PODCAST: Brandon Copeland on Reaching Financial Freedom

This NFL player’s path to a future of financial independence after his pro career is over can help the rest of us plan.

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Brandon Copeland
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David Muhlbaum: Brandon Copeland wears a lot of hats in addition to his Atlanta Falcons helmet. Yes, he's a professional football player, but also a real estate investor and personal finance educator. He's pursued that last mission in a number of places, including his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. But for the last year or so, we've been honored to have him join us as a contributing editor. We'll catch up with Professor Cope, also what to do if you get a bill for your COVID jab.

Welcome to Your Money's Worth. I'm Senior Online Editor David Muhlbaum. I'm joined by my co-host, Sandy Block. How are you doing, Sandy?

Sandy Block: Feeling great. I'm getting my COVID booster shot on Monday.

David Muhlbaum: Lucky you. I mean that. I'm not even being my usual sarcastic self. Well, was it hard to come by?

Sandy Block: No, actually I called up... I got the J&J, which means I'm eligible right away and I called up the CVS in a Target near my house and got an appointment. And that's great because I can maybe buy some bath towels while I'm there.

David Muhlbaum: Okay.

Sandy Block: But one thing did jump out at me and gave me some concern because when I made the appointment... I think when I got my first shot, I just went to a health care community center in Arlington. When I made the appointment with the CVS, they asked me for a ton of information about my insurance, my number, my group number. And I thought, "Does that mean I'm going to have to pay? Will my insurance company... Will I get a copay?" And a lot of people have that same question. This came up with the first round of vaccinations and I suspect it will come up again. Nearly a third of unvaccinated adults say they're concerned about out-of-pocket costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and those aren't-

David Muhlbaum: Out-of-pocket costs for a COVID shot?

Sandy Block: Yeah. That they'll get a copay. That they'll get a bill. And some people actually have been billed and frankly, given the state of our healthcare system, when was the last thing you got anything for free? I mean, usually there's something.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. It seems like an anomaly.

Sandy Block: Yeah. It's definitely an anomaly that there's no copay, there's no... Oh, the other thing is people, so many of us now have high deductible insurance policies and people think, "Well, maybe I won't get billed, but it'll count against my... I will get billed later because I haven't met my deductible." So people are skeptical about this. We're not used to getting anything for free.

David Muhlbaum: Well, I have not gotten my flu shot yet and I'm meaning to, and maybe I should just mosey over there. But one of the things that does strike me is I see the signs that say, "Free flu shots." I mean-

Sandy Block: Right.

David Muhlbaum: ... is that new?

Sandy Block: No. I think that's just to get you in the door. It is... I believe that-

David Muhlbaum: And buy some towels.

Sandy Block: Yeah. Buy some towels. Well, I think that's a little disingenuous. I mean, under the ACA preventive care is -- insurance can't charge you for preventive care, but I suspect if you walk into one of those places and say, "I don't have any insurance," maybe that free would go away.

David Muhlbaum: Okay. But let's be clear with the COVID shot-

Sandy Block:With the COVID shot, it is absolutely free. Insurance-

David Muhlbaum: So if you just said, "I don't have any-"

Sandy Block: No, you get your shot.

David Muhlbaum: ... it shouldn't be a problem.

Sandy Block: You get the shot. And that's because, I'm just thinking about how I was going to express this. You've already paid for it. Taxpayers paid for the vaccination. So you have paid for your shot already. These Moderna and Pfizer and J&J are not giving these shots away out of the goodness of their hearts. They're subsidized by us, by the taxpayers.

David Muhlbaum: Okay. But the person sitting there in... Were you going to Target?

Sandy Block: Mm-hmm. Yes, I am going to Target.

David Muhlbaum: You're going to Target. The person sitting there in Target, who's paying for them?

Sandy Block: I think that... Well, that's a good question. I don't know. I don't know. I'll ask on Monday.

David Muhlbaum: But because maybe that has to do with why essentially somebody's going to get billed, right? They're not supposed... They're not giving it. Everyone's giving it away for free.

Sandy Block: Right. And I think that's why they ask for your insurance information. But the takeaway here is the fact that they've asked for your insurance information does not mean that your insurance company can charge you a copay or say that your deductible didn't cover this. Now, given the complications in our system, some people have been billed, which leads to this concern and that may happen because the providers bill them directly instead of their insurers, or somebody just made a medical billing mistake, which happens a lot.

