Having a game plan for beyond basketball is vital. I’ve already got my sights on doing big things in the wealth management world

By Sayawni Lassiter

Others might have given up, transferred or felt sorry for themselves. That was never in my plans.

Whether it’s been multiple knee injuries, losing my grandmother or COVID-19, I haven’t gotten my fair shake at playing college basketball at Florida State. The seasons I’ve had have been extremely unique. I got hurt my first season, then I had to deal with the loss of my grandmother in the second season. Then I got hurt again in my third season. I just feel like I haven’t gotten a fair shake at playing at this level and playing here at Florida State. And I love Florida State so much.

Now of course, my teammates and I, along with all college athletes, have to weather the storm of a pandemic.

But my journey has happened for a reason. As a Finance major graduating this spring, I’ve been able to really focus on what I want to do in my life during my time at FSU. And I’m getting great experience with a wealth management internship at Northwestern Mutual.

If you learn about how I grew up, you would understand why I always have my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

My Uncle Clinton and my grandmother Adabell Garner really influenced the way I think about finances. Growing up, when we had to pay our rent or mortgage, or when my Uncle bought a car he would always pay cash. When I was like six, seven and eight he would always let me count the money. He always taught me that you had to take care of it. My grandmother would always tell me to never leave the house with no money. I would always have some type of money in my pocket because she would say you could never not have anything. That always taught me growing up that you have to save. Kids at my age now know that it can be hard to grow up and be an adult.

My Uncle Clinton is definitely a father figure. He’s my best friend. He’s a lot like me. He’s an accounting major and was a CPA. He’s taught me everything about money. Everything a father should teach, he’s taught me. It was tough love, but also even-keeled. He’s a pretty cool guy. He has tolerance for certain things. One thing he did not like growing up was when we said “Shut up.” He’s a frugal guy so he taught me how to be cheap. But he’s such a cool guy. He has a good balance in his life.

My Mom is a fighter. She’s always trying to do better for us. She’s always trying to learn new things, which is where I get that from. She’s always putting herself in a position to do better. She’s the middle child along with my two uncles, so she’s the only girl. She’s the influencer. She’s a leader at heart. The things she’s constantly learning and trying to teach us is what I take from her. She’s been everything to me and never showed us struggle even when it existed.

I’ve also been fortunate to have some great siblings. They support me through everything and always make me feel like everything is going to be OK. My sister, Nay (full name is Ednaija), is a big supporter of mine. My little brother Quan (Laquan) keeps us all together and supports me as well.

My family really preached a lot about education. I was fortunate to be part of a program called METCO growing up because the Boston Public Schools didn’t provide an adequate education at all. My cousin Jawuan Salley was in METCO first. If your family was in it, you could take younger siblings with you. It was either go there or go to a private school.

In Kindergarten and over time, we had to wake up at 5:45am and the bus would come at 6:25am, school started at 8am and we wouldn’t get out until 3pm. Boston traffic is insane so we wouldn’t get home until 5:15pm, and then we would have basketball practice from 6-8pm. It was a lot. But it was to get a better education.

I’ve taken the education part to heart. You definitely have to game plan for life after basketball. So here’s my game plan with my internship: I am the number one intern in Northwestern Mutual’s Florida-Georgia Line District. Not just the first black female, but I’m the first female intern to get what’s called 10 Lives in their district. And I take a lot of pride in that. Ten Lives basically means I’ve written 10 or more policies for my clients.

I made what’s called Winter Camp, which is the Top 100 interns across the country – I’m currently at 32. I enjoy it because I’m good at it, but I also understand how hard it is to manage a client’s wealth. The harder you work in the beginning, the years after will come easier. I really like my internship because it’s so flexible. You can do it from anywhere.


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My teammates know I’m a financial person. I’ve done a budget for Erin (Howard). I’ve done a budget for Vee (Valencia Myers). Kourtney (Weber) is my business partner so we’re always talking about that stuff – business ideas that we have that we’re trying to get off. We’ve got some good ideas coming. They know I’m pretty set when it comes to money.

As athletes, we should always be conscious about our money and where it’s going. When I talk to my clients for my Northwestern Mutual internship, we call it The Case of the Athlete. This athlete will get this huge sum of money within five to six years. They’ll get the money and spend it down and spend it down, and then they’ll realize they’ve spent too much and decide they need to stop. Then they’ll wait for another check and do it all over again and spend it down. Whereas athletes do it in a 5-6 year span, we as regular people who don’t make millions, we do it over the span of our lifetime. We constantly wait until the next check to come to buy those new things. I notice with the athletes and these young adults getting million dollar contracts – the lottery picks – they need to realize that it can run out as quickly as you get it. You can spend it way faster.

The support I’ve gotten from our coaches to pursue this internship and balance it with the playing season has been great. When I first told Coach Brooke I was starting it, we didn’t even know what our practice schedule would be since it was the summer. As soon as I started the internship in August, she promised she would always have the practice times for me ahead of time so I can balance basketball with my internship. Our coaches always do their best to work around things. They never tell us we can’t take a certain class because it doesn’t work around practice time.

“Our coaches always do their best to work around things. They never tell us we can’t take a certain class because it doesn’t work around practice time.”

Sayawni Lassiter

It started with Coach Sue. She’s always preached to us that you have to talk to other people. She’s put us in positions to talk to other people. When we went to Orlando to talk to Anne Hamilton (Vice President, Global Travel Walt Disney Company) who works at Disney, I still talk to her sometimes. Our coaches have always preached networking and reaching out and talking to new people.

I’m always motivated by staying ahead. I want to build off what I’ve done now. It’s going to be easier when the real life hits you. I’ve talked to people who’ve graduated, and the structure that college gives them in their life is crazy. Because when you get out and you don’t have any structure, you sit there and think, “What am I going to do?” I don’t like to sit around and feel like I’m not doing anything. I need to have structure to my day. I’m a calendar-user now. I put stuff on my calendar so I know what I have to do. Having the structure I’ve created now lets me know what it will entail when I actually leave school.

I also have investment goals too. I have a Robin Hood account where I invest through there. I’m about to get my investment license and get my SIE and Series-7 pretty soon to be able to invest for other people. Investing is a lot of work. Most people don’t want to teach themselves or just don’t feel like it. Being able to manage other people’s assets is why I will get my investment license.

I’ve always wanted so much more than just basketball, and Florida State has really given that to me. I was talking about this with my friend the other day, because she was talking about her school too: If basketball wasn’t a thing, would we still go to our schools? And that was the main thing that led me here. There were other schools where I wouldn’t have gone there if it was only for basketball. I can come here and be a regular student, and basketball is the icing on the cake. The people are great, the coaches are great and my teammates have always been a family.

The support I’ve gotten here has been huge. It’s not easy to navigate two season-ending knee injuries (three including high school) as well as dealing with personal losses and a pandemic in one college career. My one healthy season in 2018-19 was the same year when my grandmother passed away. She passed two days before our Boston College road game on Jan. 15, 2019 – it was a game she really wanted to come to. Not being able to be with my family a lot in a time of need was tough.

Despite the challenges of what this year has brought, I’m thankful to be out on the court every chance we get. The time I’ve missed playing in my four years has only motivated me more to be prepared for my next chapter. When I had my last knee injury in 2019, it made me really want to figure out what I would do after because this thing could end at any time. But sometimes you don’t have control over that stuff, so it motivates me to put myself in a better position for after basketball.

To every student-athlete, the advice I have for you is to use the opportunity you have to network. Networking means more than the stature of a school in adult life, so think beyond your four years and use the people and resources you have to help you down the road.

Get motivated and plan ahead. Your future is at stake.