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Big League Lessons

Kevin Thompson

IT WAS JUNE 3, 2006, and I was in the starting lineup for the New York Yankees. We were in Baltimore, playing against the Orioles at Camden Yards. I went 1-for-4 in my major league debut.

A week later, I had the experience of a lifetime. June 10 was my first start at Yankee Stadium. It was a nationally broadcast Fox Saturday day game against the Oakland As. I hit my first major league home run. But what I remember most was the top of the first inning. An audience of 15,000 Yankees fans in the right-field bleachers conduct a roll call where they name each Yankee player. It’s truly a humbling experience to hear your name roared from the stands.

I played 2006 and part of the 2007 seasons for the Yankees before being sent to the Oakland As. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, you know how often players get traded. The A’s designated me for assignment after several games and the Pittsburgh Pirates picked up my contract. After I sustained a wrist injury that required surgery, the Pirates let me go.

To get back into shape for a return to the majors, I rehabbed with the Newark Bears of the independent leagues. Unfortunately, I never made it back to the majors. But while I was in Newark, I became infatuated with stocks and the financial markets. Maybe it had something to do with the way I was getting traded myself.

I watched CNBC as if it were a religion. One day, while preparing for a game with the Newark Bears, I saw on TV the owner of the Stanford Financial Group being ushered out of his building in handcuffs. My first thought was “uh-oh.”

You see, I’d saved a majority of the money I made in baseball. I’d invested it with Stanford Financial Group, which was a well-known firm in Texas, where I’m from. What was going on? The firm’s chairman, Allen Stanford, was charged with a “massive Ponzi scheme” by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was convicted of spending money that he told clients was invested in certificates of deposit in the Caribbean nation of Antigua.

Fortunately, my money wasn’t mixed up with the Antiguan CDs. The state administrator, who came in to investigate, did freeze all client accounts, however. This meant I couldn’t withdraw my money, and I could only sell securities within my account and not buy.

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When my funds were released after six months, it was during one of the greatest declines in stock market history. I vowed to never let this kind of thing happen to me again. From then on, I would invest my money myself. I needed to learn everything I could about the financial markets.

I was already working my way toward a degree in finance from the University of Texas at Arlington. I completed that degree and went on to earn my Certified Financial Planner designation during the pandemic of 2020. I also hold a Retirement Income Certified Professional designation from the American College.

Today, I’ve been in the financial industry for 10 years. I manage and operate 9Innings Capital Group LLC, a fee-based financial planning firm that administers $33 million in assets. Most of our clients are business professionals who have built or are creating their own firms.

I tell clients my life story because it’s taught me important lessons. The first is to be careful with whom you associate. Some people call themselves financial planners but they only care about your portfolio or they actually work for an insurance company.

Baseball also taught me a lot about life, including how to handle the ups and downs, and about doing the proper due diligence. When playing in the major leagues, you never went into a game without having information on the team you were playing. For instance, you’d make sure you knew what the opposing pitcher would likely throw depending on the count and the game situation.

In the same way, education and due diligence are paramount in financial planning. Baseball taught me that hard work may win the battle, but being ready in all situations wins the war. True comprehensive financial planning means building a unique plan for each individual, and then providing the products and services to put that plan into action. To do that properly, a financial advisor needs to be aligned with the clients’ goals. That way, everybody wins.

Kevin Thompson is a former Major League Baseball player and now CEO of 9Innings Capital Group LLC. He is a Certified Financial Planner® and Retirement Income Certified Professional®. Kevin graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2011 with a degree in finance.

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David Powell
David Powell
1 month ago

Terrific story, Kevin, and welcome to HD! Hope you’ll write more great pieces like this one, you have a rare perspective. Love it!

Scrooge_McDuck88
Scrooge_McDuck88
1 month ago

Winning at long term investing is a lot like a winning baseball season… to win games, you have to be consistent getting on base, lots of singles and doubles. The occasional home run is nice, but games aren’t won if every time at bat you’re swinging for the fences!

