Thursday, February 26, 2009

What can Albertans do to protect themselves financially?

I just found this piece on the net from my Feb 19th interview with Joel Gotlib. You can catch the tips via article form or click on the video player to view the entire interview -

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finding more income in today's economy

I was watching a rerun of the sitcom Reba the other night.

Reba was in the kitchen wearing a denim shirt she used for gardening. Due to her lack of financial resources, she had to patch the shirt over the years instead of tossing it when she'd find a tear.

Her daughter and neighbour commented how hip and cool her shirt was and queried where they too could get one.

Her neighbour encouraged her to start a business together making and selling these denim shirts. They were to turn their adversity into opportunity.

I didn't watch the rest of the show to see if Reba made money or stumbled into a fashion dynasty. However, the lesson is important. During these tough economic times, there is still a demand for unique items, quality and customer service. Individuals still need to purchase products and services no matter how tough times are. The question is, do they absolutely need the product or service that you might offer?

What unique talent do you beholden that could possibly bring in more income for your family and one that you might even have fun doing?

Grab a blank pad of paper and start writing the following.

1. List everything that you "could" do to bring in more cash flow today. Think of everything that you're good at, you enjoy or that you do naturally and never thought to charge for it. Do you drive? Can you write or edit? Are you a whiz with technology? Don't judge any of your ideas. Simply come up with a list of "could do's" even if you're not entirely sure how they might bring in more money.

2. Now, take a good look at your list and come up with the top 3 "would do's". If you've just purchased a new car and the payments and costs are turning out to be a financial burden, that investment could actually turn a profit for you. You might have listed "driving" as a "could do" on your list. You "could" drive a taxi or a bus. But likely, you "wouldn't". However, could you start a seniors driving service where you drop them off to doctors appointments on the weekend, get their prescriptions for them for a price or start a grocery delivery service for your overtaxed friends?

Opportunities abound to create new services or market products to individuals that need what you have to offer independent of any economic environment. Get a few friends together to brainstorm what each of you enjoy and how you might turn that into a lucrative side business or who knows, it might be the next great business in the future.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Coping with the recession

Joel Gotlib from Edmonton's CTV asked me to provide a few tips for for coping with Albertas official recession which aired on Thursday's evening news.

Jim MacDonald with The Canadian Press (and as published in the Edmonton Sun) quoted Finance Minister Iris Evan prediction that “many Albertans will have a tough year ahead. We’ve always said that we were not immune to the global recession. But we are better positioned than almost anybody else on the planet.” Here's the full article -

So, you might be thinking, "what is a recession anyway?" A recession is, in economics, a term that generally describes the reduction of a country's gross domestic product (GDP) for at least two quarters. The usual dictionary definition is "a period of reduced economic activity", a business cycle contraction. See Wikipedia for a full explanation:

Now that we know what it is, what can we do about it? Here's my top 5 tips that I shared with Joel:

1. Don't panic and stay calm. As the Minister reports, we're far less affected than the rest of North America. I can personally attest to this just having returned from New York and spending quite a bit of time in Ontario recently. Albertans are weathering this global recession far better than others thus far. However, with our province's reliance on oil related jobs and the landslide cut in oil prices over the past few months, we will feel a trickle down effect eventually on some if not most industries. But think back for a moment to when oil was at an all time high - last summer for example. I recall the gripes and complaints from many Albertans that, other than their home prices skyrocketing, they didn't feel wealthier because of the boom. With prices shooting through the roof on pretty much everything in this province, most people were fed up with the Alberta "boom" and not feeling the prosperity personally.

2. Insulate yourself and protect your job. If you're employed, you might consider marching into your boss's office and asking what you can do to ensure you keep your job if your company faces tough times ahead. Consider a ship facing tough waters. A good captain will throw everything overboard until smooth waters are achieved again to protect the long-term survival of the ship. Are you absolutely necessary cargo to your company or clients you serve? How can you ensure that you aren't thrown overboard? Think of your company as your own and consider that if your industry faces the aftermath of a recession, it's likely better to keep your job, even if you face a pay cut, than to be unemployed.

3. Get your finances and debt in order. If you think that your industry might be facing layoff's in the near future, you might consider getting a line of credit now with your bank or consolidating your current debt. Why? If you're laid off and then need a cushion, it will be much more difficult to obtain credit at that point. Always best to seek credit when you don't need it. That way, if you face a temporary set back, it's in place when you do need it. By the way, it won't cost you anything to set up a line of credit if you don't use it. Interest is only charged when you use the line.

4. Hunt for deals. Now more than ever, retailers are willing to negotiate, throw in extras or even extend special pricing. It never hurts to ask! Get the family involved as well. Scour through hidden fees that might add up to big bucks in a year such as your family's cell phone plans, cable and phone bills, bank fees and more.

