Is Fantasy Football Ruining Your Marriage?

Photo (cc) by CraigInDenver

The amount of time and money some Americans spend on fantasy football leagues may surprise you.

According to Reuters, more than 41 million people in North America play fantasy football, and its popularity continues to gain steam. The average player spends about eight hours per week on his or her lineup and ponies up about $111 per year to play, but some invest much more, and it can take its toll on family finances.

Allison Lodish, a personal stylist from California, said her husband’s obsession with fantasy football grew until he was spending more than $1,000 a year on the game. “It was crazy,” she said. She ended up splitting from her husband and setting up a website for other fantasy-sports “widows.”

According to Credit.com, 27-year-old reality television actor Alex Stein plays in five fantasy football leagues. Stein said he’s lost more than $70,000 over the years. Fortunately, he’s single, so he doesn’t have an upset spouse. Credit.com said:

It may seem crazy how someone could lose so much money over fantasy matchups, but betting on football adds up. Some of Stein’s leagues require a $1,000 buy-in, and he bets on college football as well.

“I don’t think spending money on fantasy sports is a bad thing, as long as you can afford it,” Sharon Epperson, CNBC’s personal finance correspondent and a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan, told Reuters.

Here’s some advice for safeguarding the family budget (and, potentially, your marriage) while playing fantasy sports:

  • Prioritize. Before you or your partner join a fantasy league, make sure your other bills are current. Epperson recommends saving 20 percent of your income in long-term vehicles like 401(k)s, 10 percent in short-terms savings, and putting aside 10 percent in fun money, which can be used for fantasy sports buy-ins.
  • Be honest. Be upfront and tell your significant other that you’re playing in a fantasy league. Keeping that kind of information secret is “financial infidelity,” Epperson said.
  • Involve your partner. Your spouse might enjoy playing in a league with you. “My advice is always, ‘Try it, you’ll love it,'” ESPN’s senior fantasy analyst Matthew Berry told Reuters.
  • Share any winnings. Deposit any winnings in the family bank account, so your spouse can access them. Berry said he did that with his wife in the beginning, and she loved it. “Whatever I won, she got to spend,” he said.

My husband plays in one fantasy football league. The buy-in is $1,000, which is split between three people. He’s been playing in the same league for seven years, and his team always wins at least enough money one season to pay the team buy-in the next year, so I don’t complain. He also plays poker on occasion, but we’ve agreed on a maximum amount he can bet, plus he shares any winnings with me, so it’s a win-win for both of us.

Do you play fantasy football? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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