But if that happens, don't pay it, because you don't have to. You should call your provider directly and dispute the charges. You could also call your insurance company and they'll help you to get the bill waived, because this is something that... There's not a whole lot that's clear these days, but this is clear. The vaccination is free.

David Muhlbaum: Good. Okay. Go out if you can and get your booster. Sounds good.

Sandy Block: Or your first one, if you haven't gotten it.

David Muhlbaum: Or your first one. Yes. Good grief. Coming up next, we will get to talk to Brandon Copeland, NFL linebacker and Kiplinger contributor, stick around.

Brandon Copeland on Reaching Financial Freedom

David Muhlbaum: Today, we're welcoming back to Your Money's Worth Brandon Copeland, a man who plenty of people know as a professional football player currently signed to the Atlanta Falcons, where he's a linebacker. But at Kiplinger, we also know him as a contributing editor, and those are just two of the many jobs he holds down.

We hope you've seen the content he's been creating for us over the past year, videos about all sorts of topics, real nuts and bolts stuff about the, not so obvious cost of ownership, as well as a fascinating sit down with a WNBA player and now team owner, Renee Montgomery. Yeah. We're going to put in the links -- Brandon's got his own page on our site. So welcome back, Brandon, and also joining us for this segment is Kyle Woodley, our senior investing editor, and a guy who knows football better than me and we'll have some questions about Brandon's day job as well. So welcome, Brandon.

Brandon Copeland: Hello. Hello. Hello. I'm excited to be back. The difference in a year... Last year at this time, we couldn't even go outside.

David Muhlbaum: That's right.

Brandon Copeland: Now we can go outside a little bit.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. Well, when we spoke last year, you were in a hotel lobby outside the New England Patriots practice facility up in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and today it's the middle of the regular season and, well, you're playing for the Atlanta Falcons. So I've got two questions. Where are you right now? And where do you call home? Like, where is your house?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. No, I'm actually literally in the Atlanta Falcons players' lounge right now, and my home... So, in-season, we have an apartment five minutes away from here. I try to live as close to the facility as possible, but my home is Florida now. It used to be New Jersey, but now it's Florida. Like most people, trying to make some tax moves. Smart moves.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. You just hit on a Kiplinger classic right there.

Sandy Block: That's my lane.

David Muhlbaum: Now why, everybody? Because Florida doesn't have a...

Brandon Copeland: State tax.

Sandy Block: State income tax.

David Muhlbaum: Okay. But Brandon is literally exposed to what is known as the jock tax. Sandy, you're going to explain the jock tax to us?

Sandy Block: Oh, no. I bet Brandon can explain it better than I can because he actually has to pay it. Right, Brandon?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. 100% Sandy. Yeah, no. Pretty much. Actually it's funny. I started my own podcast, Money Music Culture and this week we were talking about it because literally it's similar. Every week, depending on where we play, we get taxed. So whether we're playing in New York, we're getting taxed at the New York rate. And if we play in California, we get taxed at the California rate.

Brandon Copeland: We play in London, we have to pay London tax. We have to pay UK tax, right? And so whenever I look at my schedule and I see we play the Miami Dolphins, great, Tampa Bay, great, Texans, great, right? It's a little extra money in that check that week. And that's always a good thing for me personally.

Sandy Block: And just to add to that, it isn't really just an issue for jocks, although you probably pay more. This is something we wrote about quite a bit right after the pandemic, because a lot of people lived in a lot of different places and depending on the state, you could work in a... It's all over the map in terms of rules, but you could work in a state for just a couple of days and have to file income taxes in that state. It really varies. And obviously, you guys are very public, so it's hard for... If I worked in California for three days, they might not notice, but if you're playing there, they know you're there.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. No, it definitely hurts that 13% or so gone out of your check. You're like, "Man, I wish we could play this on the state borderline. Can't we play this in Washington?"

Sandy Block: Nevada. That's right.

David Muhlbaum: Yeah. Right. That's California. I can tell by the number. Kyle. Well, that's where one of his houses is.

