Thursday, December 30, 2010

December Mini Money Makeover: Avoiding Hidden Credit Card Fees - AOL's WalletPop Canada

Kelley Keehn
Dec 30th 2010 at 11:00AM

This is the first in a series of monthly makeovers, in which financial advisor Kelley Keehn looks at a person or a couple's financial issues and prescribes a solution. This month, the culprit is a department store credit card that ends up costing far more than it should.

Ethan is maxed out on his one department store credit card, which is also a MasterCard. He's making the monthly minimum payment requested, and on time. The problem is, he's maxed out and paying dearly for it.

Read the full article here:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Globe and Mail's Cash Clash - He wants to sell, she wants to sit tight

(I forgot to post this article back on December 14th when it originally was published.)

John and Erin, 30, Toronto

The market researcher and television producer have been sitting on a gold mine – an income property with tenants which covers the monthly mortgage payment (and then some). But they need bigger digs, and he wants to sell while the market’s hot. She wants to keep the house and continue renting it out. Who’s on the money?

Read the full article and my advice here:

Globe and Mail's Cash Clash - She wants to save, he wants to pay down debt

Aaron, 33, and Tanya, 32, Toronto

They’ve been diligently digging their way out of debt, handing over nearly all of their disposable income every month. But the arrival of their bouncing baby boy has them reconsidering. She wants to sock some cash away for education and emergencies, but he’d rather use every spare cent to slay the debt dragon. Which parent knows best?

Read the full article and my advice here:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Globe & Mail's Survival Guide

My husband gifted me a car we can't afford
Kelley Keehn
From Friday's Globe and Mail

THE QUESTION: My husband surprised me with a new car for Christmas, which we can’t possibly afford. But since it decreased in value as soon as he drove it off the lot, what can we do now?

Read the full article and my advice here:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Avoid a Financial Hangover This Year - AOL's WalletPop Canada

Oh the pressures of the holiday season. For many of us, it's a time to share, repent, beg forgiveness, redeem or simply honour a loved one with... gifts!

Yes, it's tough to have a clear mind while shopping with thousands of frantic buyers. The temptation of the perfect gift, the lure of a great bargain and the oft need to express our love with a neatly wrapped token can overwhelm our rational, logical mind. So, here are a few tips to keep the season in check and ensure that your post-holiday hangover is left to alcohol alone (should you choose to partake):

Read my full article here:

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - He wants to lease a car, she wants to buy

Chris and Jennifer, 40, Aurora, Ont.

When their car got jacked, the couple had to think on their feet – should they buy a new ride, or lease one? He says leasing is the better short-term solution, but she thinks they can score a great deal if they buy. Which idea has wheels?

Read the full article and my advice here:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Protect Your Identity This Holiday Season, Part Two - AOL's WalletPop Canada

Kelley Keehn
Dec 9th 2010

This is the second in a series.

It's the busiest time of the year. How will you ever get all of your shopping done, get the house decorated, the cards in the mail – the litany of chores seems endless. Who has time to pay attention to the minor details that could put your financial life at risk? I'm hoping you will because the would-be-thieves out there are ready to cash in during this hectic time of the year.

Read the full article here:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - Pay down the mortgage or pad the RRSP?

Jason, 45, and Linda, 42, Mississauga

With a household of four kids aged 11 to 21 and his small auto-parts manufacturing company, this couple is used to being decisive. But when it comes to securing their future, they’re stuck – should they put their extra cash into paying off their mortgage sooner, or pad their RRSP nest egg (and get a juicy tax break)?

Read the full article and my advice here:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Protecting Your Identity This Holiday Season, Part One - AOL's WalletPop

By Kelley Keehn
Nov 30th 2010

With Black Friday behind us (even though it's a US shopping tradition, it still flows up the border), holiday shopping is officially upon us! And according to a survey released by TD Canada Trust on November 15th, 23% of us will be using our credit card to fund those gifts for under the tree.

