Veteran linebacker Brandon Copeland has played for the Jets since 2018, and while he's been among their most effective players on the field, his various endeavors and successes off the field are arguably an equally compelling part of his story.
The Ivy League product recently won the NFLPA's Alan Page Award, which is the association's highest award presented to a player each season and recognizes their outstanding service in the community. Copeland graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013 and he's already back on campus — only this time, as the teacher. His course, which he charmingly refers to as "Life 101", offers financial literacy and personal finance wisdom to any undergraduate who wants to take it. Unsurprisingly, it's become one of the most popular courses at Penn.
Given this background, Copeland's latest partnership with Capital One and their Mind Over Money Study couldn't be more fitting. The study explores the negative role stress plays in developing and maintaining a healthy financial mindset, and ultimately aims to point people towards a better financial outcome in encouraging them to make simple - but impactful - shifts in their perspective.
The study found that when people experience stress, they're less likely to save, plan their spending, plan ahead to cover unexpected expenses, and even do things as simple as make a list ahead of time when shopping. Furthermore, it found that a whopping 77% of people feel anxious about their financial situation, and 58% feel that it controls their lives.
Fortunately, the study also found that shifting one's perspective towards the "bigger-picture", and thinking about long-term goals for even a few seconds a day can actually lead to healthier financial behavior. This includes budgeting, saving, having confidence about tackling financial hurdles going forward, and more.
Brandon Copeland discussed the impacts of this study with AOL and opened up about what financial literacy has meant in his own NFL career and beyond, below:
Why were you passionate about teaching a financial literacy course for college kids?
Brandon Copeland: "Originally, I started the class and we came to [Penn] with the idea of teaching kids about 'life's constants'. I mean constants in the sense of maybe one day they're buying a house, they're building their credit, they're budgeting, investing, doing all of these things that everyone eventually has to deal with, but no one talks about with young people for whatever reason. It quickly became the most popular course on campus... and my goal initially starting it was just to utilize my platform and spread awareness around financial literacy, and to eventually be able to make it accessible for all."
What did it mean to you to return to Penn as a young alum and give back in this way?
"It's very cool and very humbling. I think it also serves as a unique opportunity that I didn't think it would be last year... I'm really doing this as a part of my foundational efforts to give back, but also, as I walk to my class and walk around campus it serves as an opportunity to reflect, which I really don't get often. One of the things I'm trying to do a better job of is actually taking a deep breath and thinking like, wow, like, good job! This is awesome. I've worked for this my whole life, and I deserve this. Those walks have kind of come to help me pause and say, 'Look how far I've come."
Why did partnering with Capital One for their Mind Over Money Study feel like the right thing for you?
"Capital One and I partnered to find ways to get information regarding financial literacy, which is what I'm passionate about, to everyone. More importantly, they actually backed it up with research and studies. In the Mind Over Money Study, they worked with The Decision Lab to get a group of individuals - 1,000 people who look like America's population - and see how they were feeling about their finances. That was awesome to me. They found that 77% of people are anxious about their finances, right? Last year I had a theory, so to speak, that a lot of our mental wellness and anxiety and stress comes from our money issues. Capital One has done a great job with their study in terms of actually finding the research and the numbers to back that up, and telling people what they can do about it."
Why do you think that thinking about your long-term financial goals for a few seconds a day can improve your financial habits? Have you experienced that yourself?
"I think because money and understanding your finances is stressful to some people, a lot of people treat money like their health, right, where they just don't want to know. It's, 'I don't want to see what's in my bank account right now after the weekend I just had', or 'I just graduated, I moved into this apartment, I'm swiping my credit card a lot and I don't even want to look at my balance because I know if I look, it's going to send me into a spiral.' But truly by just attacking [your finances] and understanding them, that's the only way you have a chance to build wealth and become financially healthy.... I try to challenge people to find their own 'Why's' and their own value standpoint. By looking at what you're working with, and becoming comfortable with it every day, you actually have a judgment zone and a basis point. I'll use myself personally as an example: every paycheck, I take a screenshot of my account. Then I'm like, 'Okay, how do I make sure it's never here again?' ...I'm truly thinking, 'How do I make sure the next time I take a screenshot, I'm working towards something, or I'm investing in something to make this grow?' Even if I'm not always in the spot I want, I have an understanding of what my financial makeup is, and of where I want it to go."
How has playing in the NFL helped you on your personal journey towards financial literacy?
"For me personally, I've always been a little different. I've always wanted football to be a means to an end... I love my team, but I really think of the game as the gateway for the life that I want to create for myself, and for financial freedom. Whether it's startup capital, or whatever. So, I was always a little different in that mindset. What I think being in the NFL did was, it just gave me access to a lot of things that I never knew were out there in terms of investment opportunities, etc... I knew I wanted to understand the different things out there, and figure out what was the best for me. One of the things I tell a lot of players is, 'You've worked your entire life to be sitting in the chair that you are, and to be making the money that you are. Now is not the time to get lazy."
What do you like about the way Capital One approaches financial freedom?
"I love what they offer both their clients and their non clients, to be quite honest with you. I think Capital One cares. They have a free credit monitoring app, called CreditWise, to help you understand and improve your credit, they offer Money Coaching at the Capital One Cafés - all for free and whether you’re a customer or not. For me, that's the most important thing - that you're making this accessible to everyone. You're not putting barriers to enter in on this. We're aligned in that mindset and that way of thinking, and that's important to me."