Life Lessons from an NFL Star Turned Ivy League Professor


This past spring, 30 lucky UPenn students took Brandon Copeland’s Urban Studies class, affectionately nicknamed Life 101. Brandon Coperland, who graduated from the Wharton School of Business at UPenn and is now starting linebacker for the New York Jets, wants everyone to learn personal finance and basic money management skills. What better place to start than in the classroom!

Taking on a teaching gig is not Copeland’s first venture off the football field. During his undergraduate career he interned at UBS, a prestigious investment bank. During the early days of his NFL career he traded stock options and flipped houses in Detroit. These experiences helped him strengthen his conviction that everyone needs to be financially literate.

Copeland is known for his frugality. In 2017 he told ESPN that nearly 60% of his net income goes into long term investments, 30% goes into savings and 10-15% goes toward living expenses. This is a far cry from the traditional guidance of 50-30-20 for necessities discretionary spending and savings that most financial experts suggest. Copeland explained to CNBC this week, “I’m not too flashy; I don’t need a lot.” This mindset puts Copeland in the minority of NFL athletes who recognize that delayed gratification and heavy saving is the key to lifelong financial security in a profession that usually only lasts three to six years. Recent NFL draft pick and Guardian Savings financial role model, Christian Wilkins expressed a similar sentiment during his interview with the Wall Street Journal. Both men seem to prefer future financial security to spending hard earned dollars just to keep up with the Jones.

Copeland’s class, which he teaches alongside Professor Brian Peterson focuses on financial basics, like budgeting, living within your means, debt vs. bad debt, needs and wants and compound interest. One of the keys to Copeland’s personal financial success is his focus on tracking expenses and looking at spending habits rather than fixating on income. By meticulously reviewing where he can cut, Copeland has been able to achieve his stringent savings goals.

If you’re motivated by Brandon Copeland’s take on personal finance I would encourage you and your children to review their spending habits on the analysis page of the child’s area of the Guardian Saving’s app. You can review up to six months of transaction history and use the information you gather to guide future discussions about spending habits.