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  • Jacob Turner

The Moment Guide to NIL (Name, Image, & Likeness)

The line between amateur athletes and professional athletes is blurred.

It used to be:

·       One is paid

·       One is not paid

Today it is:

·       Both are paid

·       Each are paid in different ways

Welcome to the ever-changing world of amateur sports, where players are (finally) compensated for the revenue they bring to their schools.

Something that has taken far too long but has provided athletes today with financial opportunities not seen by previous players.

Those financial opportunities can all be bundled into three initials, NIL.

NIL stands for Name, Image, and Likeness and allows athletes to profit off their star power both on and off the field.

You see the profits have always been there (check the NCAA financials), they just have not been going to the players.

With these increased opportunities comes increased responsibility as a player to correctly manage this money. When it comes to athlete wealth management, athletes need to make sure they have a financial team that understands all the details of their situation.

In this guide, I break down everything athletes need to know about Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL).

I will discuss how taxes work, ways players can maximize their money, and things to look out for.

Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL)

NIL Guide: Contracts

NIL is the Wild Wild West. Remember this is entirely new territory over the past several years.

To understand what it is like this let's compare an NIL contract (or offer) to that of a professional sports contract.

In professional sports, teams and players work under a collective bargaining agreement. This agreement is one that is agreed to by both the owners (offering the contract) and the players (accepting the contract).

Each league whether it is MLB, NFL, NBA, or the NHL has unique clauses, structures, and details to their contracts. However, what is consistent is a standard template that must be adhered to.

This protects both the ownership group and the players signing the contract.

NIL has nearly none of that, thus making it the Wild Wild West.

We have already seen boosters making empty promises, players suing for damages, and coaches feeling like they are caught in the middle of it all.

Pair that with a transfer portal that has essentially created a free-agent model in college athletics and you can see where this leads.

To players getting overpromised.

So what do you need to know as an athlete?

  • Not all contracts are created equal

  • It pays to have legal representation

  • You need to understand the pros and cons of an offer

  • Before signing anything make sure you have protections

Look, NIL contracts will continue to be a bit of a black box until players, schools and the NCAA add further structures around these deals.

The thing I want you to realize as a player is this creates an additional responsibility for you to vet these deals.

Now look, you don’t have to be the expert here, but you do need to be responsible for what you are signing.

I encourage every athlete to run any NIL offer past their agent, legal representation, and financial team.

This three-pronged approach ensures that you have all of your bases covered.

The old adage certainly applies here, trust but verify.

This is your career, take ownership of it.

Now let's talk money…

NIL Guide - Taxes

It will be your largest lifetime expense and it is your responsibility.

You are going to hear me say that a lot throughout this guide ~ your responsibility.

The reason is simple, I see too many athletes both amateur and professional fail to take ownership of their careers. This includes their money.

The best outcomes come from taking ownership and combining it with a team specializing in you.

Athlete wealth management requires an understanding of how less than .0001% of the population earns money ~ through sports.

To understand how to maximize NIL income, we have to understand how it is taxed.

NIL income is taxed as 1099 income. This means it is labeled as self-employment income.

In simple terms - You as the athlete are making the money, you are your own little business, thus making it self-employment income.

Think about it you are not working for another company to earn this income, you are working for yourself.

1099 income has several key tax features to understand:  

  • It is subject to self-employment taxes

  • It has unique retirement account options

  • It provides more planning opportunities than traditional (W2) Income

Self-Employment Taxes

These are taxes imposed by the IRS to cover the costs of Medicare and Social Security. For most W2 earners they pay one side of this or 7.65%, while their employer covers the other side of this.

For those earning 1099 income, such as NIL money, you cover both sides of this thus doubling the amount of self-employment taxes paid.

That is the bad news, now here is the good news.

You can and should be planning around this to minimize this liability.

One of the most common ways for athletes earning significant NIL income ($100,000 or more) is by setting up an LLC and electing S Corp tax status.

This allows you to run your one-person business just like any other business and provides some key tax benefits.

The salary you pay yourself is subject to those self-employment taxes but money above and beyond that is not.

Thus saving you a potential 15.3% in self-employment taxes.

If you are interested in a deeper dive into tax planning for professional athletes check out our full guide.