Kyle Woodley: I was going to say that's where one of them is, but when Brandon's not busy onto the Dolphins' woeful season, he's elbow deep in the real estate biz. I mean, do you mind telling the listeners a little bit about where you've been buying up houses? Why you chose the locations you did? And any other little gems you've discovered about this crazy real estate market?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. So started real estate in 2016, started studying, started going and viewing places in 2017. Finally got the gumption and the courage to actually buy my first home in Detroit. I bought a home in Detroit because I was playing with the Lions so that I could watch the entire process. It was a co-investment with a former Detroit Lion.

And from that process, I was able to figure out what my own process wouldl be where I could start investing on my own. And so since then, we've done a number of flips in Detroit and we've also started transitioning, doing things in New Jersey, Baltimore, my hometown. And I think what I have done and what I am doing is I'm always looking at the process and not being lazy, but just trying to figure out how can I do this smarter or more efficient?

How can I require less of my own time to do this? And so we're graduating as a business and we're starting to do larger multi-unit developments. We have a 66-unit, a 37-unit, a 16- and a 12-unit, all affordable housing coming in downtown Newark, New Jersey, all of them starting to break ground.

Brandon Copeland: One should hopefully break ground before 2022, and the rest should start breaking in spring of 2022, which we're excited about. But then, a lot of people will be happy with that, but I'm also trying to figure out how can we do this simpler? So now I'm starting to look in the storage units and parking lots. I haven't made that first initial investment yet, but that is the next graduation for me.

I want to be able to turn keys over to my son and future sons. We have another baby boy on the way and I want to be able to tell them, "Hey, this is really, really difficult. Just repaint the white lines on these parking spaces every 50 years. Don't mess this up." That's where we're going next, hopefully.

Sandy Block: Well, having just cleaned out a house, I can certainly see why the demand for storage units will continue to rise. There is just way, way, way too much stuff in this world right now.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. And, I mean, to also answer what you mentioned about the market as well, Kyle, this is one of the hottest markets of all time as we all very much know, right? For those people who were sitting on the sidelines and thinking, wondering if they would sell their houses five to 10 years from now, a lot of them have sped that up and said, "Hey, let me go ahead and get it while the getting is hot."

Obviously the historically low interest rates and stimulus checks and things like that have helped amplify or helped put this market on a fast track. And I think what we'll see is the Fed starts to allow interest rates to raise, right, as we see interest rates rising.Instead of you seeing people pull back from the market initially, I think what we'll see, is an initial pour into the real estate market again, because people will be afraid that as these interest rates rise, this is my last time to get in before it just continues to skyrocket, right? So I do think we still have a little bit of time for this market to stay hot.

It's cooling off just a tad bit right now, but that could also just be because it's the holidays, it's getting colder in certain areas and things like that. But I do think we will see this market continue to rise for at least the next year or so.

Sandy Block: Brandon, I've been around long enough, although here where we live in the DC area, we haven't seen much in the way of down markets, but I remember back in the early '90s that we did have one and certainly in other parts of the country 2008, 2009, there were huge declines. What are you thinking in terms of how you protect yourself, your investments against... If people say this is a bubble, what are you doing to protect yourself against that?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. Great question. We all heard when we were kids, what goes up must come down at some point, right? And so you'd be foolish not to be protecting yourself. What I try to do is I'm trying to build a moat, first and foremost, of all my assets, right? There are certain different asset classes, so that hopefully when real estate does cool off, we are still cranking in other areas per se, right?

But with the real estate portfolio itself, one of the reasons why I am trying to diversify into the storage units is to get out of some of those asset classes that are heavily dependent on tenants and those tenants having jobs. Trying to find more recession-proof, pandemic-proof investments, and who would have ever thought that that would be a term, right? A pandemic-proof investment.

But I mean, let's face it. We have been able to look at this and those who've been able to live through this and look at this, right? We are able to look at it and take notes on things that we know will be strong investments regardless of what type of shape the world is in, right? When you see people storming local Walmarts and grocery stores to get waters and toilet paper. Well, we know those places aren't going anywhere.

Brandon Copeland: Another thing that I'm trying to do, I didn't even mention it before, I'm trying to find commercial assets. We're working on developing land for triple net leases where our tenants are no longer individuals like myself, but now we have 25-year leases from Amazon and Chipotle and BPs, right?

