Have You Ever Pulled A Cliff Lee, Choosing Happiness Over Money?

Flamethrowing pitcher Cliff Lee spurned the New York Yankees and their bottomless bankroll for his less wealthy former team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

News reports indicate Lee left as much as $30 million dollars over the life of his contract to rejoin his old pals and move back to familiar surroundings.

The move shocked the sports world because free agents usually flock to whatever team flashes the most money. Things tend to work the same way in the corporate world, where the stakes are higher because the difference in paycheck — unlike in the lofty world of millionaire athletes — significantly alters employees’ lifestyles.

If you’ve ever dumped an offer of higher pay for intangibles, tell us in the comments what factors offset the extra money, and whether or not you regret the choice you made.

In a shocking turnabout, Phillies land Lee [Yahoo]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Blueskylaw says:

    If I was a mega-millionaire then I might have the luxury of choosing happiness over money, that is the goal I am working towards of course.

  2. sheldonmoon69 says:

    I’ve never been in a position to choose, but this is an apples and oranges question.

    Choosing between jobs that differ +/- $5 million per year is significantly different than choosing a 30k job vs a 40k job. Money matters more when you make what normal people make.

    • kenbennedy says:

      Straight out of school, I took the lowest paying job offer out of 3 because the work was better (more interesting and used my brain more). These were all less than $70k offers.

      • FatLynn says:

        Yeah, but for most people, there’s a cut-off above which the extra is just gravy. I don’t know where you are, but 70K sounds like a lot.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Honestly, anything over $100k allows you to live a life of ridiculous excess.

          If you don’t move into a $10+million mansion, you could retire in 20 years and have enough invested to live off interest and dividends.

          • kalaratri says:

            Not around here it doesn’t, especially if you’d like to do things like help your kids through college.

          • sonneillon says:

            In NOVA that barely lets you buy a house.

          • Willow16 says:

            Where do you live? In the NYC suburbs $100,000 doesn’t even let you live comfortably much less well.

          • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

            Wow, I didn’t realize I was living a life of “ridiculous excess.” I feel so much better about myself now! Thanks!

            …Seriously, can you help me out with that retirement strategy to retire in 20 years and live on dividends only, based on what I can save after living expenses from $100k a year?

  3. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    When your accepting $130 million as the pay for the ‘cheap’ contract, you can easily choose money and happiness. You’d be a bonehead not to go for both if you can, in that pay range.

  4. gamblepsu says:

    Yes… i gave up close to 10K a year to work closer to home, have better hours, an extra week of vacation and no grief when I want to use said vacation time

    • Jevia says:

      I did something similar. Yes, I may have been able to get myself out of debt quicker, but I look at how much I’m saving in fewer doctors appointments because the stress of my former job was killing me. Definitely worth the 12K less to spend more time with my family, but my economic situation allowed me the ability to take the paycut, even though it means longer time to pay off my debts.

  5. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    I haven’t due had the option to choose happiness over $ due to the craptacular job market. I took the first job out of school that said yes.

  6. Skellbasher says:

    At a previous employer, I put my notice in because I was miserable with how I was being treated by my management, and the previous 12 months trying to resolve it didn’t help. I was offered a substantial increase in salary to stay, but I declined and went to the new job anyway for much less.

    Best decision I’ve ever made. The new job worked out great. Even though I eventually did leave there to take a new position a couple years later, I am still in touch with them, and occasionally do a contract job for them. I’ve been treated great by both companies I’ve been with after I turned down the raise to stay with the first place.

    No amount of money could have kept me there. I took the job, less money at the time, for a broader range of experience in my field. That worked out well, but the bullshit I had to put up with was unbearable.

    • Thyme for an edit button says:

      This happened to me too. I don’t regret leaving for a moment.

    • chrisexv6 says:

      Same thing for me. There were rumblings of outsourcing, cuts, etc….I actually talked to my boss about it, the answer was basically “we’re taking advantage of the bad job market. if you can find another job, take it”

      One month later I did just that, and all of a sudden everyone felt slighted because I didnt tell them about it first (?). 10 minutes after handing in my 2 week notice boss walked in and basically said name my price. When I told them it wasnt about money, and that I was actually taking a paycut at the new job, I started getting the cold shoulder for my last 2 weeks. I didnt burn the bridge, but they sure did.

      A lot happier at the new job (its been almost 7 yrs), and they ended up moving 3 miles from my house.

      Sometimes it not all about $$$.

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    i wonder if it was his choice or his wife?

