“To whom much is given, much is required.”
I scribbled down these words from Luke 12:48 before playing my first game for Manchester United. I was 23 years old and had no clue what was ahead of me. I tucked the scrap of paper away, never imagining how many times I would pull it out. Even a decade later, fresh off the field in Salvador, Brazil, after the most eventful game in my life, I would reread it.
No two career paths are the same, but we all eventually come to an important crossroads: retirement. Getting there on your terms is far from easy. I’m confident saying that now — this is my final year in professional soccer. It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet. To be honest, my journey probably isn’t that much different from yours: first job, getting promoted, switching jobs, losing jobs, taking action, building a future, leaving a legacy.
I’ve learned many lessons on my road to retirement, but let’s boil it down to five (I should probably get back to practice soon).
1. Surround yourself with trust
No matter your career path, you will definitely encounter moments of uncertainty. I grew up in a single-parent household in New Jersey. My Mom worked her butt off to raise her two boys, and I’ll never be able to thank her enough. When my career finally began to take hold, and I got that first paycheck, I was flabbergasted.
I may have handled that money poorly if it weren’t for my trusted agent, Dan. Before I signed the contract, he pulled me aside and said, “Look Tim. This is a lot of money, but you need to keep in mind — your career is front-loaded. You only have a short window to earn this much. So conserve it until the basic concerns are off the table.” Truly words to live by.
Far beyond an agent, Dan became a friend and close confidant. I had met a number of agents before, but Dan was different. Eventually he would introduce me to a trusted financial advisor. He’d recommend teams with trusted management. On and on. The lesson: Some people may claim to have your best interest in mind, and some opportunities may seem too good to be true. Stick with your intuition and try to prioritize long-term goals over short-term satisfaction.
2. Be your best now, but don’t lose focus tomorrow
It was nice to be 23 years old and financially stable. A far cry from my days driving around in an $800 Sentra, I could finally afford to buy a nice car, a nice watch. I could finally wear what I wanted to wear. While all was well, Dan constantly reminded me to think about what’s next. But all I cared about was being great now. I was in the prime of my life, running on all cylinders.
"I think it’s easy to get caught up in the present, especially for 20-somethings. You’re fresh, energized, ready to take on the world, and retirement seems so far away. But it’s really a balancing act."
I think it comes down to putting your heart and soul into what you do now, and slowly (but surely) recognizing opportunities to build on your future. Whether that’s networking and putting yourself out there, asking to shadow people, seeing what the world looks like outside your current role — that would be my advice.
3. Protect what matters most
As every parent knows, once your children come into the picture, they become your everything. There’s college planning to consider, tuition, what school — and those are just cracking the surface.
I wanted them to be secure, to be protected, to not have to struggle. At the same time, I think parents who have more than enough often get it wrong. I know what it was like to go without as a kid, and I think that teaches you invaluable lessons. So in the beginning you can say I went overboard, but I pulled back as they grew up. A little sacrifice can be a good thing. It can build character and help them see the world in a more realistic way. Believe me — it’s a learning curve as a parent too.
I made sure to take out a life insurance policy should the worst happen. I even opted for something called “career ending insurance,” popular among footballers. If I suffered a catastrophic injury and I could no longer play, it would help safeguard my children’s future.
4. Maintain your long-term health
While my job requires me to be in peak physical condition, your job performance — no matter what you do — can also benefit greatly by prioritizing your health. Think about it: You get sick; you fall behind at work. You neglect quality sleep; your performance suffers. And if you eat a garbage diet, expect garbage brainpower. All of this adds up.
I envision my future as an incredibly active one. In the sports world, it’s easy to get accustomed to the professional training staff, tailored workouts, and a regimented diet. But after my final game, maintaining my health is on me.
I love playing basketball, going to the gym, throwing on my music, and grinding it out. That’s something I don’t think will ever change. The goal is to maintain this level of fitness as long as I can.
5. Realize you’re far from finished
It’s important to not think of retirement like some kind of finish line. Because your life is far from over. Whether you make a living in the corporate world, at a small business, on the soccer field, or otherwise, you need a plan.
While I plan to stay involved in soccer to some degree, I have another mission in mind, too. There’s something you may not know about me. Back in New Jersey when I was in sixth grade, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a condition that comes with uncontrollable tics and compulsory behaviors. To this day I get dressed the same way — right leg before left for shin guards, socks, and shoes. Then I tape my fingers in precisely the same pattern I always follow.
Childhood wasn’t easy, but TS presented a flip side. The moment I stepped into goal, everything changed. The closer the ball came, the more my symptoms receded. The tics, the impulses, they disappeared. Everything distracting me blurred away. Only the ball remained: in sharp, vivid detail.
As I grew older, I knew there were others out there like me. Later in my career, I began working alongside the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome. We take pride in helping teens with TS develop self-leadership, advocacy skills, and resilience. I often tell these kids that Tourette Syndrome isn’t a stop sign blocking what you want to do. It’s merely a speed bump.
Things to Consider:
- Maintaining your long-term health can make a big impact on your career.
- When it comes to protecting your family, it’s never too early to consider your options.
- Retirement is not a finish line — it’s the start of an exciting new journey.