Financial Finesse to Launch Financial Literacy Certification Program for All US College Athletes

The program aims to help students maximize their endorsement deals, prepare for the future and navigate financial uncertainty.

Financial wellness firm Financial Finesse announced Tuesday it is launching a new program called NIL Long Game, a financial literacy certification program the company will provide for free to all college athletes in the U.S. The program, including the acronym that stands for name, image and likeness, is designed to help student-athletes maximize their endorsement deals and avoid unexpected tax bills.

In a virtual event, Liz Davidson, founder and CEO of El Segundo, California-based Financial Finesse, introduced NIL Long Game as a mission-oriented program designed for college athletes, helping them both manage financial gains and include long-term savings after their college careers. The certification program is approximately five hours in length, spread over several modules.

“You have athletes. You have everything free of charge,” said Liz Davidson, founder and CEO of Financial Finesse. The program is in the “absolute best interest of employees without product sales.”

In July 2021, various state laws went into effect, essentially forcing the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which oversees sports at most four-year colleges and universities, to allow college athletes to profit from endorsements and advertisements featuring their names, images and likenesses. Athletes such as Rayquan Smith, a two-sport athlete at Norfolk State University, had the opportunity begin profiting off of their personal brands. After receiving financial coaching from former NFL player J.R. Tolver, Smith said he felt more confident in his finances and had a competitive edge in pursuing brand deals.

“J.R. was teaching me all this stuff, and I didn’t know half of it,” said Smith, crowned “King of NIL” at a summer 2022 conference after agreeing to more than 70 NIL deals in the first year of their availability. “[After our conversation], I was better and smarter with the money I got. I’m 21, I started at 19, so I grew from there a lot.”

One-on-one coaching is not currently built into the certification program, but Financial Finesse said it is offering five years of unlimited financial coaching to athletes at 10 universities, for which it is currently taking applications.

An NIL Long Game contributor, Tolver said he wants to make sure student-athletes have the opportunity to become as savvy as they possibly can be. “If this was around when I was playing, I would have a tremendous opportunity to pursue revenue,” he said.

Reagan Bridges, a current soccer player at Florida International University who recently completed the certification course, said the program changed her college career for the better.

“I initially wasn’t pursuing NIL, because it was very daunting for me as a freshman last year [in 2021-22],” Bridges said. “But after taking this certificate course and receiving the one-on-one coaching, I feel like I’m set up for success when seeking brand deals. I created a separate bank account for NIL earnings. I realized I can use 45%, and I set aside 20% for taxes.”

While college athletes now have the chance to profit off their names and likenesses, many individuals were not prepared to navigate the terms of brand deals, according to Davidson. Without proper financial education, athletes can be left with unexpected tax bills and large amounts of debt. 

National Football League player Carl Nassib said he had his own financial missteps when he first got drafted. He made a deal to sign trading cards and was later met with a massive tax bill for which he was not prepared. Having been in the NFL for seven years, Nassib said he has heard “horror stories” of financial decisions made by fellow athletes. He is now an ambassador for Financial Finesse.

Closing out the virtual event, Smith had a few words of advice: “Don’t let Uncle Sam come get you.”