Richard Sherman On Financial Literacy And The Failures Of The U.S. Educational System

Richard Sherman has long been an outspoken advocate of individuals educating themselves further and, in particular, becoming more aware of how to manage their money.

The All-Pro corner, now entering 10th season in the NFL and third in San Francisco, was among the leaders in the NFLPA as the union currently negotiated with the league on health and safety protocols for returning to football amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s also launching an online video series titled “Adulting with Richard Sherman” on Million Stories, with new episodes dropping each Tuesday offering free, quick videos that he hopes can advance the public’s financial literacy and give them a baseline of understanding of some basic, key elements of being financially healthy.

Last week, Sherman spoke with Uproxx Sports by phone about his new series, how it came about, the status of the league and union’s talks on health and safety, and why he thinks the U.S. education system is “broken” and in desperate need of reform in terms of addressing real life skills people need to understand.

You were among the many players to point out the issues with the NFL’s lack of a testing and health and safety plan. Do you feel like the league is getting closer to addressing the player concerns on this and what do you need to see to feel comfortable going into camp?

Well yeah, they’re addressing it much better than they were addressing it before. Obviously this is unique territory and unprecedented circumstances, but at the end of the day the safety of our players is a paramount concern for us as a union and we need to make sure they are doing everything and making sure that if anything happens that they’re prepared for every scenario that can occur with regards to players getting sick and the virus spreading in the locker room or within the front office or whatever the case may be. I think they’ve tried their best to address those concerns that we’ve had, but it’s still an on-going process.

Like you said, this has been an incredibly unique situation. What has this offseason been like for you and how have you been trying to keep up with your training?

You know, it’s been pretty simple for me. I’ve always treated my offseason the same. Get on the bike, do my workouts — I usually workout alone anyways, so it didn’t change much for me — but I’ve gotten a lot more time with my kids, you know, they haven’t had to go to school. So we’ve hung out and taken them places, but outside of that it’s been pretty normal. I wasn’t planning on going to OTAs this year anyways, so it’s just made it simpler for me, I guess.

You’ve got the “Adulting” series that just started launching on Million Stories. Where did the idea for this come from and why was it important for you to get involved with this?

Well, it’s something I’ve always been passionate about, you know, helping simplify and have the uncomfortable talks. Obviously, in my community growing up there’s very low financial literacy of any kind, you know, not even as simple as budgeting or how to pay bills. I have friends who still to this day don’t know how to pay bills or what their credit score means or how its figured out or how to use a credit card. It’s just simple things, and I felt like with this series we could open more eyes and educate more people to make them more comfortable in this space.

You mention there’s a lot of people who don’t have financial literacy. Is that something you think should get greater emphasis in the U.S. educational system? Because it’s not something you learn in high school and it’s not something you’re taught, and if you come from a place that doesn’t have the resources or the background it’s just something that’s difficult to learn on your own.

Yeah, it’s a deep rabbit hole going down talking about the education system, because I think it’s beyond broken, and there are way more negative things I have to say than positive. But yeah, I think teaching real skills in school — real life skills in school — would be time better spent than us teaching kids calculus and trigonometry, or partial U.S. history. Information that unless you’re going to school to study math or economics or whatever you’re not going to use the skillset, and if they plan to go to school for that they can take those classes.

But I think there’s more general education things that need to be taught in our schools to help people manage their money better. To understand when you’re getting a paycheck where do the taxes go, how do you file taxes at the end of the year. And if you buy a home, this is a down payment and this is a first-time home buyers program that technically everybody would qualify for, and etc., etc. Because those are things that would help improve people’s quality of life, you know. I don’t think necessarily learning U.S. history in the way that they teach it, where it only teaches you part of the history that they want to show you, it really helps people in their every day lives.

Absolutely. I know this is something you’ve been passionate about, because like you say in the budgeting episode, when you come into the league you hear the stories about 78 percent of the league goes broke. What has to happen, specifically within football, to help these guys understand these things, like you said, paying your taxes at the end of the year, knowing what comes out? What do you tell guys and what are steps the league can take to take to help that or do you think they have begun doing that more?

I think the league has taken steps in that space, but I think it’s up to each individual to take accountability and responsibility for their own finances and to educate themselves. I think sometimes the league has conversations about that and has programs, but guys kinda go glass-eyed through them. They sit there and sit on their phones and don’t really absorb the information being presented, so then it’s pointless. So, I think at the end of the day it’s up to each individual to learn the information and want to be better in this space, and I think that we’re doing what we can as veteran players to tell them the stories, tell them the good, the bad, the places we made mistakes. Places that we felt were beneficial and to save their money.

Obviously saving your money seems like a novel concept, but for a lot of these guys, their families are their worst enemies. They give a lot of the money to their family thinking, ‘Hey, if I give this to them now, I won’t have to give it to them later,’ not understanding that their families aren’t financially literate. So it just perpetuates the cycle. Then they spend the money they’ve never had in a way that isn’t productive or beneficial in any way, and now you’re stuck either frustrated and giving them more money or not giving them anymore money and then it’s been a waste. It’s just been a bad learning lesson, and those are stories you hear every day.

You have episodes up now on budgeting and choosing health insurance. What are some more topics you’ll be diving into as new episodes come out every Tuesday?

Well, we’ll try to address some of those issues — the simple things. Paying bills, taxes, credit cards, you know, buying homes, real estate. I’m trying not to go too in depth in terms of complexities of certain investments, because then you dilute the message, and then once again people go glass-eyed and don’t absorb the information. So we’ll try to keep it fun and keep it simple and keep it entertaining for people, so they want to come back and want to see the next episode.