into being around millions of dollars. I didn’t have a system or a plan. I just spent money at will on whatever I wanted at any given moment. Shoes and clothes, slam it. Jewelry, slam it. Partying with women, slam it. Trips to the islands at a moment’s notice, slam it.
Know this: Flying friends from here to there, men or women, gets expensive. I, too, paid for my fair share of flights, and paying for flights on a routine basis can drain anybody’s pockets. Flights ran anywhere from $200 to $1,000, depending on how late I booked the flight. I pulled a few last-minute flights, and yes, they were incredibly expensive. The airlines know that if you want to get somewhere right away, you’ll pay a pretty premium.
I went through a phase of buying plane tickets for girls weekly — sometimes twice a week. Some were repeats but not regulars. If you fly them out on a steady basis, they start thinking you really have something going on. They’ll also think you have more money than you really do.
Why do so many of us succumb to this expensive habit? Well, once you fly a woman out, you’ve secured a good night. Part of the process of growing up with new money is thinking with the area above the neck ... . This shouldn’t be difficult.
A typical day for my crew of fun friends usually involved shopping, women, eating, women, video games, women, gambling, women, alcohol, women, the club, and then more women. I felt like I had a class schedule. First period was breakfast. Second period was PE, a friendly Madden or NCAA Final Four competition on the gaming console. Rough life.
After lunch, I would hit the mall. I was mallin’ and ballin’, shoppin’ and bottle poppin’. Hit Footlocker, then head to Burberry. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to spend between $4,000 and $6,000 in one day. Sometimes, I would spend an extra couple thousand if a few of my homeboys were with me. I was going to look fashionable, regardless of the price. I was about fashion and smashin’.
After my lavish shopping spree, I repeated second period until it was time for the club. ... After hours of popping bottles and reining in women, we would head to the strip club to finish out the night. That was usually our wind-down.
Do I believe people were genuinely happy for me when I made it? Yes, certainly. Do I believe that more people were happy at the potential benefits for them? Yes, also true.
But there is a big difference. The majority of people I knew believed they were supposed to be living like I was. They were under the false assumption that I would support them forever. Sadly, very few people had my best interest in mind, and those who did were genuinely happy to see another kid make it out of the hood. The rest were a very sad lot, especially as I look back over the past decade. I decided to call them “Adult Abusers.”
First, they start with seemingly altruistic motives. They get involved in your financial life with the reasoning that they’re going to protect you from all those outside predators in the business world. They’re going to look out for your money.
It took other people pointing out the adult abuse for me to realize that my family was strangling me financially. Once a woman friend of mine tried to set me straight. She told me, “I’ve known you for a while now, Phil, and I admire what you’re doing for your family. But if you keep on doing all this stuff, you will probably be broke.” Point taken.
But then she went on, “I hear them talking when you’re not around about the things you supposedly owe them.” In reality, I owed most of them nothing.
It eventually hit me that I was getting conned. Why did a bystander observing my situation see the potential for it to get ugly before I did? It was in that moment that I woke up. I began to assess and reform my spending patterns.
It was at that moment that I realized that if I remained reckless, I would end up checkless.
When things got tense, my grandmother would say, “Phillip, don’t you dare hang up the phone. I’m not hanging up until you agree to give me money.” Another conversation I had with my mom around Valentine’s Day comes to mind. She said, “If it isn’t money, don’t send it. ... If it ain’t (expletive) money. ... ” Can you imagine hearing those words from your mother?
Soon after the draft, my mom told me that I owed her a million dollars for raising me for the past 18 years. Well, that was news to me. If my mother taught me anything, it’s that this is the most desperate demand that a parent can make on a child.
The covenant of having a child is simply that you give your child everything possible, and they owe you nothing beyond a normal amount of love and respect. There is no financial arrangement. If you get old and infirm, and your kids are around to help you out at that point, then you’re lucky. It’s not written in the social contract. The mothers and fathers of the world have been rearing their kids for generations — in every culture imaginable — and it’s a one-way street when it comes to money.
If they pay you back someday, and you really are going through hard times, then that’s just a bonus, a gratuity for being a great mother or father.
It took hundreds of thousands of dollars, far more than the cost of an Ivy League education, to learn my lesson. I can at least attribute it to my mother. It’s true: mothers have a way of making you learn the most important lessons in life.
About the author
Phillip Buchanon was selected as a defensive back by the Oakland Raiders with the 17th pick of the 2002 NFL Draft, fulfilling a childhood dream. That dream would soon turn into a nightmare, as Buchanon was approached by family members, friends and strangers, all of whom had an interest in his pockets. What follows is an edited excerpt of Buchanon’s book, “New Money Staying Rich” (Two Harbors Press) detailing his experiences and offering advice to today’s crop of NFL players.