Brandon Copeland

Veteran Financial Advice to the NFL's New "Overnight Millionaires"

As the NFL Draft looms, Kiplinger.com contributing editor and NFL linebacker Brandon Copeland offers guidance to those about to receive a boatload of cash.

What's up everybody, it's Brandon Copeland a/k/a  Professor Cope here, and you are tuned into another episode of Cope'ing with Money. Today on Cope'ing with Money, we're tackling the issue that is near and dear to my heart. We're giving some advice to some young players entering the NFL right now. Years ago, we gained a lot of traction giving some advice to the rookies entering the NFL. Now it's 2021, the world is very different. So I thought it was only right that we update that information.

See All of Brandon Copeland's Cope'ing With Money Features on Kiplinger.com.

Before we get started, I want you all to think about reading between the lines. Not every article, feature, or story will slap you with a headline that'll say your name and this is for you. Sometimes we have to read between the lines. We have to understand what message the stories are trying to get across and then take that information, transcribe it or translate it into a language that speaks directly to us in our lives. The advice that I'm giving in this feature can be applied to anyone. And I mean anyone. It's not just for NFL players. It's not just for high net worth individuals. This is for us all. Cope'ing with Money, please let me know what you think. Read between the lines.

National Football League or "Not For Long"?

So first and foremost, welcome to the NFL. Some of you, don't get yourselves too comfortable because you'll only be here for a few hours. Some of you will last a little bit longer. But ultimately, NFL stands for "Not For Long" for a reason. When I came into the NFL out of the University of Pennsylvania, I remember the Baltimore Ravens giving me a call. And technically I was signed to a three-year, $1.45 million contract. However, I was fortunate because I understood that this contract meant nothing. I ultimately saw 26,000 of those dollars before being fired for the first time. Good thing I didn't go spend it all in one night. Unlike other players, I was fortunate to have a grandfather, Roy Hilton, who played in the NFL and actually won a Super Bowl. Growing up he was able to teach me that like many things in life, there's more work involved to actually make sure that you can cash in on that contract.

Another term that you might be hearing thrown around a lot right now is "overnight millionaire." I'm here to tell you that is complete bull... Sorry, forgot we're censored here. But that's bull... It's a term that should not exist because that is the biggest slap in the face, most disrespectful thing that they can say to you. When I started playing football in the fourth grade. Every single week, we had to make a weight, 115 pounds in order to play that Saturday. For me, I was a little husky, little big boned so I had to train and run to make weight, every single week. I started in that summer, putting trash bags around my body and running around the house, trying to sweat off and lose as many pounds as possible. During the week, I had to diet and run extra just to make sure I made that 115-pound weight limit on Saturday. You are not an overnight millionaire, you've invested in this. You put in more time than others to get where you are today.

So protect your investment. If you think you've never invested before in your life, I'm here to tell you, congratulations, you have.

Learning to Say "No"

One of the biggest things that a lot of us will have to get comfortable with is the word, "No." While all of us have dreams and aspirations off the field, you want to help as many people as possible and also repay some of the people who helped you get there. If you haven't budgeted appropriately for these things, you're going to find out at the end of the year. "Whoa, I don't have anything left from myself." Also [you] want to prep your mind for the tough conversations you're about to have. There'll be a lot of family members, loved ones, neighbors, old girlfriends from second grade that will be pulling on you asking for a favor, asking for a loan. Unfortunately, you just cannot be the bank for everyone. A lot of us set ourselves up as a safety net, not realizing that we can't afford to keep up with being the safety net when the NFL checks stop coming in.

Because again, newsflash, they're going to stop. We need to learn how to say "no". And we need to learn how to use our platforms to allow people around us who are asking for favors to seize opportunities.

Be the GM of Your Personal Team

The next thing we have to discuss is the team. Listen, we're in a team sport, the ultimate team sport, but what does that team around you off the field look like? I need you all to evaluate your relationships, are these healthy? Are these enhancing me? Are these amplifying me? Or are these always draining me? If you call somebody and every single time you call them, they ask you for money or they have some drama, it's not going to last that long. Understand that the asks that you get today, as opposed to the ask you got as a college player are totally different. Do you think it's normal for somebody to come up to you and ask you for $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, $100,000.

If they wouldn't ask you for a large lump sum of money like that in college, why do you think you owe it to them now that you're in the NFL? Not everyone is built for this journey. Not everyone is built for this ride. Those that are, those that deserve it, hold on to them. But make sure that you never allow your personal relationships to diminish your business opportunities. There's a bunch of veterans in a locker room, talk to them, see what they're doing correctly, see what they're doing incorrectly. But ultimately, understand that if my vision for myself is further than those people I'm around, I can't operate and act like them.

Stay True to Yourself

Final piece of advice I'd say is be you, stay true to who you are. You're coming into the NFL now, and you're coming from college, you probably didn't have multiple cars, probably didn't have multiple houses. For this first year, let's stay true to who we were as college athletes. Learn about the money and the business of the NFL before you make the large purchases and the large decisions. I'm sure you're coming into the league with your own set of responsibilities and the people you want to take care of, understand that you're playing the long game. You have to make the best decisions for you, your family's longevity. Bart Scott said in the documentary 30 for 30, "Live like a king for a day or live like a prince for forever." I'm choosing to live like a prince. What about you?

That's a wrap on another episode of Cope'ing with Money. I hope that this information helps. I hope that this information saves you from some headaches and ultimately saves you some money. If you want to see any more of my features or thoughts about money, go to kiplinger.com/cope, share this with a loved one. And for everyone listening, this is not just for NFL players. This is for everyone. We can all learn to say "no." We all understand the difference between enabling and helping. Let's take care of our money. Let's live like princes and princesses for forever. For Cope'ing with Money, I'll see you next time.

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