New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland, 27, knows that his football career has an expiration date. "It's guaranteed football is going to be over one day," the NFL star told ESPN in 2017.
That's why Copeland is planning ahead: The Wharton School graduate, who spent two summers interning at the investment bank UBS in college, took an off-season job on Wall Street in 2017. He also has experience flipping houses and opened a real estate company with his wife last year.
His latest side hustle brings him back to the classroom: He's teaching a financial literacy seminar at his alma mater alongside Dr. Brian Peterson, the director of Penn's Makuu Black Cultural Center.
The class, which Copeland nicknamed "Life 101" and started this spring semester, covers "the realities of life we all have to deal with," he says, like how to invest, plan for retirement and build credit. He came up with the idea of the course two years ago, when he and a former teammate were talking about money mistakes and what they wish they'd known in their early 20s.
"I don't care if you're an engineering student, a nursing student, if you're going to build rockets when you grow up or if you're going to sweep floors," he recently told ESPN. "You're going to have to use something in this class."
While Copeland is the first to admit he doesn't specialize in financial literacy — "the first day of the class I'm going to tell the class that I am not an expert in all of this stuff, and no one is an expert in all of this stuff," he told the Wall Street Journal — he's careful with his cash.
"I've literally hoarded money," he told ESPN in 2017. "I'm literally stacking, stacking, stacking."
Nearly 60 percent of Copeland's post-tax salary goes towards "safe, long-term" investments, he explained. Another 30 percent goes towards savings. He lives off the remaining 10-15 percent.
"Anything I can get into an account and just let sit, I've got to a point where I have enough, where if football is over today, I have more than enough to take care of me for a while," said Copeland.
While Copeland's NFL salary — he signed a one year, $1.2 million contract with the Jets in 2018 — puts his income well above that of the average American, you don't have to be rich to pay yourself first. The more you can set aside, the better, and even a little bit can end up paying large dividends, thanks to compound interest.
Many experts recommend following the "50-30-20 rule" of personal finance, meaning 50 percent of income goes to necessities like rent and groceries, 30 percent towards discretionary spending and 20 percent towards saving. And if you can set aside 90 percent like Copeland does, more power to you.
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