If Michael Vick Can Do It, So Can You!

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Michael Vick

Mention the name Michael Vick and you’re bound to get a variety of responses. You have those who wish the same things on him that he was convicted of doing to defenseless animals and you have those who believe he (and everyone else for that matter) deserves a second chance. You also have those who love football so much that they look past all of it and think nothing of it.

Suffice it to say, the acts which he was tried and convicted of were vile and reprehensible at the very least. There is no debating that in my opinion, though that’s not really the point of today’s post as it’s a given in my opinion that what he did to innocent animals was very wrong!

However, that is not what I want to discuss today. The thing I want to discuss is the overlooked financial corner he is set to turn.

Michael Vick Paid Off His Financial Debt


When Michael Vick left prison at Leavenworth he was in the hole for nearly $18 Million – $17.8 Million to be exact. It boggles my mind to have that much consumer debt, but when you look at his lifestyle it’s easy to see how.

I’ve read numerous articles about how he sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into failed businesses, bought multiple cars, boats, etc., etc.

Basically, he was being the stereotypical pro athlete. You’ve likely read or heard the stories about how they might be taken advantage of by “friends” or simply spend money like it’s going out of style and just be plain stupid financially speaking. The list of NFL players who have declared bankruptcy seems endless – from Dan Marino to Vince Young to Travis Henry and many more.

This is where Michael Vick stands out in my opinion. Instead of running from his money troubles like he does defenders on the field, he has attacked debt since leaving federal prison in 2009.

While he did declare bankruptcy, Chapter 11 to be exact, he did not choose to take the easy way out. That would’ve meant he needed to declare for Chapter 7 bankruptcy that essentially allows for the slate to be wiped clean and most, if not all, debts to be forgiven.

Instead, Vick chose to repay his near $18 million debt. Recent reports show he has paid off at least $15 million of that with another million or two on the way after a real estate sale, bringing him to near debt freedom.

But, Michael Vick Had Advantages Others Don’t…


An argument I’ve heard against what Michael Vick has been able to accomplish is that he is a pro athlete and has certain advantages. There is no denying that at all in my opinion. I don’t see anyway most of us could go out and sign a $49 Million contract.

There is also disputing reports as to whether or not he was required to agree to work to pay off his debt as a part of a deal to return to the NFL. If those reports are true, then it arguably points to an advantage many of us simply would not get.

All of that aside, I’m still interested in learning how a man who was living “the life” and had it all (good and bad) pay off nearly $18 Million in debt.

The answer to that question comes down to one word…he budgeted.

That’s right; Vick and his family lived on a budget. Granted, their budget has been $300,000 per year as a part of his bankruptcy agreement.

That is a handsome salary, but you also have to take into consideration the cities he has lived since returning to the NFL – Philadelphia and New York; those aren’t exactly cheap places to live. Plus, nearly half of his income goes to taxes and lawyer fees (according to interviews I’ve heard) and he’s living to a much lower standard than he used to.

I’m not meaning to sentimentalize what Vick has gone through; his situation is very much his own doing. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that a man who was mired in debt, when given opportunity to wash his hands of it, chose instead to change his lifestyle, stick to a budget, and pay off the debt.

You Can Find Lessons Everywhere


Vick’s story interests me for two reasons. First, I’m an admitted football fan, and second, I’ve seen multiple friends say they can’t pay off debt or manage their finances better because they simply refuse to start a budget or track their expenses. Yet, the solution to their money problems seems to elude them.

I know what that feeling is like as I went through it myself when I was wallowing in credit card debt. I avoided the suggestions to start a budget. I avoided tracking my expenses. I avoided all sense of reality about my debt. And, you know what, nothing changed.

It wasn’t until I got serious about it that I was able to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, it took time and yes it was tedious at times. But, if I can live by a budget and pay off debt and Michael Vick can, so can you!



Ok, what are your thoughts (and keep them clean)? Do you think Vick’s paying off of debt should be discounted because of the probable advantage he had? Why do you think many refuse to change their lifestyle even in the wake of seemingly bad situations?



Photo courtesy of: Keith Allison

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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  • Jon @ Money Smart Guides says:

    I was (and am) impressed when I read the stories about how he paid off the debt. As others might note, he did make a ton of money, but $17 million is a ton of debt and you need some discipline to pay it off, regardless of your salary.

    Speaking of pro athletes, I live in Philly and the stories about Allen Iverson (who also declared bankruptcy) are crazy. The craziest one: he wouldn’t pack for road trips. Instead he would buy clothes along the way and leave them!

