One of the more depressingly accurate stereotypes when it comes to professional athletes is that quite a few of them are horrible with their money despite making millions.
Somehow, some way, professional athletes can have the propensity to end up virtually penniless despite cashing paychecks worth more than what many Americans can make in a year.
As the Star Tribune notes, despite being one of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL for years, Washington Redskins star Adrian Peterson is reportedly millions of dollars in debt. It’s even more mind-boggling when you consider that Peterson has made over $100 million in his career through both contracts and endorsements.
The sad truth is that, through a combination of leeches, frivolous spending and bad investments, too many athletes burn through their riches with no fallback plan.
Which is all to say that when an athlete is able to smartly and effectively save their money, it’s rather refreshing.
And when an athlete is able to save 90 percent of his earnings for an inevitable rainy day in the future? It’s downright commendable.
New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland is hardly a household name, but his financial prudence is something most athletes could take note of.
The 28-year-old Copeland has made nearly $3 million in his six years of playing in the NFL, according to Spotrac. Obviously far more than what your average American would make in that time span, but markedly less than many of his peers. That includes fellow Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley, who inked a very lucrative five-year $85 million deal this offseason.
According to ESPN, Copeland is making the most his time in the NFL and he’s imparting that knowledge by teaching a course nicknamed “Life 101” at the University of Pennsylvania.
The course is designed to teach college students about finances and goes just beyond formulas and numbers. It’s intended to help students better understand investing, a traditional 401K and Roth IRAs.
“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. You’re going to have to use something in this class,” Copeland told ESPN. “And you can’t say that for every class at Penn. Every student. Every major.”
And Copeland seems eminently qualified to teach these students. Whereas Peterson has somehow lost all of his $100 million in earnings, Copeland has squirreled away 90 percent of his post-tax salary, per CNBC.
While some athletes seem intent on spending their copious funds on things like diamond-encrusted chains and expensive cars, Copeland has stashed approximately 60 percent of his post-tax earnings in investments and another 30 percent straight into his savings.
Copeland has found it more than possible to live off the 10-15 percent remaining.
“I’ve literally hoarded money,” Copeland told ESPN in 2017. “I’m literally stacking, stacking, stacking. 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.”
And unlike some of his peers, Copeland seems extremely cognizant that his football-playing days will end.
Just as importantly, Copeland is connecting with his students on issues and lessons that will likely far outlast a student’s need to know the Pythagorean theorem or the ideal gas law.
“I was kind of shocked how good of a professor he was,” sophomore Mark Jackson told ESPN.
Professional athletes should never be idolized as role models. But if athletes are willing and able to help future adults with practical, real-life knowledge? That’s something everyone should be able to get on board with.
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