So again, these things are... One of my favorite rappers, his name is Meek Mill, he talks about there's levels to this. And as, I guess, the biggest thing that someone may be able to take away from me, because I know what a lot of people are listening and thinking, "Oh, you're an NFL player and so it's easy for you to talk about these assets and all that type of stuff."

I am learning. I am a student of life and it is easy for me to just play football and focus on football and make that money and go home and sit down and relax. But it is actually what I am on this earth for, it's what we are on this earth for is to keep learning and to elevate and to find ways to do these things, not just on a bigger and better level, but on an easier level. That's what I'm really looking for.

I'm really at the point where I'm trying to buy my time back so that I can hang out with my son more. That's what I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about five, 10 years from now. I don't want to have to do certain things. So I want to be able to put those or sow those seeds today. And so those are the types of things I'm thinking about. And I hope that those commercial investments will be recession-proof, pandemic-proof.

David Muhlbaum: I mean, the thrust of what you've done with us, as you've done with others, is personal finance education. I like to think it works well for all of us, but I'm kind of wondering now that you're one year in, and I'm asking this in part because you were just talking about this ongoing education. What did you learn from the process that you didn't know before? From working with us?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. So the process is everything. That's where the education happens, right? And so stepping away from the Kiplinger features that we've done, but just thinking about football and then bringing it back to Kiplinger's, right? Like this week we're playing... Who are we playing? The Panthers, right? The process is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, the routine, the massage, the playbooks, the new plays, just to beat the Panthers, the research, the discovery period, right?

Not only discovering new ways for me to be a better player on Sunday, but also for me to understand this new team this week and that same process, that same energy is what it takes to really do a good feature because there's research involved to learn the details and the intricacies, not to just regurgitate something that you read, but to really break it down in a way that makes sense to everyone.

Brandon Copeland: I think that that's the only reason why I'm here personally, is we have had a lot of, not just in our lives in general. That's one of the reasons why I love what we do together at Kiplinger, right? There are so many people who love to make what they do seem extremely hard and seem like rocket science so that they can be the coolest person at the party and they can make all their friends like, "Wow, I don't know how he understands investing."

But what we do is we try to take something that others may see as super complicated, and we try to break it down and let everyone know that, "Hey, we can all do this. We can all accomplish this." So for me, I think that's been the biggest thing that I've taken from the past year is not just what makes sense, so that I can understand it, but what makes... How do I teach this concept in a way that anyone can understand it? Right?

Kyle Woodley: So Brandon's actually really in a pretty unique position and he gets to do this, be a money mentor to people in a much different financial situation than your average Joe, that is young NFL players. And I think that's really interesting because, believe it or not, that covers a wide range of wealth.

In first rounders, we're looking at $2 million to $6 million yearly salaries to start, not to mention eight figure signing bonuses. Seventh rounders aren't exactly broke. I think it's mid $600,000 salaries to start, signing bonuses are close to $100,000 and then undrafted free agents, I mean, they're looking at mid $400,000, no signing bonus, and it's all better money than most of us make.

But those are really huge differences as far as managing their money is concerned. And as Brandon has talked about with Kiplinger before, they might not see all of the money in that contract. So Brandon, what is it like talking to people that are suddenly coming into life-altering sums of money? And does your advice when you're talking to these young players tend to differ depending on where in the salary pool they're swimming?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. 100% that the advice differs depending on exactly where they are within the salary pool. But I think one of the biggest things that I emphasize first and foremost, which we all can agree, is that the money isn't promised, and that's one thing that I am a huge believer in.

I've seen players, I've seen some of my teammates sign a big new contract and believe the money was dang, they're guaranteed. And then they go out two weeks later and have a big, bad injury. And so they just signed a four year deal, but they will never see year three or four of that deal.

Brandon Copeland: So, first and foremost, I like to make sure that people understand... Personally, I only count the net income. I don't count the gross number. It sounds really, really good to say to your friends, but if you're budgeting off of your gross number, then you've already set yourself up for failure.

Then after that, especially for us as a lot of athletes have never had a job because most of the time in college, especially if you go to the big schools, your job is football or whatever sport you play. You don't have time for a summer internship like I did at Penn. We were the Alabama of the Ivy League, don't get me wrong -- people did not want to play us, but I had time to go ahead and take those internships in the summer.

