personal finance

Avoid ‘Get Rich Quick' Schemes to Build Wealth: NFL, Money Pro Brandon Copeland

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A midseason injury forced Patriots linebacker Brandon Copeland onto the NFL sidelines, but that didn't prevent Copeland from remaining an active member of his community. 

Copeland, a self-described optimist, is also a realist. He sees systemic race issues, like redlining, often preventing those who need help the most from getting it. "There's a systemic issue that has plagued where you started in life and where you are today. We need everyone to join in the conversation."

This week, the stock market has been a bigger part of that broader conversation about inequality. A wild stock market ride has highlighted the wealth gap in the U.S. Reddit traders attacked hedge fund short positions in part to highlight an opaque Wall Street financial system that favors the wealthy and exclusive trading networks. But it also led to fears of the "little guy" being duped in pump-and-dump stock schemes, which in turn led powerful politicians to insert themselves into the latest debate about a Wall Street "casino."

Amid the market volatility, which led to some massive short-term gains — followed by major declines on Tuesday — in risky stocks and commodities, Copeland told CNBC there is one fundamental investing lesson to remember: get-rich-quick schemes are not the way to build wealth for the future.

"When you are talking about investing, talking about growing wealth, it is a time thing, right ... patience is key," Copeland told CNBC's Scott Wapner on Halftime Report on Tuesday. "There's a lot of 'get rich quick' schemes out there, a lot of ways to make money fast, but in the long run you want to find ways to create sustainable investment opportunities so we are building wealth for the long run, not just for ourselves but our families and the generations to come."

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Drawing on his experience teaching at the University of Pennsylvania (Copeland also attended its Wharton School of Business as an undergrad) he launched an online course, Life101.io, in 2021. The online course helps students navigate the complex money decisions they will encounter throughout life. 

"It's all about access to information," said Copeland, who also operates a non-profit organization Beyond the Basics and is a member of CNBC's Financial Wellness Council

He said it is important to remember it's hard to tell individuals struggling to make ends meet to remain patient, and that is part of the reason why financial education is crucial early in life. "It is easy to tell someone to have patience and invest over the long term, but when people can't eat tonight and that has not only been caused by their own inadequacies but by systemic issues. ... You don't even have a chance to do the proper things with your money if you never learned them. When we look at our schools, our education system, when did we ever have a class on budgeting?"

The course is free for anyone to use and students can communicate directly with Bradon via live classes and text messages. Topics include everything from saving for retirement to dissecting mortgages. 

The course also includes discussions about social inequities, like the racial wealth gap.

Copeland, who saves over 90% of his NFL income, recounted the sudden wave of financial advice he received when he was drafted into the NFL versus earlier in his life. "Was I not worthy of some of this knowledge and understanding that this knowledge is power?"

The NFL linebacker remains hopeful for real change, but admits that some leaders seem reluctant. "There are some people with decision-making abilities and places of power who don't understand or at this point don't want to understand."

"I think there is still more that needs to be done and I hope that we don't let lip service get in the way of actually acting on programs that will actually change people's lives, literally," Copeland added. 

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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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