It's not always about money

By Ray DePaul

I recently found myself as a fly on the wall of a conversation involving a very intelligent Canadian who happens to be a household name. He delivered as expected but one comment had me scratching my head. When asked light heartedly about the chances of the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup in the near future, this luminary commented that one reason for their struggles was that Canadian taxes prevented the likes of Steven Stamkos from signing with Toronto. For those who don't follow hockey, Stamkos was one of the coveted free agents last year and was pursued by a lot of teams including Toronto. The belief that he wouldn't come to Toronto simply because Canadian taxes are higher than the US didn't sit well with me, so I decided to dig into what happened.

It turns out that Stamkos decided to forego a substantial boost in his contract (as much as $2.5M a year for 8 years) to stay in Tampa Bay and be part of building a winning team. In fact, if he did sign with Toronto, not only would his salary bump more than cover any additional taxes, he would have certainly landed endorsement contracts worth tens of millions of dollars over the life of his contract. Let's face it, being a hockey superstar in Toronto is far more lucrative than being a puck jockey in Florida.

So has Stamkos lost his mind? Was the icon that shared the tax advantages of playing in the US versus Canada just smarter than the coveted hockey player? I don't think so. I think Stamkos behaved like most of us do every single day. We are not simple beings who are driven by the single measure of financial success. Each and every day we make decisions that trade off financial success with other factors that are important to us. You could make more money if you moved to San Francisco. You could command a better salary in the finance industry. You could make tens of thousands in bonuses if you travelled and sold more. Or, as my first mentor said, "you could go places if you don't let this family crap get in your way."

Well the truth is, we're not that simple. Our definition of success isn't exclusively defined by our bank account. We care about where we live, who we live with, and how we spend our free time. Assuming that Steve Stamkos or any of us would turn our life upside down simply for money doesn't acknowledge the complex intertwined decisions that every one of us makes every day.

I just spent an hour writing a blog that few will read. I refuse to believe that my time would have been better spent earning more money.