A professional athlete’s frugal approach to what’s next

Hosted by Neil Amato

Austin Bold FC defender Amobi Okugo (at right)
Austin Bold FC defender Amobi Okugo (#15)

Amobi Okugo, a pro soccer player, is scheduled to be part of a sports-themed panel discussion at AICPA & CIMA ENGAGE 2021. He has continued to pursue education and business opportunities off the field, and he hopes to be a role model as a “frugal athlete.” Hear more about Okugo’s history and his plans. Also, get a refresher on where the term “imposter syndrome” came from, how many of us it affects, and what we can do to beat it.

What you’ll learn from this episode:

  • Why Okugo says that mega-millionaire athletes are anomalies.
  • How he approached spending money when he was first chosen in the Major League Soccer draft.
  • The agreement he made with his parents about pursuing his college degree.
  • Tips from a recent JofA article on defeating imposter syndrome.
  • A summary of two recent articles related to the IRS.

Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:

To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato, a
JofA senior editor, at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.


Neil Amato: Welcome to the Journal of Accountancy podcast. Today’s episode is unlike many, if any, that we’ve had. I’m senior editor Neil Amato. The reason I say that is because I’m joined today by professional athlete Amobi Okugo. He is a professional soccer player, a defender and midfielder with Austin Bold FC of the USL. Amobi, you’re part of a panel at the upcoming ENGAGE 2021 where a theme will be life after sports. But obviously you’re still playing sports, so tell me a bit why you’re thinking about life after sports.

Amobi Okugo: Yeah, thank you so much, Neil, for having me. It’s a real pleasure. I’ll say it like this. Fortunately for me, my parents instilled in me from a very young age to always think about what’s next, to always have a Plan B. I remember when I first went pro, my dad was like, “You’re closer to the end of your career than the start of it.” It was literally, like, within an hour of me getting drafted, so always thinking about, you can’t play sports forever. So what are you going to do? How are you going to use sports as a vehicle to do what you want next in life?

Fortunately, for me, I’ve been trying to do that throughout my career because of the leverage and the opportunities that sports, specifically soccer, has presented to me, opportunities that are unique to me.

Amato: You have a particular interest in helping athletes with life beyond sports. You’ve come up with this concept, also a website, the concept of the Frugal Athlete. Tell me some more about that.

Okugo: Frugal Athlete was started after I watched the 30 For 30 Broke documentary. That documentary, I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it. It was an eye-opener for me, because unfortunately, these were top basketball, top NFL guys, top Major League Baseball guys, that fell under financial stress, due to unfortunate circumstances, bad spending habits, emotional blackmail – a number of different reasons. And, soccer in the States, unfortunately, we don’t get compensated nearly as much. So for me, it was kind of motivation and a curiosity of, how can I find athletes to use as role models? I went on a search, and what I kept finding was more athletes that fit the Broke model, the Broke documentary, or athletes that I couldn’t really compare myself to – LeBron James, Kobe Bryant – rest in peace – Serena Williams, Tom Brady. Those are athletes, but they’re anomalies. They’re going to be good (financially) long after their career is over, regardless of what they do.

So, Frugal Athlete stemmed from that, trying to find athletes that I could use as roadmaps for my own personal story, my career, and then kind of go from there. And now that we’ve built A Frugal Athlete up, it’s essentially an online financial media platform that promotes prudent financial practices and smart career decisions among professional athletes and student athletes. We like to think Frugal Athlete is Business Insider, Penny Hoarder, and Players’ Tribune all in one. And our main mission is to help athletes make, manage, and multiply money through education and athlete empowerment.

Amato: When you first became a professional soccer player out of UCLA, how did you approach spending money?

