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Investigating the financial overconfidence of student-athletes

Megan Ann McCoy (Institute of Personal Financial Planning, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Kenneth J. White (University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA)
Kim Love (K.R. Love Quantitative Consulting and Collaboration, Athens, Georgia, USA)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Article publication date: 5 August 2019

Issue publication date: 24 September 2019




There is a paucity of empirical research that explores the financial well-being of collegiate student-athletes. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the key aspects of financial well-being (e.g. financial knowledge, financial self-efficacy and finance-related stress levels) of varsity athletes at US colleges and universities.


The authors used data from the National Student Financial Wellness Study. The data were analyzed using general linear regression models.


The findings suggest student-athletes have lower financial knowledge than students who are non-athletes. Despite their lower levels of financial knowledge, these student-athletes report higher levels of financial self-efficacy. Furthermore, even when controlling for scholarship funding, student-athletes reported lower levels of financial stress than their counterparts. One could interpret this as student-athletes having a false sense of confidence in their money management behaviors. This overconfidence can impact many areas of their overall financial well-being. Alternatively, non-athletes may not be as financially confident as they should be.

Research limitations/implications

This study could be replicated with stronger measures (e.g. Financial Self-Efficacy Scale), with the inclusion of subjective financial knowledge measures, comparing the impact of demographic variables. As, most financial constructs have gender differences (Farrell et al., 2016) and race differences (Amatucci and Crawley, 2011) and depend upon college major (Fosnacht and Calderone, 2017). Another limitation of this study is the small percentage of student-athletes, a common problem with research in this area. Further research is also needed to unpack the finding that self-efficacy decreases at higher levels of financial knowledge.

Practical implications

It is evident that college students (athletes/non-athletes) need financial education. For universities and college coaches, this study could be used as a rationale for providing financial education for their athletes. The addition of financial courses could be used as a recruiting tool for collegiate coaches and benefit the university. Requiring financial education could also benefit universities long term as it may potentially increase the donor possibilities by alumni. As a final note, it is important that financial courses figure out ways to improve financial self-efficacy alongside financial knowledge, as findings suggest both are integral to decreasing financial stress.

Social implications

Less than 4 percent of universities in the USA require students to take a personal finance course (Bledsoe et al., 2016). If more universities included personal finance as a graduation requirement and did more to engage student-athletes (and non-athletes) in financial planning, then the average level of financial knowledge would likely improve on campuses across the USA. In addition, increasing young adults financial self-efficacy could improve financial stress which is linked to mental health and physical health.


This study provides the first empirical look into the financial well-being of collegiate student-athletes across the USA. Although there are many benefits to participation in college sports, student-athletes face additional time pressures and a predisposition to clustering around certain majors. Findings suggest that collegiate athletes need additional support around their financial literacy and non-athletes may need support developing financial self-efficacy. These two findings should be used by academic institutions and athletic departments to determine how to encourage financial health in their student-athletes and general student body.



McCoy, M.A., White, K.J. and Love, K. (2019), "Investigating the financial overconfidence of student-athletes", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 381-398.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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