Even Pro Athletes Worry About Retirement

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Another football season is drawing to a close and, yet again, quarterback Bret Favre has filed for retirement.

The paperwork doesn't guarantee the "gold watch" treatment. Just as he did last month as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Favre previously declared his retirement from the New York Jets.

What can a player such as Favre expect to collect as a retiree? While he may have personal investments, his safest bet is an NFL pension.

Nearly every major sports league has a pension plan for retired players. NASCAR is the exception -- its drivers, lacking a union, are classified as independent contractors and have no official retirement or health plan.

Major League Baseball's plan is widely considered to be the best run. A mere 43 days playing in the "bigs" earns a minimum pension of roughly $34,000 a year, and even a single day playing major league ball earns full, lifetime health care coverage. After 10 years of service, the benefit grows to about $100,000 a year.

The NHL uses 160 games as its qualification standard and its pension plan, operated under Canadian law, is fairly modest: a $45,000 annual benefit.

NBA players are vested after playing three seasons and, upon reaching the age of 62, are eligible to collect, at a minimum, nearly $57,000 a year. After playing 11 seasons, the benefit caps out at $1,965,000. Players who take part in a 401(k) plan earn matching contributions of up to 140%.

In the NFL plan, players are vested after three seasons and earn a $470 monthly credit for each year they played (meaning a 20-year veteran such as Favre would net about $112,000 a year, barring future adjustments) once they reach age 55. An additional 401(k) plan, the NFL Player Second Career Savings Plan, offers a matching contribution of up to 200%. For players with four seasons or more of service, there is also a $65,000 annuity bonus.

The NFL's pension plan has drawn its fair share of controversy over the years.

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