A basketball tournament last weekend at the Colin Powell Leadership Center of Urban Ventures wasn’t your usual sports event.

The several hundred kids and adults who attended the Pursuit Finance & Sports Summit didn’t hit the court until they got a primer on personal finance and learned the importance of saving, avoiding consumer debt and paying bills promptly. And that was driven home by several former professional athletes who had varying success with money during their playing days.

The takeaway from panelists who volunteered their time: Pay yourself first by saving when you are young.

Dan Coleman, a former basketball player at the University of Minnesota, earned his degree while on scholarship and then brought in less than an NBA-style living while he played ball for several seasons in Europe. He lived economically, saved much of his salary and started learning about real estate. He bought his first Minneapolis condo at the bottom of the real estate market in 2010 and now owns several. He’s also a licensed real estate agent.

John Thomas, another Gophers star in the 1990s, played in the NBA and made and lost a lot of money, he told the audience. He had never had much money and didn’t know its power or danger. When he earned his first six-figure check, he put down money on an expensive car, and a house for his mom. He blew a lot of money on stuff and friends. He proved he had a heart, if not great financial-planning skills. He also found that accumulating possessions didn’t make him happy.

Today, he makes a fraction of what he once earned. He joyfully rides the bus to his job at Life Time Fitness. Thomas, today, is a responsible dad and financially strong because he is in financial control and makes budget. That’s real empowerment.

Tim Baylor, who played defensive back for the Vikings in 1979, said most pro ballplayers didn’t get rich in those days. Baylor, a developer and real estate manager, and his wife, Doris, a former YMCA executive, own several restaurants and some real estate.

“It’s never too early to start building wealth and preparing for the future,” said Romone Penny, founder of the 4-year-old Pursuit Sports Group and a Washington, D.C.-based accountant who grew up on a tough corner in south Minneapolis. “Pay yourself first by saving 10-to-30 percent. Read. Surround yourself with mentors. Discuss finances at home.”

Penny, 32, whose firm provides financial planning and other services to professional athletes, was a single-parent kid who learned that education and mentors were more important in the long run than his considerable basketball skills.

Money and budgeting must be understood, practiced and built into a values system that includes generosity to fully realize “wealth,” several of the panel participants said. Wealth is not buying what you want when you want. Somebody who makes $50,000 can be wealthier than somebody making $500,000 who doesn’t keep to a budget.

This seminar was good, less the financial industry jargon that can confuse.

The panelists were born with nothing but an ability to compete and learn. They took different paths. Sometimes rocky. They share their gratitude, their treasure and their journey with coaches and kids. That’s real “wealth.”

Minneapolis Step-Up interns fill 1,700 summer jobs

About 1,700 Minneapolis students, ages 14 to 21, have joined 230 businesses, nonprofits and government agencies for summer internships that provide paid employment of up to 32 hours weekly.

“We learn as much from them as they do from us,” said Amy Kramer Brenengen, a supervisor at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. “Our interns give us an inspiring preview of our future workforce here at the Fed and in the Twin Cities.”

The program, started in 2004, has served 21,000 interns and is directed by AchieveMpls, the support group for the Minneapolis schools.


Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune business columnist and reporter since 1984. He can be contacted at nstanthony@startribune.com.