Life After Retirement: Fran Tarkenton

Retirement is the end goal for a lot of people. There are hundreds of different ways to save for retirement, and many people save fervently, looking forward to the day when they can stop working. But some people, including a series of famous figures, have gone on to lead very successful second careers after retiring from their first.

Now what if I told you that one man left a very successful first career, went on to a second career, found incredible success, and then went on to a third career, where, at age 75, he is maintaining a consistent level of success yet again?

This is the life of Fran Tarkenton.

Grocery Boy to NFL Champion

You may know him as a Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback. You may know him as the co-host of Monday Night Football and That’s Incredible! Or you may know him as a financial planning partner. He has had notable success in all three professions, and is still going strong.

Tarkenton’s first career came even before his football career. When he was five years old, he began taking his little wagon down to the local Safeway to help people bring home their groceries, making about 10 or 25 cents an hour. “…And that money went into the family pot… I delivered newspapers at seven, eight, nine, and 10 years old in Washington, DC and made a little money there… I’ve worked all of my life, and I’ve had jobs all my life,” Tarkenton said.

In high school he worked on a chicken farm during the summer breaks. Then he sold life insurance for the Franklin Life Insurance Company: “I did that while I was playing football and baseball in college. I learned the habit and the fun of work and reward. I did something that someone saw as a value.”

First Career: NFL Quarterback

Tarkenton’s football career began in college, where he became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame after spending three years at the University of Georgia, winning the Southeastern Conference championship in 1959. He was then drafted by the NFL expansion Minnesota Vikings in the 1961 draft, in the third round. Since this was the first season the Vikings would be in the NFL, he was not only the third player ever to be drafted for the franchise, but also the club’s first quarterback. And he was quite the catch.

Tarkenton played in the NFL for 18 years, spending 13 with the Vikings. He led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances: 1973, 1974, and 1976. He was the 1975 MVP of the National Football Conference and the National Football League. He made the Pro Bowl nine times. He is sixth on the all-time list of wins by a quarterback, behind only Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, John Elway, and Dan Marino (which he accomplished in a league that had a 14-game season, not 16). He is the Vikings’ all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, and when he retired, he was the league’s all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, touchdowns, passing yards, rushing yards by a quarterback, and wins by a quarterback. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.As you can see, he had enormous success in his first career. He is one of the greatest to ever play the game, and he did it in an expansion franchise. But what about his second career?

Second Career: TV Host

After retiring from the NFL following the 1978 season, Tarkenton went on to co-host Monday Night Football, as well as the reality show That’s Incredible! He also became the first professional athlete to host Saturday Night Live in January 1977. He wrote multiple autobiographies and a novel, as well as self-help books.

Third Career: Tarkenton Financial

After his huge success as a TV host, Tarkenton moved on to a third career, this one in finance. In 2003, he founded Tarkenton Financial, which helps financial firms find clients, and helps clients find agents and companies to help them. But he says that his philosophy hasn’t changed throughout any of his careers.

“The skills that I learned in business, really as a kid, growing up, helped me as a football player,” said Tarkenton. “The same principles [that] drove me in football are the same ones that drove me in business… The mission of life is to help people. The mission of business is to help people.”

How Fran Sees Life, Business, and Leadership

“Great leaders, great coaches build a culture. Culture trumps everything else. If you’ve got 40 all-pro football players on your team, and you don’t have a culture of respect, a culture of sharing, a culture of working together, a culture of love… then you’ll fail. And it’s the same in business. I lead with my heart. I really care about the people that I hang around… you’ve got to treat people with respect and love.”

“The mission of playing sports, playing quarterback, is like the captain of the team, you’re the signal caller. You make your teammates better. If that’s your mission, you’re going to treat everyone with respect. You’re going to treat everybody with kindness. You’re going to tell the truth. You’re going to be transparent. And when you do that, people will gravitate around you.”

This advice is what Fran Tarkenton has carried with him throughout his entire life. This is what has helped him to collect a list of accolades and successes that goes on and on. This is a life philosophy that he has carried higher and longer than any of his championship rings or his money. This is what you call an amazing second, or even third, career. This is Fran Tarkenton’s life after retirement.

Disclaimer: Medallion Financial Group, the parent company of Federal Navigators, has a business partnership with Tarkenton Financial. Dan Searles, CFP, a member of Medallion and a participant of the interview for this article, has worked with Tarkenton and they are friends. The author of this article has no relationship with Tarkenton or his company.

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