  8. Larraque eats babies says:

    I dropped my 80k a year job where I worked 60+ hours a week for a 70k 8-4 job. Never been happier, but I have a plethora of free time.

  9. Bo Link says:

    Here’s a great article that shows how Lee will actually make more money with the Phillies:


    • teke367 says:

      Exactly, while in 5 years, he may not be a $20m/year player after his 5 (or 6) year deal is up, but if he’s still playing, most likely he’ll be able to get a contract that more than makes up for the difference. Plus, in Philly, he’ll have less competition for local endorsements than he would on the Yankees,

      Good for Cliff Lee for not assuming he had to take the highest total bid, but he did take the highest per year salary (not taking into account that I think Texas has no state tax). Lets not pretend this is some sort of discount he offered the Phillies.

      • ZenMasterKel says:

        Exactly, another useless article by this site. ‘m a Ranger fan and I live in DFW. Not only will he make more money with the Phillies, he’ll have the opportunity to get another contract at the end of the five years. And, most importantly, he’ll just be another guy in the rotation, instead of the only ace on the team (though the Yankess have CC), so the weight of the world is no longer on him, like it would be with Texas.

        This site never ceases to amaze me with it’s stupidity.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          Sounds like it’s time for you to go to another site! I’m sure you’ll be missed.

        • lifesmyplaypen says:

          Well if we’re talking in terms of GUARANTEED money… the yanks offered the most.
          But besides all that nonsense over a few million dollars (when he’s already making over 100 MM to begin with) one of the biggest reasons for him to choose Philly is that when he was with the Phillies visiting yankee stadium his wife was booed, had obscenities shouted at her, spit at and not to mention had beer thrown on her. If that’s not enough reason to not go play for the Yankees then I don’t know what is.

  10. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Well, first, let’s separate the issue. Cliff Lee has the luxury to do this kind of thing because he’ll most likely never worry about money for the rest of his life. Normal people worry about this kind of thing, and turning down a job for intangibles sometimes never crosses their minds.

    My family made a lot of personal sacrifices along the way to make sure we were financially stable, and it’s something I think about when I have a decision. If it’s just you, turn down that higher paying job if you’ll be happier doing something else. But when other people are involved, there are so many other factors to consider.

  11. yellowshirt says:

    I left a well paying management gig to drive a school bus and take an unpaid internship at a record label. I really wanted to get my foot int he door of the music industry. Eventually I ended up getting hired full time, and to this day it was the best job i ever had.

  12. Harry Manback says:

    I got the option to choose money and happiness (better commute, better work atmosphere, nicer offices, 14% raise). Unfortunately now we’ve had 3 years of no raises. The benefits are really good though, and I still like the environment for the most part, so I’ve stayed.

  13. suez says:

    Yes, I have. For several months I had worked as a work flow coordinator for a design department, which was considered a step up from where I’d been working as a desktop specialist before. It wasn’t long before I realized I didn’t enjoy the work and missed doing the hands-on stuff. I was laid off soon afterward (the 2001 recession) and went back to looking for work doing the things I enjoyed more, even though it meant spending 5+ years to working up to the same level of pay I’d enjoyed those few months.

  14. Its_Miller_Time says:

    You must not have read the details. He’s actually make the same amount of money in on less year than what NYY offered him.

    Lee has a 27.5m 6th yearr option – a total of 6yr/147.5m.

  15. Bativac says:

    I absolutely hate my job but am finding it extremely difficult to leave behind a guaranteed $55k salary on the hopes that my illustration career will take off. At 31 year old, I’m afraid to take the plunge into changing careers.

    If I had a good year’s salary in the bank, I’d do it.

    • grapedog says:

      I hear ya, I been in the IT field for a long time and making good money, I’m 33 now. I’m giving it all up, and I signed up with the Navy! I head to basic in 4 weeks… Mid january on the great lakes, ugg… Overall, it should be interesting. Totally new career, seeing the world, no clue what is going to happen. I’m excited!

    • lucky13 says:

      How about if you had half a year’s salary in the bank, or a quarter?

      You just need to determine how much you need to have saved to make the change and set up a plan to reach that goal. I was 34 when I left a good job to start my own business – first few years were a little rough but being self-employed was the happiest 10 years of my work life. I never regretted that decision even when making a lot less money.

      Working at a job (or company) you hate will suck your soul faster than you realize (especially if you’re a creative type) – at 31, you’ve got a long work life ahead of you, make the most of it by doing what you like. You can always get another “day job” if things don’t work out or circumstances change. Our biggest regrets are for the things we didn’t do, not the things we did.