Last edited 1 month ago by Scrooge_McDuck88
The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago

First and foremost, love the screen name. Well played…You are absolutely correct. We have all seen what would happen when everyone swings for the fences, hence the lowest batting averages in MLB history at this current juncture. Slow and steady always wins the race…

Curtis Ryan
Curtis Ryan
1 month ago

Enjoyed your story Kevin. I learned the “hard way” too by taking my first $10K down to a local Ameriprise office where a junior broker steered my hard earned cash into an IRA wrapped in an annuity. To make the investment even worse, he put me into high-fee Ameriprise funds. I eventually wised up and got out (paid surrender fees too) with less than my original investment. The broker made a few dollars, but AMEX lost a customer for life!

Never again will I let someone else manage my money.

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago
Reply to  Curtis Ryan

I truly understand. A lof of bad actors in this industry, however, not all actors are bad. Many of us who are fiduciaires truly have your best interest at heart. One thing I have learned, you cannot let one bad apple spoil the entire bunch.

Art in LA
Art in LA
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing this story. It’s great that you were able to transition from pro ballplayer to CFP. I wish most college students today were able to pick college degrees based on life experiences like you did. I have college age kids and I wonder if they (and other college students) can make a good college major choices with so little life experience. I hope you can write more pieces for Humble Dollar!

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
1 month ago

Kevin, I enjoyed your interesting story. Yep, it’s often a bad personal experience that motivates you to learn all you can and take charge of your own finances. Congrats on your subsequent success.

Jeff Bond
Jeff Bond
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing! Lots of life lessons were shared here.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
1 month ago

Great Kevin! Thanks for sharing. It is good to see a pro athlete bounce back in their career. Best wishes for a successful second act.

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago
Reply to  Jerry Pinkard

Thank you Jerry.

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago

Thank you to the Humble Dollar for sharing my story.

Juan Fourneau
Juan Fourneau
1 month ago

Great read and journey!! Loved the movie Moneyball. Congratulations on making the transition from professional athlete to graduating with a degree and a prospering career.

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago
Reply to  Juan Fourneau

Absolutely. The Yankees structure and overall business has taught me a lot about how to conduct oneself on and off the field. I owe a lot of my current business to the Yankees organization on structure and what commitment looks like from top to bottom.

Last edited 1 month ago by The 9Innings Podcast
Rodney Fitzpatrick
Rodney Fitzpatrick
1 month ago

My lesson: PanAm Airways Credit Union. It took 3 months

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago

Sometimes the best lessons are hard ones. Took me a long time to get my money out of the Stanford Group.

David Sayler
David Sayler
1 month ago

Inspiring story!

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago
Reply to  David Sayler

Thank you for reading.

Jo Bo
Jo Bo
1 month ago

Thank you, Kevin, for telling your inspiring financial journey.

An investment setback shaped me, too. Mine was a state banking crisis and life savings in accounts that were frozen for years. In retrospect, though, I’m grateful. Why? Like you, the crisis helped me to take charge and dig in to understand investing better. I vowed to learn the meaning of all investment-associated acronyms before committing funds (RISDIC and DEPCO come to mind). Luckily for both of us, we learned our lessons of due diligence early in life.

John Goodell
John Goodell
1 month ago

To have lived through that much history must have been something – Best of luck in your business and move from yankee pinstripes to business suit ones!

The 9Innings Podcast
The 9Innings Podcast
1 month ago
Reply to  John Goodell

The Yankees Pinstripes will always be memorable. The reality to me was how different the MLB is for NY teams versus a team like the A’s. Night and day…

wtfwjtd
wtfwjtd
1 month ago

That sounds like a fascinating story in and of itself. Many of us on the outside would simply assume that playing for one big-league club would be much like playing for any other, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

Larry Sayler
Larry Sayler
1 month ago

Great article! Thank you.

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