If Ryan Lochte could go back and offer his younger self a piece of advice, he'd start with "a big slap across the head," the 35-year-old tells CNBC Make It.
The American swimmer, who was making "well over $1 million" in the prime of his career, lost nearly all of his earnings, he tells Alex Rodrgiuez on a 2019 episode of CNBC's "Back in the Game," in which Rodriguez helps athletes bounce back after damaging their reputations and finances.
It started with a scandal during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro that resulted in a 10-month suspension and the loss of his major sponsors. Two years later, Lochte was suspended again by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for receiving an intravenous vitamin B-12 infusion.
Looking back, he says he would do a lot of things differently, but in terms of managing his money, he would advise a younger version of himself to anticipate future costs, like raising kids: "You're not going to be alone your whole life. You're going to have a family and that costs money."
As the father of two now knows by experience, parenthood comes with an array of expenses: Households earning $200,000 can spend $52,000 just in the first 12 months of a newborn's life, and raising a child to 18 costs around $234,000, not including college.
If you're raising a family in an expensive city like San Francisco or New York, even a $350,000 salary may not be enough.
As Lochte has learned, "You want to put your kids into a great school, you want to have a great house for them growing up — and all of that is going to add up, so you need to start saving your money now."
Saving is a relatively new habit for the professional athlete. When Rodriguez met up with him to film "Back in the Game," Lochte was spending beyond his means and was quickly headed into debt. He estimated he had about $20,000 in savings, though he admitted that he hadn't looked at his bank account in two years.
The humbling experience has taught him that "money doesn't grow on trees," Lochte says. "You've got to be smart. Any paycheck that you get, whether it's $5 or $50,000, you have to put some away, no matter what."