  16. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Everyone look, because you may not see this again. A professional athlete with a heart.

  17. Wireless Joe says:

    Every married/divorced man on this board has decided to try for happiness over money at least once in their lives; first for the happiness/cost of marriage (maybe kids), second for the sweet release of divorce (which costs a pretty penny).

    What you learn is that going for happiness is a gamble, but money in the bank pretty much stays in the bank if you leave it there.

    /Only partially kidding

  18. Sparkstalker says:

    One year ago this week, I started a new job with a $20K pay cut. Best move I ever made. My commute’s longer, but the stress, depression, and anger I left behind. With my daughter being born, I didn’t want to be the person my previous job made me…

    It’s true – money can’t buy happiness.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I agree 110%. I did it and regretted NOT doing it years earlier.

      By the time you dred going to work it’s time for a change if you are in position to make that choice. Many take away the choice financially by living beyond their means ie debt. You don’t get that oppurtunity too many times as an adult. Don’t blow it.

      This is why I like to tell people to get as much education as you can and live below your means. That’s how you get choice now a days.

  19. Hank Scorpio says:

    I took a pay cut when I came to my current job. Without getting into too much detail, I couldn’t stand my previous job and took a job with a non-profit that I enjoy working for.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I have a similar situations. A year ago I weighed two job offers with about a 10k difference in salary which is a ton for me. One was a pretty fast track gig at a cutting-edge tech company but it was very money/goals/ladder-climbing focused, high-pressure, and long hours. The other was a lower level position at my dream non-profit – less pressure and expectations and lots of passion for the mission. I took the latter and while there’s more pressure/expectations/workload than was presented in my decision phase, I’m so glad I did. I love the people I work with, I love the mission and I feel like my job has soul : )

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      I feel like the real Hank Scorpio would do the same thing. Unless the government got in his way.

  20. Dave Farquhar says:

    I did, back in 1998. I took a job with a nonprofit organization I believed in, over taking a job running OS/2 servers for a bank. Bad move. Not only did they pay me about 10 grand a year less, they also thought they owned me. I got reprimanded once for going out of town (just 2 hours away) on Easter weekend. It was the weekend! Not long after I started standing up for myself a little bit, I got put on the hit list. Layoffs and downsizing were an annual ritual there, and that year, I found myself on the list.

    I think Cliff Lee’s move is a little different from mine though. It’s mid-career, and he knows the organization because he’s been there before. And a 25% pay cut hurts a multimillionaire a lot less than it does a 23-year-old computer support guy a year removed from college.

  21. npage148 says:

    We had a horrible landlord that decided to flip shit over our pet guinea pig (but not the cats). He told us to get rid of it, I said no and we’ll figure something out. He said it’s either us or the pig. We had a lease signed with an awesome landlord by the end of the day and moved out in 2 more days. We also had to fight it out with him and his real estate agent buddy(who did lease for him). The agent further insulted us by saying were bad pet owners and there was no way we could afford to pay 2 rents at once. Luckily, we had documented the all the verbal harassment and assault the landlord threw at us (it boarded on criminal) and ended up getting the remainder of the lease split and told both of them to shove it. It was the worst financial decision we ever made but the best mental one.

  22. DanRydell says:

    I took a 20% pay cut to reduce my commute from 75 miles/90 minutes each way to 4 miles/10 minutes each way. 3 years later I was back to making what I had been making, then I took a 28% raise to reduce my commute to 15 feet.

    • ARP says:

      Aren’t you creeped out that your co-workers are in your house?

      In looking at a lot of these I wonder how many of you actually took “cuts.” If you work 70 hours a week for $70k and then switch to a job that’s 45 hours a week for $50k, the hourly rate is higher at your new job, even though the net salary is lower. (about $19.25/hr compared to $21.00/hr).

  23. teke367 says:

    Phillies traded him, and Lee felt spurned. He’s basically just a teenage girl who needs to feel validated by the one who “rejected him.”

    /Being facetious, I’m a Mets fan, this is how I’m dealing with it.

  24. lettucefactory says:

    As others have said, it’s apples and oranges to compare normal people wages to the millions that athletes haul in.

    That said, as far as it goes, my family has made similar choices. Both my husband and I know we could make more money at other jobs (and we live in one of the few places in the country where the job market is healthy) but both of our current employers are super understanding when we have to stay home with a sick kid or run to a school event. That is worth some compromises on money.