    • Thomas @ i need money ASAP! says:

      That story about Iverson boggles my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever be rich enough to think of my clothing as “one time use” items.

    • Jason B says:

      I’ve heard some of those stories about A.I. He just didn’t care. He is lucky he has that trust fund set up with Reebok.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I agree Jon, regardless of what he made it points to the discipline he has.

      Wow, that’s just nuts!

  • Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says:

    ” I’ve seen multiple friends say they can’t pay off debt or manage their finances better because they simply refuse to start a budget or track their expenses. ” Same here, sadly. The same people that say that Michael Vick had an advantage are the same people that refuse to start a budget or track their expenses. I think it’s awesome that Michael Vick took the high road. We should all learn to handle our mistakes that well.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Agreed Laurie. It’s easy to use excuses or say it can’t be done – it’s taking the high road that’s difficult.

  • Brian @ Debt Discipline says:

    I offer no discount, any amount of debt payoff should be considered an accomplishment. It seems Vick has made a lot of changes in his life for the better. It’s just sad to hear these stories of millionaire falling into debt. I think all professional sports leagues need to do a better job educating their players on all thing personal financial. As well as business, seems many fall prey to bad business deals.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Great point Brian. I could not agree more on the education aspect. I know the NFL does something like that but there’s only so much that can be done if they’re constantly surrounded by people with “business” ideas and they have little discernment. It’s definitely a balance though more education is always better.

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    It’s funny, as soon as I saw “Michael Vick” on your blog title, I had NO idea where you were going to go with this, and I actually had no idea that he was paying down the debts that he owed. I know people never know where celebrities spend their money, but lifestyle inflation knows no bounds, there are just bigger things. I see investment bankers, doctors and lawyers do this all the time. They make millions and have nothing left over at the end of the year. Good for Michael Vick for embracing budgeting and owning up to his past!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Ha ha, what can I say, I like to keep you guessing. 😉 I’ve seen the same thing as well and it just makes me shake my head. It’s just proof again that a high income doesn’t magically mean you know what you’re doing with your money.

  • Elroy says:

    It’s all relative. Sure Vick had 18 Mil in debt, but how is that different than someone who makes $100k and is $50k in debt?

    Either way, he made a mistake [many of them actually] I firmly believe he has made a change. And for that, I tip my hat to him.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Agreed Elroy, it is relative – though difficult for many of us to fully comprehend having that much debt.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    I’ll echo what Elroy said in that it’s all relative, so I’m not the judge and jury on that particular thing. I’m glad he took responsibility and part of me is smiling thinking, “good, he deserves all the struggle…karma man!” 🙂 However that’s like saying then well then does the every day good person deserve the struggle too? no. Why people don’t change under extreme circumstances is beyond me. I’ll use health as an example. My mom and brother both have had MAJOR health ailments and they both still drink, smoke, eat like crap, don’t exercise, etc. To me that is mind-f’ing-blowing. I think in everyone there is a tiny flame just waiting to be turned up. And the only person to turn it on is you. And some people just do not care that much about themselves to turn it up.

  • Andrew@LivingRichCheaply says:

    I was with Shannon…not sure where you were going with Michael Vick! But I do remember hearing the story and I thought that it was interesting that he chose to pay off his debts rather than to have declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I guess part of it was to help his reputation. You’re right though that while he did have some advantages (like the huge contract the Eagles gave him), he also had an enormous debt. Like others said…the numbers are relative. People who say that can’t do it…often times is because I choose not to take steps to get it done.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I definitely agree – he certainly stands to help his reputation with something like this. After all, it couldn’t go anywhere but up. 😉

  • Kim says:

    I do think he has advantages because what other convicted felon could walk out of jail into a good paying job?

    That being said, as far as I know, he has not been in any trouble since and has worked really hard to repair his image and paying off the debt certainly helps with that. He also paid his debt to society when so many NFL players get away with rape, assault, etc. I guess his ultimate legacy remains to be seen, but I do applaud anyone trying to change for the better.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Agreed Kim, very few in my opinion.

      That’s a good point – I think the powers that be in the NFL could take some cues from his latter actions of doing what’s right.

  • Rebecca says:

    I don’t think that anyone who is working to be better at life should be discounted. He is someone who is in the public eye. Any example of someone of influence doing anything other than consuming is a good example.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Agreed Rebecca, he definitely provides an example of what to do when given the choice of how to correct a bad situation.

  • Aldo @ Million Dollar Ninja says:

    It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how much debt you have, if you decide to make a change in your lifestyle to get rid of such debt, then you’re alright with me.

