KATY, Texas-Stacey Fielder-August, former wife of retired Major League Baseball star Cecil Fielder, knows what it's like to have enough money to be set for life, and then lose most of it and her marriage as well.

It's due to that experience, and because many other wives of professional athletes have also suffered the same fate, that Fielder-August is spearheading an effort to launch a credit union for professional athletes and their families. The proposed credit union will offer an educational wealth empowerment program that will teach pro sports stars and their families how to keep and build their fortunes. Fielder-August is also the mother of Prince Fielder, the new Detroit Tigers first baseman who recently signed a $214-million contract.

"Statistics say 85% of professional athletes are quarter-of-a-million dollars in debt three to five years after their career is over," said Fielder-August. "And about the same percentage are divorced. I am one of the statistics."

Going through her own personal difficulties led Fielder-August, the founder of Leagues of Their Own Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group, to partner with the Professional Sports Wives Association (PSWA) to seek to introduce a credit union to support pro athletes. The groups planned to submit a charter request to the NCUA late last week. The goal is to begin within a year as a virtual credit union with a national field of membership and then branch out to have ATMs and small offices near major pro sports centers of the country.

'Wealth Empowerment'
While the start-up credit union plans to offer all the traditional financial products and services, the most important aspect of the venture, Fielder-August said, is the CU's Players Choice Wealthcare Network Solutions arm, a financial and life coaching and counseling firm that is in the process of being formed. The firm will deliver wealth empowerment coaching and financial literacy programs to help professional athletes manage and build their wealth-and keep their families intact.

"We intend to help the entire family, even the children," said Fielder-August. "So if the children get an Xbox, maybe they're taught to put up their bikes as collateral. Maybe they cut grass or agree to turn off more lights in the house to lower the energy bill-something to replace that money so they don't feel a sense of entitlement."

The reason for choosing a credit union as the vehicle and not another type of financial institution or provider, Fielder-August said, is that credit unions are a natural fit for her vision of helping others. "There is a lot of general distrust with banks today. A credit union is about helping people. It is a cooperative and it teaches ownership, because every member is an owner. It is also a vehicle to educate."

Fielder-August has been a credit union member for many years, back when her former husband was clobbering home runs for the Tigers in the '90s. "But then I did not fully understand what a credit union is all about," she said.

Players Choice FCU is the name Fielder-August said would be submitted to the NCUA for approval. The goal is to be operating within a year is challenging, she admitted. The start-up effort is being mentored by the $3-million Oak Cliff Christian FCU in Dallas. While not sharing a name, Fielder-August said the groups are close to selecting a CEO, noting that the candidate is a female financial analyst who has appeared on CNN. Fielder-August expects to be a member of the board.

'Needed For A Long Time'
Fielder-August said the credit union will receive sponsorship from the PSWA and from the professional sports wives associations that agree to work with the credit union. The PSWA is first reaching out to professional sports wives associations associated with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and the Professional Golfers Association of America.

"This credit union, and the support services it will provide, has been needed for a very long time," PSWA's Executive Director and Founder Gena Pitts told Credit Union Journal. "Just the other day we all heard about (former National Football League wide receiver) Terrell Owens being broke after making $80 million over the course of his NFL career. It is astonishing how players lose their wealth in just a matter of four or five years after they retire."

While Fielder-August is hoping the new credit union will have a positive effect on the lives of countless pro athletes and their families, even if the CU just lowers the rate of professional athletes who lose their fortunes by one percentage point, Fielder-August said she will be able to sleep at night. "I pray about this every night. This is my personal and professional mission. Pro athletes' careers last on average maybe ten years, and they-and their families-can be thrown off balance by the sudden celebrity and wealth."

Fielder-August said when her son, Prince, was growing up, her family did not practice wealth management. "I pray (wealth management) is something he will be able to implement in his own family and won't become another statistic."

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