During the shopping frenzy of whipping out that credit card more in the coming weeks than perhaps the entire year, coupled with the busyness of school plays and Christmas parties, what should you be doing to protect your precious financial identity?

Read the full article here:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kelley Keehn on Why Cash is Still King - AOL's WalletPop

Guest Blogger
Nov 26th 2010
Filed under: Banks, Credit Cards

WalletPop is pleased to feature the first column from financial expert Kelley Keehn, co-host of TV's Burn My Mortgage, which airs weekly on the W Network.

By Kelley Keehn

There's nothing that will spoil a shopping experience as much as hearing the dreaded words, "declined" when paying for a purchase after a long, gruelling work-day.

Recently, while using my debit card for a relatively small purchase, my card was declined. Shocked and dismayed as I mumbled to myself in disbelief while a long line of irritated customers sighed as I insisted the clerk retry my card, it failed me when I needed it. Annoyed with myself that I didn't have more than five dollars cash in my wallet; I defaulted to my credit card. Knowing there was a large amount of funds in the savings account I was trying to access; I tried again at another store and still heard the dreaded word, "declined" from the store clerk.

To read the full article -

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - Should eco-conscious couple get a second car?

Conrad, 31, and Susan, 29, Waterloo, Ont.

They’re avid recyclers, nature enthusiasts and organic-veggie munchers. But with a growing toddler and a hectic schedule, the university professor and civil servant are contemplating a second car. Should convenience trump eco-consciousness?

Read the full article and my response here:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nine steps to a better credit score

Globe and Mail Update
Published Monday, Nov. 22, 2010

My husband and I are pretty competitive, always trying to one-up each other.

It was to my chagrin, therefore, when I learned that although my credit score is excellent, his is better. I have never missed a bill payment, never carried a balance, so what could be holding me back?

According to author and former financial adviser Kelley Keehn, there are lots of innocent things that can affect your score. For example, most people don’t realize there are two important dates when it comes to paying off certain credit cards: the due date and the statement date. The statement date is when the card issuer reports your balance to the credit bureau, not the due date. So even if you pay your balance in full and on time each month, your credit score may not reflect that.

“Let’s say my due date is Dec. 8 and I have a $10,000 limit. I pay it in full before the 8th and won’t be subject to any interest,” Ms. Keehn says. “But, let’s assume my statement date is Nov. 15 – that’s a very important date as it’s the date the credit card company reports to the credit bureau, not the due date. Let’s assume I make a big purchase on the 14th, say for a reno at my home, not thinking anything of it, and pay for some hardwood costing $9,000. The next day the credit card company would report that I’m 90 per cent extended on my credit card.”

If you’re not sure of your credit rating, you can get a free report from or that will include your credit history and current credit outstanding. For a small fee, they will include your credit score as well. A good score is 760 or higher, and anything less needs work to improve it, Ms. Keehn says.

To read the full Globe article and the 9 steps, visit:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Burn My Mortgage (or yours) tips

Burn My Mortgage, airing Tuesday's at 8pm E/P, 9pm MST on the W Network has been gaining popularity. If you've been tuning in and are looking for more ideas on how to burn your own mortgage, here's my top tips that you can take to the bank.

1. Negotiate – yes you can! The posted rates are rarely the actual rates you can get by simply asking. Consider that on a $250,000 mortgage, a 1% difference could save you $43,841.29 during the life of your mortgage*.

2. Google the basics. If you’re not a financial wiz, no worries. But learn terms such as an amortization, fixed and variable terms. Be sure to check out your bank’s website before your meeting. They likely have a list of definitions, useful articles and calculators.

3. Buy now or later? Remember all the costs involved in home ownership. You shouldn’t spend more than 32% of your gross income and don’t forget property taxes, insurance, closing costs, condo fees and more!

4. Hold the rate! If you’re not quite ready to buy, call your banker. They’ll often hold the current interest rate for 90-180 days.