  • Joshua @ Under The Bridge says:

    Wow, that’s a tough one. On one hand, I definitely see how easy it would be fore a celeb to pay off loads of debt than a regular consumer. On the other hand, I’d imagine Vick lived far above his means even as a pro ball player,so dialing down his budget would have been tough. Granted, it wouldn’t be as tough for him as it would for most of us, I still think he deserves some kudos!

    • John Schmoll says:

      Hey Josh! Agreed, it is a tough one and from what I’ve read he was living quite the life prior so pulling it back to the extent he did takes a ton of work – definitely something to give kudos for.

  • Jenna says:

    He did some wrong things and went through tough times because of it. I still admire anyone who manages to turn around and do the right thing.

  • Mark@BareBudgetGuy says:

    I think anyone who has the discipline to live within their means should be commended just for that.

  • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse says:

    I truly hope for both himself and his family that he has changed his ways. While the salary he earns certainly may seem like an advantage, he debt was relative to his earnings too. A person with a salary of $60k is unlikely to have a debt of $18M. I am actually pleasantly surprised, and thus hopeful, by the fact he chose to pay it off and live on a budget. And I hear the same excuse time and time again. It does require discipline and an adjusted mindset and sadly too many people don’t want to make those changes.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’m with you Shannon – I hope he has changed and for good. That debt is relative, like you say, and can’t imagine having that amount to pay off but it does make me hopeful that others can as well once faced with similar situations.

  • Jason B says:

    I am actually proud of Mike Vick for paying off his debt as well as some of the other changes he has made. He could have ended up like those athletes on the ESPN 30 for 30 piece titled “Broke”. Instead he chose to create a budget and pay the debt down.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Excellent point Jason. You’d just assume he’d be another in the long line of pro athletes to do absolutely stupid things financially.

  • Even Steven says:

    I was more impressed with that he wanted to pay back his debts, when he could have just added them to his bankruptcy claim. 2nd chance guy giving it his best this time around.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I was the same way. When I heard about it on the radio a few weeks back it threw me off guard for a second. I mean, who chooses to do something like that? Kudos to Vick for not taking the easy way out.

  • Ben Luthi says:

    Sure he had a $300,000/year salary, but that’s not a lot compared to what he was used to before. We may all scoff at that on our small budgets, but it’s impressive.

  • Froogal Stoodent says:

    I didnt know about Vick’s massive debt. Between his reformed public image and paying off his debt, it does seem that his mindset changed during his time in prison and under the tutelage of Coach Tony Dungy.

    Kudos to Vick for turning it around! Many people fail to take responsibility for their choices, and to change their ways for the better. It’s a shame that it took such a fall from grace to wake him up, but people should be encouraged for taking positive steps to fix their errors and improve themselves! Perhaps we can all take a lesson from Vick’s life (but not from his playing style, as any NFL fan will tell you!)

    • John Schmoll says:

      Yea, I remember reading about it when he was convicted but just assumed he’d just declare bankruptcy and not pay a dime. I’m glad to see he made the tougher choice from that standpoint. It certainly wasn’t the easy way out and for that I applaud him.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I try to be forgiving, but it’s hard not to get angry when you think about what Vick did. I have a soft spot for animals and hate to see them in pain – to imagine that the pain was intentionally caused by a human is unthinkable. Kudos to Vick for paying off his debt, and $300k/year would actually be really tough for a family used to spending in excess of $1M a year.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I completely agree DC, it is hard to be forgiving especially when it’s against someone/something that’s defenseless. That said, I think it shows some seriousness on his part to not dodge his financial actions and do what he could to pay it all off – far too many would’ve taken the alternate option.

  • jill says:

    I do believe that what he has done with his money instead of taking the easy way out is awesome. To D.C and John, while I love animals, I hope you treat wife abusers, rapists and murders the same. By that, I mean without the thought that they deserve a 2nd chance. This is a financial blog so let’s concentrate on what he did with his money and not past whether we disagree or agree with who he is as a person.

  • Suzie says:

    A close family member used to work for a NFL team. Usually these guys are in their early 20’s when they turn pro. Most of them have never filled out an I9 or W4 form. This is their first job often times. The NFL now holds a rookies symposium in June every year. One of the things they go over is finances. Most of the teams offer the players the opportunity to learn more but don’t require them to take advantage of this. How well would any of us (myself included) handle the money these players are making at the same age. I don’t think I would have handled it very well.

  • Carl says:

    Don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet but Vick also agreed to pay his debt in full (chapter 13) when he had the option to do a chapter 7 and had a large % of his obligations absolved.

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