5. Keep spending but examine large purchases. Do you really need to remodel your kitchen this year? Could you forgo the expensive family vacation and instead explore your city with new eyes this summer and partake in the many festivals? It's true that we need to keep spending to get through this economic downturn, but keep "intelligent frugality" in mind. Examine major purchases and consider the absolute best time to spend vs. save.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RRSPs 101 - the Basics for 2009

Catch my segment today discussing this topic on CBC radioactive (Edmonton) at 5:40 pm on 93.9 FM and 740 AM (changed to Tuesday instead of Monday due to yesterday's holiday).

Or, check out these links:

Do you have an RRSP question? Leave me a comment and I'll reply.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Remembering how wealthy you actually are

How quickly we often forget. We dream about a better job, spouse, more money and so the list continues. Then, as we slowly achieve some or all of our past hopes, when we get there, armed with a new list of loftier goals, do we remember what we've achieved? Do we pause and think back to the time when we "wanted" the things we might now be complaining about?

I was in the longest security line ever on my way home from New York on the weekend. To say that I was tired would be a grand understatement. Not sure if I was even going to make my plane and therefore my other connection (which was still getting me home near midnight), I was mildly miffed by the line that seemed longer than the traffic on the George Washington bridge.

Shifting, complaining in my head and bursts of deep exhalation were all that could get me through my impatience and saved me from actually screaming out loud (which would likely get me kicked out of the airport in a hurry.) Instead of reflecting back on my week at CNBC and the utter dream it was just a few months and years ago, I instead, chose to focus on the present, but for all the wrong reasons.

If I wasn't annoyed enough, a small child behind me bumped into me and knocked me out of my stupor-like state. She couldn't have been more than three or four years old, and was so well behaved that I hadn't even realized she was behind me the entire time. As she was started to get tired and bored as well, instead of complaining she started entertaining (herself and others.) This little girl who's mom explained was far overdue for a nap, started, of all things, not throwing a temper tantrum, screaming or all of the other things a young girl might do standing in a non air conditioned line for too long. She started singing, "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands" know the song I'm sure. And each time she sang a line, she insisted that her mom join in with the requested clapping of hands or stomping of feet.

I decided to join along too. Funny thing about a song like that is it took me back to a place of utter childhood joy and careless freedom. I couldn't get the bloody song out of my head the rest of the trip and, actually enjoyed the rest of the journey. It took the innocence of song to remind me of the most precious of all things; gratitude; for where were are in life, where we've come from and the excitement of what's next.

I can gladly report that the line seemed to whiz by after the sing-a-long, I made all of my flights, received an upgrade from the dreaded middle seat and my connecting flight was made. Proof that song works or happiness is a state of mind? Not new. Frighteningly simple. Yet amazingly profound.

CTV appearance

Tune in to CTV Edmonton's noon news today as I'll be discussing couples and money.

Romance proves to be first casualty of economic disaster

If you didn't catch the Financial Post on the weekend, Kevin Baker reported on the PayPal survey and myself in this interesting article on how the economic crisis is affecting relationships -

Friday, February 13, 2009

Consumer Watch - Getting a Deal with Val Oczkowski

Further to my "secret shopping" post from last week, see the full story on CTV's website of the local deals we were able to negotiate

Watch the video as well - click on the link on the right hand side of the page titled "there's almost always a deal to be had".

CNBC Love & Money: Money Infidelity appearance

Catch my appearance from last night's CNBC On The Money at

CNBC Love & Money: Are you Guilty of Financial Infidelity?

Catch my post from yesterday on CNBC's site at

CNBC Love & Money: Top Signs of Financial Infidelity

Catch my post from yesterday on CNBC's site at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CNBC On The Money appearances

Catch me on CNBC's On The Money with Carmen Wong Ulrich tonight, tomorrow and Friday at 10pm EST.

Love and money - romance on a dime

My post for today is published on the CNBC website. Please check out this link:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Surviving as a freelancer

Reader question:

Something that I've been struggling with is how to save and budget as a freelancer (I'm not technically an employee, I bill for my time). With a steady pay cheque, it is a lot easier to track what is coming in and out and predict how my finances will look in the future. As a freelancer it is hard enough to remain afloat with all of the financial peaks and troughs—how can one expect to ever get ahead?

Kelley's response:

Great question! With the economic crisis still mounting, I might suspect more and more employees are facing the fact of working as a freelancer or consultant for several companies as opposed to just one.

The opportunities for advancement, increased income potential and of course, flexibility make this career option an advantage to many. However, you're right that budgeting and income fluctuations can be frustrating.

I generally don't recommend using credit personally to "get by", however, as a freelancer, you need to think like a business. You likely need some corporate basics as well to market your services to your community such as a website, hosting costs, business cards, etc. Keeping good track of the use of this credit might be a prudent option as well as a tax advantage (the interest on a loan is tax deductible if used for business purposes.)

If you are currently employed (thinking about making the move), now is the time to seek that line of credit with your lender. Once you're truly in a "freelance" position, lending becomes more difficult (because of the lack of a steady pay cheque), although, not impossible. Before you start seeking credit, take a look at your credit report (see or Ensure that you have a conversation with your banker before she also pulls your score and give her the details of your situation in advance. If you're likely to be approved, she will still have to pull your report. But if you're not likely to be approved, then the extra "hit" on your report can further pull your score down.

