Calgary Flames’ Matt Stajan talks money management

By Jessica Bruno | October 3, 2014 | Last updated on October 3, 2014
4 min read

When NHLer Matt Stajan made his first million at age 20, his financial advisors were the same people who taught him how to count—his parents.

During his rookie years, Mike and Nada Stajan helped their son manage money, even though several outsiders had offered to help with his finances. They were his natural choice, he says.

“When you get your first signing bonus, you take the advice of people you’re closest with,” says Stajan. “My parents taught me how to make the right decisions, and [not to] rush into anything.” Mike runs a fire-door business; Nada is a homemaker.

Eventually, the three of them started looking for someone who could take Matt from day-to-day transactions to a sophisticated financial plan.

Together, they started vetting advisors. The elder Stajans were in the room when Matt met advisor Chris Moynes in 2005 (see “How one advisor helps NHL stars”), who still advises him today.

Now 30, Stajan has been in the NHL for 11 years (the Mississauga, Ont. native started with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2003 and moved to the Calgary Flames in 2010).

This January, he and the Flames signed a four-year deal worth US$12.5 million. When his contract is up in 2018, he’ll have earned a total of about $32.7 million. The NHL players’ collective agreement provides life, accidental death and disability insurance policies. In Stajan’s case, those policies are potentially worth more than $6 million. When he turns 62, he should get a pension of at least $210,000 a year.

Despite these assurances, Stajan says he learned to value money from his parents. As a teenager, he spent summers on the factory floor of his father’s company and winters at the rink.

“They always taught me that you have to work for everything,” he says. “I had to work my whole life to get to the NHL, and as a teenager, if I wanted to make money, I had to work for that too.” Now, he wants to make sure he and his wife, Katie, can live well—no matter what happens on, or off, the ice.

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Do you take a hands-on approach to managing your finances or do you leave that to others?

MS: I definitely take a hands-on approach. You always want to learn about what’s going on with your finances, even though the easy thing would be to just give your money to a financial advisor and let them do everything.

As someone with a public profile and lucrative contract, was it difficult to find an advisor you felt comfortable with?

MS: My first few years in the league, my parents helped me with the basics. When I first started out, I received a lot of interest from people trying to help out with my finances. You get so much advice from people and you don’t know who to trust.

Having friends on the team, we talk about who’s managing our money. You hear about advisors whom the other guys have good relationships with. I met Chris through one of my teammates, and word of mouth was the best way to find an advisor.

With Chris and me, right off the bat I felt a connection and we’ve become really good friends. We can talk about life and it’s not just about finances. It makes everything much easier. I hear stories all the time about other players and their families making bad decisions and being convinced to make investments by the wrong people. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

What problems should an advisor who works with hockey players prepare for?

MS: It’s a unique situation, because you’re making a lot of money at a young age. It’s overwhelming, and you want to make sure you’re making the right decisions. If you’re lucky, you play in the NHL for many years, but the average is three to five years.

You’re making the majority of your income in such a short time. You have to make that money last, because you don’t know what’s going to happen in life, or after you’re done your professional career.

My wife and I meet with Chris a couple times a year. We have a plan in place to make sure that when I’m done playing we can live the lifestyle we choose for the rest of our lives. We have to budget, and we have a long-term income plan.

We have an idea of what we can spend every year. We have to plan for family and future kids, so things can change, but we’ve estimated what we’ll need for the rest of our lives. Saying that, I’m not just going to retire from hockey and do nothing. I’d like to stay in the game, whether it’s coaching minor hockey, being management or getting into media. Those are all ideas I’ve thought about, but I’m not too worried about it right now.

Your past two contracts have been negotiated every four years. Does that influence your financial plans?

MS: For me and my family, it was important to have stability, so I was lucky enough to be in a position to negotiate a long-term commitment with the team. Sometimes players take shorter-term deals to try and make more. I’m happy with the fact that I’ve got four years, and we’ve worked that into our financial plans.

What’s the biggest item you’ve ever splurged on?

MS: When you work so hard to get into the NHL, your initial instinct is to spend your first paycheque and reward yourself. I didn’t do it right away, but pretty quickly I bought a nice car, and I bought my parents a gift. I didn’t overdo it—it was an SUV I really wanted, [so I got] a BMW X5.

Jessica Bruno is a Toronto-based financial writer.

Jessica Bruno