Former NFL star Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson considers himself a frugal businessman. He was so frugal, in fact, that he spent the first two years of his career living for free in the Cincinnati Bengals’ stadium.
“Why are you telling me to rent a house or buy a house when everything I need is right at the facility?” Johnson said recently on the Club Shay Shay podcast, hosted by Shannon Sharpe. “Showers, cafeteria, TV, couch, gaming system. What’s the point? I was so locked in. It wasn’t about having my own space.”
Johnson would have stayed longer if the Bengals’ head coach at the time, Marvin Lewis, didn’t kick him out.
“He said it’s time to be responsible, spread your wings, and get your own place,” the former wide receiver said.
Johnson moved into a one-bedroom just down the road.
Flying Spirit Airlines and wearing fake jewelry
Johnson, 45, played in the NFL from 2001 to 2011, making the Pro Bowl six times. But despite his extraordinary success both as a player and financially, he said he saved 83% of his salary by living on a budget.
While other players were buying expensive jewelry and clothes, Johnson admitted he wore fake jewelry.
“Why am I buying a $50,000 watch?” he said. “Time is free.”
Johnson said it was doing the little things that saved him money. Instead of flying first class or chartering a private jet, he flew on budget airlines like Spirit. He also educated himself about money, interning at Morgan Stanley.
Sharpe asked Johnson what advice he would give to other players in the league, especially rookies.
“Don’t try to live a lifestyle that you can’t afford,” he said. “The more you make, the more you spend if you have no discipline or structure. But people ain’t going to listen because we’re caught up in looking a certain way and living a certain way, trying to appease others who don’t really care about you, just to say, ‘I got it.’ I’ve got it, too, but I’ve had it for almost 30 years.”