Brandon Copeland: But I like to make sure people understand as well that I personally don't count money until it actually hits my bank account. That is something that can help people avoid a lot of pitfalls and traps, especially for us as athletes. The money is so variable that it's easy to start thinking, "Hey, here in week eight of the NFL season, I'm going to start planning what I'm going to do in December with that money." Well, again, you twist your ankle this weekend, you might not ever see that money. So don't spend it too fast. Again, the advice differs for people, but I think that that's the fun part about what we do, is it's not cookie-cutter advice. That was one of the biggest things that I was quoted saying in my first year teaching the course at Penn is...

I remember sitting and doing... This big TV network wanted me to sit down and say a couple of clips or pickups for them. "Hey, can you say something like, save 50% of your money, live off of 30% and invest 20?" And I was like, "No." Some people can't do that. That's cookie-cutter, right?

Some people would look at that and hear that and be like, "Save 50%? I can't keep the lights on if I did that." And then they don't listen to anything else. So I think that that's reason why I love what we do is, regardless of what your financial situation is, you can find something on kiplinger.com that can help you.

David Muhlbaum: One of the things we've published at Kiplinger is how do you find a financial advisor you can trust. I assume it's a bit different in the NFL.

Brandon Copeland: The thing that I always find ironic is that most of us don't tend to just trust new people generally, right? People that you just met for a week, two weeks, a month, et cetera. And now we come to the NFL or we get drafted, and not only are you trusting a new agent, which is great, it's part of the process, you always have to let your guard down to a certain extent. But now this money that you've worked your entire life for, you're going to hand over to a financial advisor you just met in January, right? You got drafted in late March, early April, and so literally you've known this person for three to four months, and you're going to hand over your entire livelihood to them and you're not going to do some work on your end to educate yourself, to be able to monitor them or check on them, right? And I thought that it was always ironic.

So me, one of the pieces of advice I've given to a lot of players is I would talk to a bunch of different financial advisors that first year. If I had no financial understanding, I'd almost consider not putting my money to work for me and just making multiple financial advisors fight for my business. Because from that simple technique alone, you'll see a lot of those people drop out of the race themselves.

Brandon Copeland: "Oh, you're not worth it, oh..." Tell you bad things about yourself, right? "Oh, no. I don't... This is a waste of my time." Things like that. Cool, you're not the person for me, because you're clearly only here for my platform. When it comes to my money, I need somebody who's going to be with me long beyond my playing years.

And that is one of the relationships that I don't think us as players cherish that much. Because, again, most of the time you meet an agent, that agent has people and referrals and friends that he or she has worked with in the past and that's who they're introducing you to. And a lot of times we just blindly have faith in these new people in our lives.

Brandon Copeland: So when it comes to picking a financial advisor, the first thing anyone has to do is they have to work for my business. You have to earn my business and you have to get multiple opinions. One of the things my accountant says that I really love is, knock on wood, if I had to go get knee surgery, would I just take one opinion and go get it? Or would I get multiple opinions? If I needed something, why would I not get a second opinion on my finances as well?

He was like, "Most of the most important decisions in your life, you get multiple opinions on, why not with your finances?" So why not have multiple people, not just working for your business and competing, but also evaluating each other. One of the new things I've started to do with my finances is I have brought different people onto the team to evaluate the current team, because it's easy after a certain amount of time to just get comfortable and just take your job for granted.

Brandon Copeland: That's one of the things we do in the NFL. I promise you, I literally just saw somebody going to their locker with a trash bag, meaning they just got released. They just got fired. They're going home. And I saw a new person coming in, actually one of my former teammates when I was with the Patriots. So, that was pretty cool. It's cool to see that, but you also understand somebody's career is potentially ending as well.

And I always have that fire and that reminder on me personally in my primary job and profession, but we need to do it in not a super stressful way like we do in the locker room, but we need to do it for our financial advisors or our financial team as well, because we're trying to build something that lasts, again, long beyond our playing years. And I hope that guys are starting to get that more. It just takes a little more patience than most of us have. We like immediate results.

Sandy Block: Oh, yeah. We don't want to do the work too. It's easier just to hand it over to someone else and then go on and do something that's really fun, as opposed to looking at spreadsheets or something like that.