5. Fixed vs. variable – who has a crystal ball.? Experts say that over the life of a mortgage, a variable rate will generally win. However, with rates at an all time low and ready to climb as early as this summer, you need to know your interest rate risk factor. If rates climbed even a couple of percentage points, your mortgage payment could nearly double. Could you handle an increase?

6. The best of both worlds. Many banks today offer a combination of a fixed rate mortgage with a portion set up as a line of credit that floats with prime.

7. RRSP vs. paying down the mortgage – what’s the best bet? What about doing both! If you’re a high income earner, an RRSP is hard to beat. But ensure you take the tax refund and apply it directly to your mortgage principal. Not only will you be saving for your retirement, taking advantage of a great tax break but you could save thousands of dollars on your mortgage and shave years off the length of it.

8. Buy now or wait? If you don’t have at least 20% for a down payment, you will have to purchase CMHC insurance. Depending on the size of your mortgage, this could cost you thousands of dollars. Do some calculations and ask your banker if it’s best to save up a little longer.

9. Do it more often. Paying bi-weekly or better yet, weekly, makes an extra payment a year that can add up to big bucks!

10. To insure or not to insure? Mortgage insurance is generally a pretty good idea and your bank may require it. The question is, should you purchase the insurance they offer or shop around for a private policy. The latter could be less costly and you have absolute control of who gets the amount at death.

* Based on a 5 year fixed, paid bi-weekly, a 25 year amortization and the
difference between a steady 5% vs. 4% interest rate.

For more information visit:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - He’d love a pug, she thinks costs outweigh cuteness

George, 64, and Hannah, 61, Montreal

These two filmmakers are thinking about getting a second pooch, and he’s got his heart set on a pug. But she’s not sold – yes, those smoosh-faced, snorting creatures are adorable, but they’ve got a reputation for costly health problems. Can we break up this dog fight before someone gets bitten?

Read the full article and my response here:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - He wants to finish the basement, she wants a hot tub

He wants to finish the basement, she wants a hot tub

Kim, 56, and Mike, 63, Montreal

They built a lakefront cottage from the ground up as their empty-nest project. After six years, it’s all done except for the basement. He wants to finish the job, but she wants a break – and a hot tub. Instant gratification or responsible home ownership?

Read the full article and my response here:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - Caribbean vacation or Blu-ray box set?

Ashleigh and Tim, 27, Edmonton

They’ve taken some recent financial hits: her car repairs, his dental work, tuition bills. Things were tight – and then she found the Blu-ray box set of Lost hidden in the crawl space. His reply: What about that Caribbean vacation she just booked? Which was the biggest spending sin?

Read the full article and my response here:

Sunday, October 17, 2010


October 16, 2010 by whatsoninvancouver

Most of us would be a whole lot richer if we’d just pour the same energy into cutting down our mortgages that we put into entertainment, recreation and food — and it’s not that hard to do. That’s the message financial planner Kelley Keehn says she wants to get across in “Burn My Mortgage,” airing Tuesdays on W Network.

“In all fairness to people, a mortgage can be overwhelming,” she says.
“You get it done, you chuck it in a drawer, and you never look at it again. A lot of people don’t truly know their rates. They don’t know what they can pay down on their mortgage. “So first and foremost, the show is about showing people where their money is going and what they could be doing with it.”

When people see what they could be doing to free themselves from their house debt, Keehn says, “they’re all kinds of shocked and surprised.”

Read the full story:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Treat your mortgage like a salami -

Treat your mortgage like a salami
October 8, 2010

Jennifer Wilson


Mortgages are not really the stuff dreams are made of. But freedom from those monthly payments should be, says Burn My Mortgage co-host Chad Bisch, noting that the dream is to actually “own” your home —ot owe the bank the majority of its value.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Globe and Mail's Cash Clash - She wants to rent, he wants to buy

Melissa and Frank, 30, Toronto

She’s a family medicine resident at a busy hospital, he’s a PhD candidate in computer science. They may have big brains, but they also have a big dilemma: Should these first-time homebuyers keep renting and save up for their dream house – and risk higher prices – or get into the market now?