    But lately, I have been thinking about just how many compromises. The 10K that I could easily earn somewhere else would more than pay for an occasional visit from a housecleaning service, and we could pay off our car much sooner. These things would improve our quality of life, for sure. It doesn’t make sense to just lurch toward the biggest paycheck without considering other factors, but for those not bringing in millions, a larger paycheck is not a trivial consideration.

  25. MeOhMy says:

    The decision doesn’t really scale at such enormous pay grades.

    I did turn down a job offer that offered all sorts of great perks but $10k less pay when a wise friend said: “If I gave you a choice between free lunch every day at the corporate cafe or $10k cash every year, what would you pick?”

    That said, I’d sooner PAY $150M to play for the Phils than accept even $1 to play for the Yanks. hah.

    We’re not talking about mere happiness in this decision. This is a moral decision with eternal consequences for your soul.

  26. JulesWinnfield says:

    Flamethrowing? You’ve never seen him pitch, have you?

  27. djnealb says:

    I don’t know if this counts since there was no second offer from someone else, but I did just accept a new job offer for a little less than what I currently make. Just formally accepted the job today, as a matter of fact.

  28. Aeirlys says:

    The last time I changed jobs I had two offers on the table – one had a slightly higher salary and more vacation time, but involved a longer commute and less flexibility. The one I took was for slightly lower pay and time off, but was a shorter commute and allows me to work from home several days a week.

    My one potential regret is the extra vacation time, but having a flexible schedule allows me to work around appointments that would have involved taking vacation days at the other firm, so it’s probably a wash.

  29. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    Yes. I accepted a job offer that paid 75% of what another one was. The higher paying job involved a long and shitty commute both ways every day, plus the job would be much more stressful. Since the lower paying one was still a very well paying position, I chose “quality of life” over money.

    • wsupfoo says:

      No. In fact I left my first job that I loved at an R&D institute doing really cool work to go to a corporate job for a lot more money. I like my job now, but its not nearly as fun or interesting. On the flip side, money enables me to do things I really like outside of work like travel.

      Then again, I’m not deciding between a 120ft yacht and 150ft yacht, so I don’t think the Cliff Lee situation applies here.

  30. u1itn0w2day says:

    Kudos. This is why I don’t believe in becoming a corporate lacky. Work to live and not to work. Cliff Lee has the chance to do both. Isn’t this what ‘sucess’ supposed to give you though-choices…

    Atleast those who leave for another reason other than money or career aren’t the hypocrites that many who force themselves to stay in a job/location they can’t stand and yet the espouse things like career and loyalty.


    Staying in a job/location you really can’t stand is exactly why many call in sick, slack off, lie, cheat, cut corners, steal, go to the bar, stay at the bar, drink on the job, do drugs on the job and/or mindlessly follow the money like a mouse chasing cheese on string.

  31. YOXIM says:

    I know LeBron did hahaha

  32. Amnesiac85 says:

    When you’re making that much money, it’s pretty moot. Not to downplay him turning down a bag of cash, most players would not have done what he did, but it’s not like he’s going to be a pauper because of this. I’m from Philadelphia (live in Atlanta now), and my Facebook has been full of people hailing Cliff Lee as the next coming and greatest guy ever for turning down the Yankees deal. I think it’s a bit excessive.

  33. LeonardoLeonardo says:

    I think the better question is: Has anyone EVER chosen Philadelphia over New York City??? Ugh.

  34. red92s says:

    Cliff Lee has a kid with Leukemia. Apparently Philly has a great specialist they have been working with, which I’m sure played into the decision.

  35. Floppywesl says:

    Well since i am already doing what i enjoy and making good money im pretty happy.
    My job? I am the suntan lotion guy for the hawaiian tropic girls tour bus.Its a rough job but someone has to do it.

  36. Kitty Conner says:

    My husband did, straight out of law school. He had the choice of two large law firms where he’d start as a first year associate with 70+ hours a week, lots of pressure and a bunch of scut work, but no real legal practice but make $75k+ his first year.


    Make $40k as a deputy prosecutor with 40-50 hour weeks, the chance to actually be in court every day and a life that didn’t just revolve around 11pm afterwork drinks with his coworkers.

    Fiver years later he’s still a prosecutor and loves his job. Do we have less “stuff” because of it? Sure. Are his suits not as as they could have been? Yep. But he’s totally happier for it.

  37. ckspores says:

    It must be nice to have the luxury of actually choosing happiness over money. For me (a normal person) I have to go where the money is, even if I’m not as happy as I could be.