Kyle Woodley: So here's the part where we're going to talk about your day job a little bit. So three burning questions for you. I promise these are not hard. These are just nice softball questions I'll throw your way, hopefully. We can translate this into a little bit of media time for you, hopefully NFL Network or something like that. Or if you just want to do something local work with the Atlanta Radio guys but...

Number one, I always just wonder about what personally motivates people, just what they get amped for. I mean, is there a team from your entire time in the league or just now that you're a Falcon where you just really get up to the play against? Anyone on this year's schedule where you're waking up before your alarm, you're showing up to the game early, you're just dying to be a part of that particular win?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. Every former team, that unfortunately...

Kyle Woodley: The revenge tour.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. I was going to say fortunately, or unfortunately at this point I've played for six teams in the NFL. So dang, there almost every other week is a former team of mine at this point. But yeah, no, every former team, I mean, you have a natural inclination to think, "Hey, these people said no to me or these people didn't think I was good enough to be on their team anymore," right?

"I'm the treasure that they lost," that's what I look in the mirror every morning and tell myself the day before the game. But yeah, every former team, they have to get the best version of Brandon Copeland that they can get because it's not only... You're also talking to former teammates, right? You take out the personal vendetta or revenge. It's not necessarily against the players, right? It's more against the front office and the GMs and things like that because those are the decision makers, right? It's also good to go up against your former teammates to make them walk back in the building the next day and be like, "What were we thinking getting rid of him? He was literally on our team and you just let him whoop on us."

Brandon Copeland: So those are the types of things. And I think that that's it. I do personally... What I've realized is you got to create your own motivation week to week. I think early as a young player, it's easy to come in every single week and be ecstatic about just being in the NFL and just grateful to be there, and that's great.

You're living your dream, but once you get to year 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, it's like, "All right, well, I've done this before." It's like, LeBron James, he's done the NBA thing right and done it at the highest level, but what's his new motivation, is it personal goals? Is it personal records? What is that next thing that is going to keep him wanting to be the best? And so I try to find different motivations, not week to week, but different things that push me when I feel a little lethargic. When you feel like, "Hey, I didn't wake up with loads of energy this morning, but I got to go out and whoop up on a 330-pound man who flew here and he's coming here with the same mission in mind, right? He's trying to embarrass me. I got to embarrass him.

Brandon Copeland: So what can I do to mentally take myself there this beautiful Sunday afternoon. And I think that that's some of the things that you hone in on as you continue to mature in the NFL. And for me, I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take that motivation and use it in relation to my off-the-field work as well. And so it will continue to motivate me.

Kyle Woodley: And I feel that's where bulletin board material actually really comes into play. People just think, "Ah, they're a pro. Who cares what somebody says on Twitter or whatever?" But, no, if you get to that point where you actually need something to feed you, I mean, you almost start to look forward to hearing someone say something very stupid about you so that you can go and look at that for the entire week and that's the thing that's going to make you lift harder and go out and hit people harder when you're out in the field. I mean, you're almost inviting that in a way. You want that because that's the thing that's going to get you through that particular week.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. 100%. I know there are times I didn't... I never talked trash. Literally, I never talked trash, in high school, college. I would always try to avoid talking trash because I felt like football is such a dangerous sport, that if you really talk trash and hit a nerve, someone can take you out. Somebody can dive for your knee or do something extra and it's just not worth that.

However, if you talk trash to me, it's on the rest of the game. I'm a different human being. I'm a different player at that point because now it's super personal. And I think, I can't remember... I was in Detroit for sure. And it might have been my second or third year in Detroit when I started to realize and understand why certain players talk trash.

Brandon Copeland: Because I remember there was a couple games and I was just like, I'm waking up super sore without not really feeling like playing, to be honest with you. And I was like, "What can I do to get into this game?" And for me, I was like, I need to talk trash. I need them to say something. I got to say something to you.

I'd literally be having fun. I'd do something and run around. Like, "Man, that's all you've got? Dang, this weak? That's kind of weak." And as soon as they said something back, I'm into the game. Let's go. Now, it doesn't matter how I feel, it doesn't matter what bruises I have.

Now, it's just about me and you and I got to win this match up because I can't let you talk trash to me and beat me. That's just, you know, what are we doing here? So those are the little mental tricks and cues that you develop as a veteran, I think, and just as a player to just make sure that you find that upper hand and win.