Retirement Accounts

Ok, so it is not all bad news if you are earning 1099 income. In fact, this type of income allows you to contribute to one of my favorite retirement accounts.

A Solo 401(k)

Now a Solo 401(k) is just like a company-sponsored 401(k) except it is restricted to companies that only have one employee (you) and their spouse.

So at max, you can only have two people working for your business and if you have that second person they have to be your spouse.

Here is an example of the power of a Solo 401(k):

You are earning $300,000 in NIL money. By maxing out a Solo 401(k) contribution you reduce your projected taxable income by up to $69,000 (2024 amounts). This could save you north of $20,000 in taxes.

Retirement accounts for professional athletes are like a puzzle. To complete the puzzle in the best fashion you need to start with the core pieces. The Solo 401(k) is that core piece.


Planning Opportunities

In 2017 the Trump tax cuts reduced the federal tax rates but also removed many of the deductions athletes (or any W2 earner) could take.

Many of those deductions still apply to those earning 1099 income.

They include most expenses incurred through earning that income:

  • Legal Fees

  • Agent Fees

  • Travel Costs

Remember you are your own little business and the tax code in America favors the business owner.

NIL Guide – Investments

There are a million ways to invest money, but they can all be broken down into two buckets.

  • Ways that work

  • Ways that don’t work

In short, the ways that work are often boring, take time and don’t provide great stories.

The ways that don’t…well you can probably figure it out…they make good campfire stories.

As an athlete earning NIL income my recommendation is that you focus on investments that work.

You need to treat this money just like we treat money for our professional athletes like it could be your last from sports.

This means considering the downside of any investment just as much (probably more) than the potential upside.

While this guide is not a deep dive into investments to me it needs to pass two tests for you to consider it.

Test 1 - Does this investment have a track record of working?

Test 2 - Does the potential reward equal the amount of risk I am taking?

Most investments never pass those two tests and if they don’t just move on.

Investing is about stacking the odds in your favor.

Do that and you win the game.

NIL Guide – Perfect Outcome

You need to treat every dollar that you make as it could be your last from sports.

The athletes with the best financial outcomes build this mindset.

The reason is simple, you have already defied all the odds to make any money from sports.

To keep making money you have to keep defying the odds.

When I think about the athletes that are optimizing NIL income two words come to mind.

  1. Protection - Contracts that protect player's rights and money.

  2. Planning - They are proactively planning with a financial team that understands them.

Remember, the goal is that NIL income is just the start of your journey to earning money through sports. It is a way for you to start building the habits necessary to maximize further career earnings.

Yet, we also must remember it could be your last money earned through sports.

The good news is the roadmap doesn’t change whether it is the beginning or end of your earning power.


If you are an athlete earning NIL income and have questions on how to maximize it, schedule a call with our team.

At Moment, our mission has stayed the same since day one. To build the firm that I wanted as a professional athlete.

One with a singular focus on helping the people we know the best, athletes and entrepreneurs.

Get in Touch With An Advisor

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions I received frequently about this topic.

  1. How does Moment Private Wealth help NIL athletes? Moment works to help athletes ensure they have the proper professional on their team first. The second step is helping educate athletes about what they should be considering. The third step is helping athlete implement the necessary strategies, planning, and investment to maximize their NIL earnings.

  2. What is the first step to take when receiving an NIL contract? My recommendation is to ensure you have the contract reviewed by your attorney or agent.

  3. Are all NIL contracts the same? No, each contract is unique and it is important for athletes to understand what they are agreeing to before signing any NIL contract.

  4. How are NIL earnings taxes? NIL income is taxed as 1099 or self-employment income.

  5. What investments should I consider with NIL income? Before considering any investments, players should first consider what accounts further optimize their NIL income. Consider your NIL income like a puzzle with the planning coming first and the investments coming second.


*Moment Private Wealth offers information on tax and estate planning that is general in nature. Tax and Legal advice are not provided by Moment Private Wealth. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

Financial Advisors for professional athletes and entrepreneurs






2 Cityplace Drive
2nd Floor

St. Louis, MO  63141

(314) 597-8350


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Become a part of the Moment community for and join us in building enduring wealth and a legacy of impact.






2 Cityplace Drive
2nd Floor

St. Louis, MO  63141

(314) 597-8350


Become a part of the Moment community and join us in building enduring wealth and a legacy of impact.

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