    I would be happiest not working at all and getting paid to do nothing.

  38. yaos says:

    I don’t think choosing between millions of dollars and lots of millions of dollars is really choosing between money and happiness.

  39. Awjvail says:

    I’m about to take the plunge… I don’t know where to go, but I know it will probably be less that what I’m making, and I don’t care.

    My current workplace is hell.

  40. Nakko says:

    Hell yes, I have done. Resigned from a place that was making me very unhappy, to move to a new town where I knew only one or two people, take a way lower-paying job. Old job was just taking over my life, slowly turning it into hell. All was well, in the end! Didn’t take long to wind up making more than I used to, anyway, and I actually love my job / company.

  41. danmac says:

    Have You Ever Pulled A Cliff Lee, Choosing Happiness Over Money?

    LeBron James did the same thing when he decided to bring his talents to South Beach…the only difference is that he made his announcement on a national stage, broke the hearts of many Cleveland fans, happens to be black, and was vilified.

  42. Pax says:

    Yes, I have. Not on the scale of the article, but I have indeed chosen happiness over money.

    Specifically, the risk of losing my girlfriend, over an eventual and VERY likely $10,000 to $20,000 in judgements against our then-former landlord.

    To avoid … entanglements with him, again, I will decline to provide details. Suffice to say, it came down to a decision on my part, to pursue the matter and almost certainly win (and probably lose her, due to the stress of the situation) … or just let it drop, keep her with me, and get on with my life.

    I still wish there’d been a way to keep her, _AND_ stick it to that bastard of a slum lord. But … if wishes were fishes, we’d all be wet.

  43. MrsBug says:

    We moved back home from Nashville and a job I loved because my husband was unhappy and we missed family. It was hard to leave the company, but after being home for two years, they were bought out and my position was eliminated by the new company.

    It all works out and money isn’t everything.

  44. tbax929 says:

    I did the opposite four years ago and took a really high-paying job (for this area), leaving a job in which I was secure and happy. Three years later I was miserable and eventually got laid off. I should have stayed at the old place for less money.

    However, the silver lining is that I met my current boss at my last, horrible job, and she helped me get my dream job, which I have now.

  45. packy says:

    I had a few opportunities to leave my startup pop up, but I never pursued them because I loved the working atmosphere in my office: I got to set my own hours, I got to work the way I wanted to, and people respected my opinions. Now, granted, my startup was paying me well, but I could have made a lot more money elsewhere.

    Eventually, it paid off. My startup got bought, and now I’m getting paid lots more by our new parent company.

  46. kmw2 says:

    After the third Christmas morning call-in in a row, I ditched a $100K+/year IT job to get a grad degree in economics. _Heterodox_ economics. And I’ve never been happier. (Of course, it helps that I can freelance my former IT specialty for $50K a year, meaning I don’t starve in the meantime…)

  47. tallshipjoe says:

    I declined a job offering twice the payrate with variable work locals because I liked my 3 min walking commute and friendly coworkers.

  48. FrankReality says:

    Yes. I worked for a large computer systems and services company in operating systems development, but while I had a good career there, I just got to the point where I hated it, particularly since I got boxed into testing. While it probably froze my career advancement for about 5 years, I transferred to the company’s IT shop which I felt would be more hands on, practical, challenging and enjoyable.

    • Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

      Wow, you moved TO IT to improve your quality of life? You must have really been in hell before… :)

  49. pot_roast says:

    Yes, I certainly have. That’s why I no longer live in California. Less money in the south, but much MUCH happier and healthier.

  50. Keith is checking the Best Buy receipt of a breastfeeding mother (for tips!) says:

    I’ve avoided taking a promotion (with its accompanying pay increase) because I don’t want the additional hassles or 10-20 hours a week- does that count?

  51. Skrpune says:

    I went from making almost $50K with bonuses (construction admin) to making NOTHING for a few months while I studied to shift careers into IT, then I got a job making a whopping $10/hr. Pay sucked, but the job was awesome and taught me a ton and I enjoyed the work. Plus, it gave me a year of great experience to put on my resume and started me on a great career path. Don’t get me wrong – it was hard to get by during that transition and we had to go without some comforts we were used to, but I’m much happier for it. And after just 2.5 years in IT, I’m back to making almost what I made after nearly 9 years in construction. Great payoff in many ways.

  52. PsiCop says:

    After the way Yankees fans treated his wife during the ALCS, I don’t blame him. Way to go, New Yorkers. You should feel SO proud.