If you need to build your corporate credit, sometimes the only option is a cash secured loan. In this case, an individual puts up say $1,000 for a $1,000 loan. It might sound absurd, but it will build your credit and relationship with that bank should you require further lending in the future.

The most prudent, but often difficult option is to build an emergency fund (over time) that can cover at least 3 - 6 months of your living expenses. As most Canadians, even those with steady incomes don't follow this advice, I have listed using credit as an option. But ensure to start with some savings each month into a contingency fund.

Some other things to think about as a self employed individual are:

  • Disability and life insurance. As you don't have a company to fall back on for sick days or disability, you must protect yourself even with a minimal insurance policies. Call an insurance broker for rates as they vary vastly and consider carefully a personal policy as opposed to say the insurance that your lenders offer (i.e. you can purchase life and often disability insurance on your credit card balances, loans, mortgages, etc. but often times, these are much more costly than if you purchased an individual policy. Depending on your health and age, you might be paying far less with a personal policy).
  • Start to build good corporate credit and check your report at least once every 6 months. Having a strong overdraft and line of credit can get you through the income ebbs and flows.
  • Build a professional team. Bankers, accountants and other professionals can save you time and money. Know when to bring in the pros and remember, to always shop around.
  • Lastly, you're now running a corporation even if you're a solo-preneur (a one person business). The only way to ensure that your company will survive is to either A. cut expenses or B. increase income (and of course, a combination of both). How can you address both creatively? Grab a copy at your library or bookstore of my newest book, She Inc. which details both strategies for maximum success.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Customer service excellence in the name of keeping your job

In these troubling economic times, more so than ever, employees need to stand out from the crowd. I might liken one's job and avoiding the dreaded pink slip to a ship on the sea that's facing rough waters. Any good captain will throw overboard what isn't absolutely necessary for the integrity of saving that ship. Are you absolutely "necessary" cargo? Are you the type of employee that is essential to the survival of your employer?

I'm heading to New York next week on business and asked my office to confirm a few details with the hotel. Since I'm staying there for an entire week, I'm hoping this hotel will be a comfortable home away from home. Unlike travelling for pleasure, business ventures usually require one to stay chained to their hotel desk like they would their office.

In addition to the usual business needs (high speed Internet, the ability to print documents, etc.), I prefer hotel rooms with fresh air and windows that open. Oddly enough, this request isn't always easy to find.

My staff called the hotel and the conversation went something like this:

"Can you tell me if your rooms have windows that open?"

"Hmm...I think so."

"Do you know if the windows open?"

"Hmmm...I think so."

Since the website is promoting this small, boutique hotel as a quaint and personalized sanctuary, logic would dictate that the front staff has actually taken the time to go into one of the rooms and see what's actually available to callers and guests.

I think this is how the conversation should have gone:

"Can you tell me if you have windows that open in your rooms?"

"Hmmm...that's a good question and I'm really not sure. Is that important to you?"

"Yes, actually it is."

"Well, if you can give me a few minutes, I'll see if I can check out one of the rooms and will call you back or have my manager do so."

I'm always taken back at the "that's not my department" mentality of service (or lack there of) in today's society. Should this front staff person have put himself in the shoes of the caller, they'd know that a week's stay in the hotel is a lengthy one and weary business travellers need every comfort possible. Should that person's manager have over heard this conversation, they may or may not have rewarded this initiative, but life will. What if the front staff person still received a pink slip even while treating that hotel and it's guests as if it where their own? The hotel is frequented by those in the media and Fortune 500 executives. That type of initiative wouldn't go unnoticed for long. Each caller or guest the front clerk faces could be their dream employer of the future.

What can you do today to learn more about the many facets and departments of your company that true, may not be "your department" today but could be in the future? Be the valuable cargo that your employer can't live without and you'll have a better chance of navigating this economic storm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Saving money and finding deals in a tough economy

I hit the streets of Edmonton today with CTV's Valerie Oczkowski to see what deals we could scrounge up on products and services that most individuals wouldn't think are negotiable.

I must admit that even I was surprised at some of the discounts we were able to secure with little time and effort (most by just asking and some arm twisting took all of about 60 seconds).

The piece will run next Thursday on CTV's evening news and on their website (the segment will likely be posted on the site after it airs on TV - I'll post my deal making strategies and tips next Friday morning, so tune in!

And please comment your local deals, tips on negotiating and getting more for less. I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Women and money - radio appearance

Catch me live on CFRB radio today at 2:00pm EST - 2:40pm. It's a call in show and you can listen live at We'll be discussing the topic of women & money.

Couples and money - radio appearance

Catch me live on CBC radioactive today at 4:40 MST. We'll be discussing the PayPal Can't Buy Me Love survey results and the topic of couples & money.