Read the full article and my response here:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Globe & Mail's Cash Clash - He wants a condo, she wants a house

It's a classic young, professional couple's dilemma - house vs. condo close to his office.

Read the article and my advice. Weigh in if you agree.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Burn My Mortage (yes, please!), a new show on W Network helps families - & National Post

Burn My Mortage (yes, please!), a new show on W Network helps families

National Post /
October 1, 2010

Kelley Keehn, a financial expert and the author of six books, and Chad Bisch, who is known as “the motivator,” host Burn My Mortgage.Photograph by: Handout, NPW Network is debuting a high-octane half-hour series this Tues., Oct. 5, called Burn My Mortgage (don’t we wish?). Think of it as a Biggest Loser for homeowners. With hard work and self-control, prodded along by financial whizzes, you can shave hundreds of thousands of dollars off your mortgage.

The show follows families through money-based challenges, in which they learn lessons. There are two hosts, Kelley Keehn, a financial expert and the author of six books, and Chad Bisch, who is known as “the motivator.” Mr. Bisch navigates the families through challenges and inspires them to take action. Each family that follows the rules and successfully completes the challenges receives a savings reward of up to $50,000 from Manulife One. Now that’s incentive.

Get a sneak look at the first episode at:

© Copyright (c) National Post

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Want to burn your mortgage? Online discussion with the Globe & Mail Oct 6 at 11 am (ET)

Online discussion, Oct. 6, 11 a.m. (ET) with the Globe & Mail -

Want to burn your mortgage?
Published Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2010 12:31PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2010 3:40PM EDTMost borrowers dream of the day they can say goodbye to monthly payments and set their mortgage papers ablaze. However, few take advantage of the options they have available to reach that day sooner.

On Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 11 a.m. (ET), financial expert Kelley Keehn and Chad Bisch, co-hosts of the show Burn My Mortgage, will answer your questions about how to cut your household spending and pay down your mortgage faster.

In the meantime, you can check out the first episode of Burn My Mortgage online, or tune in to W Network on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 8 (ET) for the premiere.

What would you do to burn your mortgage? In the Globe and Mail today

What would you do to burn your mortgage?
Dianne Nice
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Sep. 27, 2010 5:47PM EDT

Christine Sharanewych wants to burn her mortgage, and she’s not afraid to look like a fool on national television to do so.

On Oct. 5, Christine and her husband, Roman, will air their financial dirty laundry on Burn My Mortgage, a new reality showon the W Network that puts overspending families through a series of physical challenges designed to drive home the point that a mortgage doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

To read the full article -

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ever dream of becoming an author? Advantages and disadvantages of traditional and self-publishing

Have you ever dreamed of coming out with your own book?

I’m queried weekly by a plethora of individuals wanting to become an author. A worthy goal if you have the right message indeed!

Step one: write your book.

Step two: to self-publish or be published (by a traditional publisher) or a little of both?

Let’s tackle the first part of step two – self publishing.

To move past the dream of writing a book and now getting it self-published is a desire that most "would be" authors only dream about.

Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

First, if you’ve actually researched and written a manuscript you’ve make it 99.9% further than most “want-to-be” authors. However, the next step is to get your information out to the public.

Advantages of self-publishing:

You’ll make the maximum profit on your book. Yes and no. Sure, you might be able to negotiate rates lower than what your publisher will charge you to purchase your own book, but likely not. A large publisher has years and thousands of printing jobs negotiated. I’m able to purchase my books from my publisher at a much lower cost than printing my own book as I did with my first title.

Complete control over your content, cover design, page layout and more. Yes, this is true. But you’ll also have to pay for that control. Consider the costs of hiring an editor, finishing editor, proof reader, registering the ISBN and Library of Congress info yourself and so much more. Yes, you’ll have total control over your book, but at what cost?

