4 Lessons From Allen Iverson's Money Meltdown

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As a basketball player, Allen Iverson was a phenomenon.

First at Georgetown University, where he played for coaching legend John Thompson, then in the National Basketball Association, where he starred for the Philadelphia 76ers, Iverson was a hoops magician.

A Sixer's game was a must-see event when Iverson was in his heyday, and fans reveled in his speed, poise, charisma and ability to knock down the game-winning shot again and again.

He was paid handsomely for his efforts. Iverson earned $154 million in his 14-year NBA career, according to Sports Illustrated.

Yet today, Iverson is broke, and heavily in debt -- for now. The former all-star made news this week as his $4.5 million Atlanta mansion was set to fall into foreclosure after he defaulted on the mortgage.

What happened to Iverson, and what lessons can Americans take from his financial fall from grace? There are many, but here are some of the most important ones:

Don't live beyond your means: Financial advisers are in unison on one kitchen-table financial topic -- you can't spend more than you earn. But that's what Iverson did. According to papers filed in a recent lawsuit, and published by TMZ.com: Iverson earns approximately $60,000 per month, yet spends about $350,000 per month. The legal report says Iverson spends about $10,000 per month on food and clothing; $10,000 on restaurants and entertainment; and $1,000 on dry-cleaning bills.

Don't take your eye off the ball: Funny to say this about a basketball legend, but Iverson regularly avoided the financial basics and "took his eyes off the ball." He habitually splurged on purchases he didn't really need and wound up paying the price. For example, Iverson's bank account was seized last year after he couldn't pay more than $860,000 he owed to a jewelry store.

Don't lose control of your finances: On the personal financial front, Iverson was his own worst enemy. In his recent foreclosure case, he claimed he never agreed to the mortgage loan for the Atlanta mansion -- that his wife actually signed the loan papers. In Kitchen Table Economics 101, you always know where your money is and where it is going. Iverson failed that test, and spectacularly so.

Get professional financial help: One smart move Iverson did make was to hire a financial adviser, who may just save the day for the former superstar. The New York Post reports that a financial adviser parked some of Iverson's assets in an investment portfolio that Iverson could not touch until age 55. The Post said in March that the portfolio is estimated to be worth $32 million.

Iverson's financial mishaps don't make him a bad person. But the lessons learned from the former NBA great paint a picture of a squandered financial fortune, thanks to some basic money management mistakes.

Those are lessons worth learning no matter how much money you have in the bank.