Ryan Harris giving a keynote speech to the kids.

Are You a Spender or a Saver?

I often get asked for money advice. Friends, co-workers, former NFL players, even guys from my basketball team will occasionally reach out to me seeking assistance with their money mindset.

Most of the time, I begin the discussion by asking one key question: Are you a saver or a spender?

Neither one is better than the other. But your money strategy depends heavily on your answer.

The vast majority of people fall into one category or the other. Yet, it’s the one thing that people really do not talk about. 

Who has ever asked you are you a saver or a spender? Probably no one. 

However, it is very important to understand ourselves and the nature of our lives when it comes to our investments. You need to realize which group you belong to and what avenues you can take to maximize your financial success.

Most people are spenders, but there are plenty of ways for spenders to save money. Additionally, there are plenty of ways for savers to spend money in a smart, conservative fashion. In this post, I will highlight several investment opportunities that may make sense for you, depending on whether you are a spender, a saver, or maybe like me, somewhere in between.


When I asked a former teammate of mine if he was a spender or a saver, he said, “Man, I’m a spender. I love going shopping. I love spending money. I just love it.” 

If that’s you, great. You need income. 

When you are done playing in the NFL, you do not have a job history. If you are lucky, you’re going to be 26, 27, maybe 33. Whatever age, you are going to have no workplace experience for your life after sports. The biggest issue former players I talk to comes from the stop of income, that monthly cash that provides opportunity for your lifestyle.

Even the guys that saved a bunch hate spending their savings. I have got to say, there is a psychological aspect of spending savings versus spending income generated from an investment.

Related: Why NFL Teams Want Players to Be Broke

For every retiree, NFL or otherwise, if you are a spender, the one thing your financial plan must include is income investments. 

What are your options?

Real Estate

I recently spoke with a mid-level executive who asked me what he should do from an investment perspective. 

“I want to do some different things,” he said, “but it’s hard for me to invest in stocks.”

“Are you a spender or a saver?” I asked him.

“If I’m being honest,” he replied, “I’m a spender.”

“Great,” I said. “Buy some real estate.”

On my recommendation, this person bought a duplex instead of the big house he originally wanted. He moved into one of the units and rented out the other. 

Years later, after he got married and his wife had a baby, he called me up and said, “Ryan, I’m so glad you encouraged me to do a duplex because the home I thought I wanted was in a terrible school district. We are going to rent out both units and move to a nice place in a great school district.”

How many birds were just killed with the same stone? My friend was able to spend, which is his preferred style, but he did it in a smart fashion and actually made money along the way.

If you are a spender looking for income, real estate is a great place to start.

Some of the happiest retired NFL players I know have invested in real estate. They own a duplex, a triplex or maybe a quadplex. Some of my more wealthy former teammates own 20-unit apartment buildings. They pay a property manager to handle the day-to-day business. Basically, they invest and then sit back and make money.

Let me put it this way: If you can save up for a house, then you can probably save up for a duplex. You may not get as much house for yourself, but if you are willing to live in a starter home, if you’re fresh out of school, even if you are in the middle of your financial career, real estate investments will build you income.

Dividend Stocks 

Companies like Microsoft and Apple pay out earnings from their profits four times per year. You can invest in their dividend stocks now and get paid consistently throughout the year.

In fact, during the first year that I dabbled in investing, I put some money in dividend stocks and literally forgot about them for six months. When I remembered them, I realized that I had $450 in the account. 

Now that is not life-changing money, but fast-forward a few years and those dividend stocks can create a nice financial cushion for you and your family.


If you’re a saver, congratulations! Saving money is the hardest thing to do as an adult. If you are a saver, there are plenty of money options available to you.

Growth Stocks

Growth stocks are stocks that are not going to pay you dividends, but they may increase in value over the next 5 to 10 years, eventually reaching a point where you will make far more than you would have with dividend stocks.

I started, and encourage others to start, by owning companies they use daily. What type of phone do you have? Internet? Car? The stores where you buy clothes? Chances are all of these companies sell stock.

Related: 4 Money-Saving Tips for Creating a Life Full of “Yes”

Nest Eggs: Life Insurance and 529s

For savers, another investment option to consider is a life insurance policy. Essentially, you pay a small amount per year – you can even pay a large portion of the policy early – and then your family receives a sizable chunk of money when you die. There is an element of morbidity to this investment, obviously, but keep in mind that the goal with any saving opportunity is basically to create a financial cushion for future generations.

Another option for savers is to directly invest in your children. You have a 1 year old? Great. Your baby does not need birthday gifts. You know what he or she does need? Contributions to a 529 plan. 

A 529 plan provides an option to save for your child’s education (tax-free, by the way) throughout their entire childhood and can become quite lucrative over time. 

As parents, it is amazing how we will spend money to go see the “Avengers” movie. We will buy the popcorn and the pretzel bites and the candy and soda. And then, uh oh, suddenly your kids are 18 and they are restricted in their college options because of a lack of savings. 

For the price of a basketball or an extra movie, you can give your children opportunity and choice at a time when they need it most. Literally $20 a month can make a huge difference later on and give great opportunity to your children.

Invest in Your Hobbies

Additionally, savers can consider investing in their hobbies. For instance, collecting gold coins is a terrific investment strategy for savers. A former teammate of mine collected valuable baseball cards. He was able to benefit financially from his own hobby – and that is not too shabby.


Over my financial lifespan, I have been both a spender and a saver. I started saving early and now I have transitioned to more of an income spending style of living. Hint: Your retirement may look similar. 

There are some in-between options for people who may fit both categories.

Rent a Room

One underrated investment decision: renting rooms

One of my friends has decided to relocate to Denver. Instead of the rising rent prices creating financial pressure, he has decided to rent a room in a house, cutting his living costs in half!

Think about it. People always want a place for hosting parties, but how often do we have our coworkers to our house? When was the last time one of your friends came over and said, “Man, this place is a dump.” It does not happen. You are probably not friends with that person. 

To save some money, you can rent a room in someone else’s home instead of an entire apartment. To make some money for extra income, you can rent one of the rooms in your own home to someone else. Some of the smartest NFL teammates I ever had rented rooms off Craig’s List. They might sublet a room for the season. 

One former player friend of mine rented a room for $200 per month. He said, “I’m here at the facility all the time. I really don’t use it much. I’m gone most weekends. I’m just going to rent a room and make sure that I have a job.”

Good thing that player did, because he got released that very next year and did not play again. But, he walked away with a bunch of cash. He then went back home to his farming community and bought a house and started a farm.

I even had teammates who rented rooms in their home to other teammates – a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Meanwhile, most players wasted big bucks on homes that they rarely lived in.


Save money. Detox from debt. Own what you buy.

When it comes to money, you create the definition of value.


Each of these strategies could benefit you financially, depending on whether you are naturally a spender, a saver or a little of both. 

The key is that whatever you prefer to do – “save, save, save” or “spend, spend, spend” – there are quality investment options for you to increase your income and ultimately better your life and the lives of your children.