Disadvantages of self-publishing:

There’s certainly something to celebrate when finishing your manuscript and finding the investment to publish it yourself. However, getting the attention of a traditional publisher who will find merit and worthiness in your work and be willing to back that work with their investment of time and dollars is another matter. And finding a traditional publisher these days is tougher and tougher. Yes, you do relinquish a certain degree of control. The publisher does have a final say on many things, but again, it’s their investment of time and dollars.

D-I-S-T-R-I-B-U-T-I-O-N: When I researched publishing my first book (and had to go the self-pub route), I read all available material, attended every seminar and was sure I had a rock solid business plan to market my book. However, one small word, which is key to an author’s success, was never mentioned in my due diligence – and that’s distribution. will take you on as a self-published author, but the cost and frustration isn’t worth the effort for small runs. There isn’t a reputable distributor that will work with individual authors over a large publisher that’s worth the time (think about thousands of authors calling for payments and more or the distributor dealing with one publisher on behalf of thousands of authors).

I remember visiting a bookstore in Granville Island in Vancouver on a stop for my first book tour for my first traditionally published book. It was a tiny, but hip and quaint book store in Granville Island with no more than three feet of shelf space dedicated to their business section, and there ... was one copy of my newest book, The Woman’s Guide to Money, thanks to the strength of the distribution of my publisher. How could I as a prairie resident ever find the marketing dollars to personally visit and convince every large and small book store across Canada to stalk their shelves with my book?

How do you get published with a traditional publisher?

Get famous or write the most extraordinary book on earth. Even then it’s tough. Consider that a medium sized publisher might come out with twenty to fifty books a season and they likely receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts a month. So, for the non-famous author with a message to spread, self-publishing might be the only option.

Another option is to self-publish your own work and create a successful marketing campaign that then gets the attention of a traditional publisher. After all, if you aren't confident enough in your own book to back it with your dollars, why would a publisher?

There’s a plethora of support services for authors wanting to self-publish and many of them offer lower cost, small run options. However, as mentioned in my last point, the lack of distribution available to a self-published author generally means a garage or office full of books gathering dust (other than the ones you gave to your friends and family.)

I did stumble across one company that compelled me to write this post. They offer everything their competitors offer plus much more (a la carte editing, proof reading services) but there’s one major difference with this company that I haven’t found with any other out there – distribution. They include a one year distribution service that’s invaluable for the first time author.

If you have a book “in” you that needs to get on bookstore, library and Amazon’s shelves, check them out for yourself:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

New show enlists kids to cut mortgages - Toronto Star

September 18, 2010
James Daw
Personal Finance Columnist

Meet Roman and Christine Clueless as they learn how to repay their $450,000 mortgage before their 70s.

Watch them and their sons get into the act, discovering how to reduce debt, as they compete for a $5,000 reward on the upcoming television show Burn My Mortgage.

Read the full article here:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Burn My Mortgage starts October 5th on W

Kelley is proud to be the new host, along side co-host, Chad Bisch, of Burn My Mortgage premiering on the W Network.

Burn My Mortgage airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT beginning October 5, 2010.

Burn My Mortgage shows clueless homeowners that with a little bit of pain, there is a lot to gain when it comes to paying off one of life’s biggest purchases. The price of real estate has gone sky high, and despite low mortgage rates, families are drowning in mortgage debt. Lead by financial expert Kelley Keehn and motivator Chad Bisch, Burn My Mortgage helps families shave years and tens of thousands of dollars off their mortgages in an engaging and entertaining format. Produced by RTR Media in association with W Network.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happily Ever After Marriage by Sarah Hampson a "must read"

Witty, insightful and superbly written, columnist Sarah Hampson's new book, Happily Ever After Marriage is as entertaining as her Globe & Mail articles.

