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Fan who returned Jeter's ball needs conference at the mound with financial adviser

Handing over Derek Jeter's milestone ball has made a celebrity out of Christian Lopez. It's also got his head spinning.

Jul 14, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

It all started with this guy (Bloomberg News)
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It all started with this guy (Bloomberg News)

Advisers, Christian Lopez could stand a little coaching.

The 23-year-old fan who went to Yankee Stadium on July 9 hoping to see New York shortstop Derek Jeter get his 3,000th base hit — and winding up catching that ball and returning it — has some tough decisions to make. His much-reported sacrifice — giving up a sports collectible worth as much as $250,000 on the open market — was a hit with an increasingly jaded public and has made an instant celebrity of Mr. Lopez.

It's also turned his financial life upside down. Initially, the problem was the amount of taxes Mr. Lopez would have to pay on $70,000 in gifts and memorabilia the Yankees gave Mr. Lopez as a reward for his good deed. Accountants put that bill at between $5,000 and $14,000. But yesterday, Modell's Sporting Goods chief executive Mitchell Modell and Steiner Sports boss Brandon Steiner each guaranteed at least $25,000 in donations. And Miller High Life has offered to cover Mr. Lopez' tax bill.

More offers, and more money, are bound to come in. In fact, Mr. Lopez has been so overwhelmed by the events of the past few days that he has enlisted help; Jennifer Connelly Public Relations is representing him pro bono. The truth is, he could use some serious help with his finances, as well.

Consider the particulars. Mr. Lopez has been working for Verizon Communications Inc. for less than a year and likely makes an entry-level salary. Simplyhired.com puts the average entry-level salary in the New York/New Jersey area at $50,000. Mr. Lopez has a 401(k) plan through Verizon, according to his press agent. He doesn't have a financial adviser. He does have approximately $150,000 in student loans. (Quick poll: If Christian Lopez approached you, would you take him on as a client?)

The Internal Revenue Service is likely to take a hard look at the “donations” made to Mr. Lopez. Some could be deemed to have a business purpose, and thus taxable. Moreover, if the first few days post-3,000 are any indication, the young man is likely to receive a substantial amount of cash and business offers due to his newfound fame. There are an awful lot of Yankee fans out there.

What to do? Pay off the loans? Invest in real estate? Buy a minor league club?

You tell us. If you were Mr. Lopez' financial guide, what advice would you give him?

(Editors note: Read the July 25 issue of InvestmentNews for an interview with Mr. Lopez.)

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