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Shea McClellin should heed financial advice of former Bears

Rookie SheMcClellin’s conservative nature with money should help him steer clear ordeals some former Bears endured. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

Rookie Shea McClellin’s conservative nature with money should help him steer clear of ordeals some former Bears endured. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: July 8, 2012 6:59PM

Nearly a month has passed since Bears defensive end Shea McClellin signed a four-year contract that includes a $4.4 million signing bonus.

So has he splurged on anything?

“No,” he said. “That’s not me. I signed a contract, but I’m still the same person. I’m not one of those guys where money changes me.”

McClellin grew up on a farm about 35 miles west of Boise, Idaho, and his grandparents instilled in him the value of money.

“My grandparents raised me well enough to know that I don’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money on things I don’t need,” he said. “I’m the kind of person who wants to save it up and make it last.”

His only concession?

“I might do something for my grandparents when I get back to Boise,” he said.

For now, McClellin still is struggling to wrap his mind around the rent in and around Chicago. He might have to spend nearly triple what he paid in rent for a house he shared near the Boise State campus last season.

McClellin’s conservative approach is refreshing in light of a string of stories about athletes declaring bankruptcy after squandering millions. Former three-time MLB All-Star Lenny Dykstra reportedly owes $31 million, and NFL players such as Mark Brunell, Warren Sapp and Terrell Owens are in dire financial straits.

Former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad was undone by a failed record label and other expenses, including what was once dubbed in his home as the “largest private aquarium in the Southwest.”

In October, ESPN will air a documentary called “Broke,” which talks to a group of retired athletes about their financial problems.

Despite making exorbitant salaries, 60 percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retirement, according to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article. And 78 percent of NFL players are broke within three years.

Three former Bears shared their lessons, many of them costing plenty of money.

Jim Miller recalled a teammate who had convinced many at Halas Hall to invest $20,000 in a pyramid scheme. That player, who was a starter, even got coaches and front-office executives involved.

“And everyone got burned,” Miller said. “Needless to say, that player was cut the next year.”

Asked if he trusted that teammate, Miller said, “That definitely factored in. You’re trusting of that inner circle.”

Desmond Clark also trusted the wrong person, only his lesson was much more expensive.

He invested nearly $1 million with a contact he met while playing for the Denver Broncos. But while playing for the Bears, Clark learned that many other teammates also had invested with that person.

“People lost millions,” Clark said. “By the time I had someone check into it, it was too late. The scam had gone bad.”

Marcus Robinson, a fourth-round pick of the Bears in 1997, lost about $70,000 in the bubble burst and another $80,000 to $90,000 in a real-estate investment that soured.

So what would these former Bears tell current Bears?

Clark: “You play football and you let people who manage money manage your money, but you always know what’s going on with your money. And if you think it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Robinson: “Right now, I’m doing annuities. If you put $1 million in the bank, you’re guaranteed $93,000 a year over 10 years. Those are the little things you don’t pay attention to when you’re younger.”

Miller: “I would call NFL Security and have them do a background check and inspect the individual or business venture.”

Miller said there’s another challenge: family.

“They’re pulling at your heartstrings,” he said. “But when you give to family, you’re most likely never going to get it back.

“I’ve been down that road, so you chalk that up for a loss. But family blood runs deep, so I guess you have to take that on the chin.”

Robinson praised the NFL for helping its players understand how to handle their money, and he highlighted the 401(k) and annuities the league offers players.

“The NFL has hammered on this topic harder and harder every year. But it’s like anything else,” he said. “The players are going to be put in positions where they have to make decisions.”

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