David Muhlbaum: Since you're talking about speaking your mind, I want to take you back to a little clip from your talk with Renee Montgomery, which I really enjoyed. Now you got... You were focusing on Renee because it was a podcast to feature her. But I want to ask a little question about a Brandon thing that came up. So I'm going to play you a clip from that:

Brandon Copeland: I remember coming into the NFL and it was like, I don't want people to think that I'm too smart as it makes me feel like a coward saying that. I actually got fired from the job, I think, because I voiced my opinion in a little boisterous way. In terms of, I'm happy being who I am. I have more opportunities. I literally told a head coach, "I'm here because I want to be here. Not because I have to be here," right?

Renee Montgomery: Oh, Lord. Brandon, you can't say that.

Brandon Copeland: Well, I was a little tripping.

Renee Montgomery: You're not supposed to say that.

Brandon Copeland: He tried my school though. He was like, "Why would you choose a school like Penn?" Right? Like, "Hold up bro. Hold up man. I'm here too. Hold up now." I mean there's a lot of opportunities, but I mean, you know me. I'm here because I want to be here, not because I had to be here. Two weeks later-

Renee Montgomery: The audacity.

Brandon Copeland: Two weeks later, I'm at the Greyhound stop like, "Goddamn. What was I thinking?"

Renee Montgomery: But you got that off your chest. At least you said it with your chest.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. It was good. After that it got deflated though. I was like, "All right, let me go ahead and just shut up and tackle. You know what I'm saying?

Renee Montgomery: "Shut up and tackle!"

David Muhlbaum: That was probably some time ago so maybe you can name names, but that's not really my question. My question is, you actually got fired for speaking up? Can you tell us some more? And how do you feel about that situation in retrospect?

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. Yeah. I mean you never know. Maybe in their mind they might have fired me for personnel reasons. I know at the time they needed safety and the weird thing about the NFL, they might need a certain position that has nothing to do with you, but it's a numbers game. It's a zero-sum game. So they got to bring somebody in, they got to release somebody. But at that time it did...

David Muhlbaum: It had to do with Penn?

Brandon Copeland: Well, no, at that time it hurt, but it made me understand, hey, sometimes you can't shine as bright in front of everybody. I think one of the pieces of advice that I got was somebody told me, "Hey, you're trying to stand in right now. Stand out.” And at a certain point in time, even if you're a peacock, so to speak, you got to dull your feathers a little bit, because not everyone's going to understand who you are or your dreams or the bigger aspiration.And I think sometimes in this business, in this profession, there are some coaches who still have that old school mentality, that old school mantra where they want football to be your one and only thing. And they know if they have your one and only thing, you'd be willing to run through a brick wall right now for them because you don't have anything else.

And I don't think that... I'm not willing to run through a brick wall. Clearly I've done it for nine years, but I do. I am proud of myself that I don't have to run through the brick wall unless you tell me why, right? I get to choose whether or not I want to run through that brick wall today or not, right? It's not the only way that I can eat so to speak. And unfortunately for a lot of my peers, that is their truth. That is the case.

And again, different coaches have different reasons and different mentalities and players and character traits that they look forward to build the culture of their locker room and their team. Ultimately, maybe I wasn't the right one for or the right fit for that culture.

David Muhlbaum: I see.

Sandy Block: Actually I see a personal finance analogy there, Brandon, because it seems to me that the point of saving and investing and living on less than you make is the freedom that it gives you. Most people don't have to worry about running into a brick wall, but if you hate your job, you have to move, you get divorced.

Having a financial cushion gives you so many more options than living from paycheck to paycheck. So I do think that that is something that doesn't just apply to football players and you really are in an enviable position that, you're right, you don't have to play football for the rest of your life or do something you don't want to do because you have a backup, a really good backup it sounds like.

David Muhlbaum: That was the plan all along.

Sandy Block: Yeah.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah. 100%. I mean, football has always been a means to an end and for me, with or without football I want to say and my whole entire heart and soul really wants to believe that with or without football, I would be able to sit here and do this, for example, be able to still do something special for this world without the platform and the biggest reason why is because my biggest fear growing up was having to do something I did not love because it's the only way I could put food on the table, right?