Okugo: To be honest, I was pretty good. My parents were really good in terms of teaching me different concepts and understanding money doesn’t grow on trees. I will say, I wish I would have known a little bit more in terms of how to let my money work for itself instead of just saving it, saving it, and waiting and waiting, kind of playing from a defensive mindset and not having a balance between defensive and offensive. So, I wish I would have been better about that. But from a spending habits standpoint, I didn’t really spend much. A lot of the guys made fun of me for being cheap. And that’s kind of how the name, A Frugal Athlete, started, because I wanted to have a new spin on what “cheap” actually meant. It’s actually me being frugal, which is, I try to be efficient, economical, and prudent with how I spend my money and how I value my time.

Amato: Aside from money management, you’ve also emphasized education. Yet, after one year of college you left school to turn pro. Why pursue those university degrees after you’ve already become a professional athlete?

Okugo: That’s a great question. Funny story: The only reason I was allowed to go pro was because I promised my parents I was going to finish my degree while playing. Being a first-generation Nigerian American, and the first-born – my parents very much valued education. Not only for me but my siblings as well. So for me to convince them that playing soccer was a dream of mine, and school is essentially always going to be there, it was tough to convince them, but luckily the contract that I signed, it was a unique contract with (Major League Soccer), it was Generation Adidas, where they reimbursed you for an allotted amount of school years, so I was essentially a student-athlete long after I was out of school. I’m very fortunate that I had that opportunity. I’m very glad that I made that decision to pursue my education, because I’ve been able to connect with so many different people and challenge my mind outside of the field.

Amato: This has been a pretty succinct conversation but a good one. Is there anything you’d like to add in closing?

Okugo: For me, I think, as we talk about life after sports, a lot of athletes fall under the impression that they’re not going to have their true identity. We grow up from 5 years old all the way to our professional careers striving to play a sport, whether it’s soccer, basketball, football, tennis, whatever. But a quote that was given to me is, “The most dangerous person in the world is an athlete that knows they can compete in another arena.” We have all the skill sets that translate over to whether it’s entrepreneurship, corporate, real estate – whatever venture that we set our mind to, the opportunity is there. We have the skill sets for it. It’s just all about finding our next game. Athletes – we win, we lose, we tie, but we always focus on the next game. So if we can apply those same principles to life, I think we’ll succeed in that as well.

Amato: You’ll hear Amobi Okugo say more at ENGAGE 2021 as part of a panel discussion. Thank you so much for being part of the podcast today.

Okugo: Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to seeing you guys at ENGAGE.

Amato: The terms “imposter syndrome” or “imposter phenomenon” – basically, where someone feels like a fraud and doubts their abilities – can be traced to 1978 and the work of two Atlanta psychologists.

Imposter syndrome was at first identified as being prevalent in high-achieving women, but survey data shows it’s something that’s affected many of us at some point in our lives. The term has a tie to finance professionals, according to consultant Matt Rampe. Matt is a speaker at ENGAGE 2021. In an article written by senior editor Oliver Rowe, Rampe shares three strategies we can use to counter those self-doubts.

So if you’ve ever felt that your success at work has been the result of luck or that you’re not qualified to do the job you got hired for, well, it might be time to defeat imposter syndrome or at least dent it. You can access the article in this episode’s show notes, search for it on journalofacountancy.com, or go to the following custom URL: tinyurl.com/selfdoubt2021.

In finance news, the IRS explained in a recent revenue procedure how individuals can claim advance child tax credit payments and stimulus payments if they are not required to file a 2020 federal income tax return. The IRS needs certain information that would normally be part of an individual tax return, and it provided two procedures for nonfilers to claim the payments.

And on May 17, the AICPA sent a letter to the IRS urging implementation of “fair, reasonable and practical” penalty relief measures to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize required contacts with the IRS. One of several recommendations in the letter is this: Providing taxpayers with targeted relief from both the underpayment-of-estimated-tax penalty and the late-payment penalty for the 2020 tax year. There is much more detail in the JofA article, which we will link to in the show notes.

For more on this and other news, visit journalofaccountancy.com. Thank you for listening to the JofA podcast.