An NFL player who saves almost all his salary teaches a Wharton class called ‘Life 101,’ and his first assignment shocks students

Brandon Copeland of the NFL's New York Jets teaches a financial-literacy class at Wharton.

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Brandon Copeland of the NFL’s New York Jets teaches a financial-literacy class at Wharton.
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Brandon Copeland

  • New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland has a Wall Street background, runs his own real-estate business, and teaches a financial-literacy class at Wharton.
  • Nicknamed “Life 101,” the class “deals with the realities of life” by teaching various financial topics, Copeland told Business Insider.
  • In the first class, he has all students do an exercise that he says “brings them down to earth”: create an estimated budget based on their expected earnings.

New York Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland has a financial acumen as strong as his game on the football field.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School, Copeland interned at the investment bank UBS for two summers during college and worked remotely for the Wall Street firm Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers during the 2017 NFL off-season, according to ESPN.

Copeland, whose NFL salary is a reported $1.2 million, according to Spotrac, told Business Insider he saves almost all of his salary. He also has experience flipping houses, runs his own real-estate company with his wife, and teaches a financial-literacy class at his alma mater with Brian Peterson.

The class, which Copeland nicknamed “Life 101,” tackles financial topics such as buying a first home, whether to buy or lease a car, and student-loan debt.

“The point is to go through the realities of life and all these things we have to deal with,” he said. “If you make a financial mistake, you can end up paying for that mistake for 30 years of your life. The goal is to have the students in my class be able to make these big decisions and make them more confidently.”

Brandon Copeland saves the majority of his salary.

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Brandon Copeland saves the majority of his salary.
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Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Read more: Rob Gronkowski saved his entire $54 million career earnings in the NFL by following one simple money rule

In the first class, Copeland uses an exercise to prove to students that it’s not about what they make, but more about what they spend; he emphasizes that the cost of living in certain places can dramatically affect their intentions to save, he said. To do this, he walks them “through an estimated budget based on what they expect to make.”

Copeland first has students look up the average salary of what they want to do for work or want to earn. He then takes them through their budget one item at a time, looking at expenses for things like Netflix, cable, cellphone bills, and student-loan payments, he said. He has students apply certain costs, such as average rent, based on their desired living location; living in a more expensive place like New York or California can affect their budget.

This first-day assignment has shocked many students, Copeland said.

“Some people go over budget and realize they have to rethink their lifestyle – that’s the initial come-down-to-earth moment,” he said. While discussing the importance of a budget with students, he tries to get them to understand that if they want a certain career or lifestyle, they may need to do something else to supplement it or pursue it in a different state, he said.

“I get them to think about [financial decisions] rather than diving right in,” he said. “I tell them, ‘I’m not trying to kill your dreams – I’m trying to enable your dreams.'”