Like you are saying, Sandy, by budgeting, by saving, by investing, if you're starting today, next week you might not be able to have that freedom of choice, but eventually you may be able to. And for me, that is the most important thing that I want to have in my lifetime. And now it's not just about me. I want my sons to have that as well. I want my wife to have that as well.

Brandon Copeland: I remember, as a young player in the NFL, a very true story, as a young player in the NFL, my wife works, not every professional athlete's wife works. So I'm extremely proud of my wife and her own dreams and her own passions and things like that and it's awesome to see her do her thing. Before she had this job that she currently has, currently she's at Google. I'll go ahead and shout them out because they treat her very well and she loves her role there.

But before she had this job, she had another job and she literally hated it. It wasn't that -- she was a manager of people and the way that the job wanted her to manage her people, some of which who were older than her, it put her in an extremely uncomfortable place. She had to be someone she wasn't, she had to ridicule things that she wouldn't typically ridicule.

And I remember one day in the off-season dropping her off to work and she got out and she was super down. At first, I thought, "Everybody's going to act like they hate their job," but she really was like, "Oh, I got to do this again." And I was like, "I can't let that be our reality." I can never see my wife have to go into a place that she doesn't love because she feels like she has to put food on the table or bills or whatever, right?"

Brandon Copeland: And for me, that's why we do all the different things that we do, is because we want other people to also have the opportunity to create that financial freedom for themselves. It doesn't mean everything that you're going to do, you're going to love, right? There's things that I got to do to play football that I hate. It's part of the process though, right? It's part of the journey.

But I want to make sure that in the grand scheme of things, when we look at the entire, quote unquote, timeline of my life, I can look at more spots where I was extremely happy and proud of the way that I was doing things and the life that I was able to live, as opposed to the things that I did just to get by, so to speak. That's what we're pushing right here, right?

David Muhlbaum: Since you brought your wife into this, Taylor. I know she's featured a number of times in the content you've created for us. And she's a participant in your projects, activities, investments in addition to, full-time job.

Brandon Copeland: Mother of my kids.

David Muhlbaum: So she... Yeah.

Brandon Copeland: My baby mama. Yeah. No, I don't know how she does it.

David Muhlbaum: Very impressive. Well, congratulations to you on number two-

Sandy Block: On the way?

Brandon Copeland: Yes. Number two on the way.

Sandy Block: That's great.

Brandon Copeland: Yeah.

David Muhlbaum: And that's going to keep you busier than you are already.

Brandon Copeland: Little less sleep. Little less sleep, but yeah, like you said, we're excited. And I think also as you become a parent, for those out there, it's funny because just now I talked to other guys in the locker room who are about to have children. I'm telling them all the things that other people who were parents before me told me, "Oh, it's going to be amazing. It's going to be tiring. It's going to be this," right?

And it's cool to see that transition. But as you become a parent, you also start to realize that there are a lot of things that you have to be doing that are bigger than you, bigger than yourself, right? And financially, I hope that people use...

Brandon Copeland: If you're having a child or if you have children, if you need to use that as your motivation, the same way, sometimes I got to talk trash on Sunday, if you need to use your children as motivation for you to get your money in order, for you to get your wills and your estate planning in order, that's the greatest excuse in the world. That's the greatest motivating factor in the world.

So again, I would encourage everyone out there because I am also guilty of it as well. I would encourage everyone out there to use your children as motivation to go ahead and get those things that you want done financially taken care of. Get those things in order because they are depending on you to do it and they can't do it themselves for you.

David Muhlbaum: Thanks again for joining us, Brandon.

Sandy Block: Thank you Brandon. You're great.

Brandon Copeland: Thank y'all.

Kyle Woodley: Yeah. Thanks for coming on, man.

David Muhlbaum: That will just about do it for this episode of Your Money's Worth. If you like what you heard, please sign up for more at Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your content. When you do, please give us a rating and a review. And if you've already subscribed, thanks. Please go back and add a rating or review if you haven't already.

To see the links we've mentioned in our show, along with other great Kiplinger content on the topics we've discussed, go to kiplinger.com/podcast. The episodes, transcripts and links are all in there by date. And if you're still here because you want to give us a piece of your mind, you can stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or by emailing us directly at podcast@kiplinger.com. Thanks for listening.

Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.