Personally, I've been a fan of Sarah's for some time and as the child of a divorced family, her musings gave me a glimpse into the struggles my own mother likely faced.

Obviously, the most quantifiable impact in divorce is the financial one. However, the challenges moving forward as a single mother are a statistically growing segment of our market. This book provides an entertaining and thoughtful read for all women.

Here's a terrific article with the author herself -

Here's a couple of interesting articles written on Sarah's book:

- Divorce changes us, but living happily ever after is still a possibility, Montreal Gazette
- With this bling, I thee dump, Globe & Mail

Happily Ever After Marriage
There's Nothing Like Divorce to Clear the Mind

Written by Sarah Hampson
Category: Biography & Autobiography - Personal Memoirs; Family & Relationships - Divorce; Current Affairs
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Pub Date: April 2010
Price: $32.00
ISBN: 978-0-307-39768-3 (0-307-39768-8)
Also available as an eBook and a trade paperback.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cash is still king and why you shouldn't fully rely on your debit card

There's nothing that will spoil a shopping experience as much as hearing the dreaded words, "declined" when paying for a purchase after a long, hot work-day.

Yesterday, while using my debit card for a relatively small purchase, my card was declined. Shocked and dismayed as I mumble to myself in disbelief while a long line of irritated customers sighed as I insisted the clerk retry my card, it failed me when I needed it. Annoyed with myself that I didn't have more than five dollars cash in my wallet, I defaulted to my credit card. Knowing there was a large amount of funds in my savings account that I was trying to accesses, I tried again at another store and still heard the dreaded word, "declined" from the store clerk.

I called the number at the back of my card (the bank shall remain nameless) and they informed me that my "card was compromised" and my limit for purchases had been reduced to $200. Although I pressed for an explanation of why, the call centre rep simply repeated the statement and told me I had to get into my bank to get a new card. Easy for him as he's not the one working during banking hours making it impossible for me to get a new card this week. Further more, the purchases I was trying to make were both under $200.

Lesson learned: folks, because we're "protected" from fraud on our debit and credit cards, these companies and the banks are flagging accounts quicker than ever and shutting down access or reducing limits more and more. Without a debit card and no time off to get to my bank, I of course have no ability to access cash either. Thank goodness I have two back up credit cards to make it to my next day off.

Take a moment today and ensure that you have a reasonable amount of cash on hand that could take you through a long weekend (God forbid debit and credit card terminals weren't working - what would one do?) And, ensure that you have at least two credit cards ideally both with a zero balance.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Be cautious when using your credit card at gas station pumps

On a recent trip to Toronto, I had to gas up my rental car. To avoid an umbrella-less dash to the store during a rain storm, I thought I'd just use my credit card at the self-serve pump. I inserted my MasterCard and the clerk chimed in over the loud speaker, "the credit card option isn't working - you'll have to pay inside."

So I did, paid with cash, thought nothing of it and went about my day. Until, I received an email alert (my MasterCard sends me an email alert when there's a transaction on my account) for a $100 purchase. I called MasterCard to find out what the charge was and they told me it was ESSO, the gas station putting a hold on my account. Even though the machine supposedly didn't work.

Again, I thought nothing of it and went about my life. Today, I logged onto my account and saw there was a $25 charge from the date in question. I called MasterCard and after a reasonable amount of time (but still a wasted 20 minutes of my life), they're reversing that charge with follow-up proof of my cash paid receipt.

I'll definitely think twice about using my credit card at a self-serve pump in the future and also a reminder to keep all receipts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Apartment hotels offer a home away from work

Major hotel chains are expanding their all-suite or extended-stay brand lodgings.

Great article by BERT ARCHER. Check it out here -

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mark Carney signals interest rates to rise

‘With recent improvements in the economic outlook, the need for such extraordinary policy is now passing,’ Bank of Canada says.

Read the full article here in today's Globe and Mail online -

If you haven't pulled out and dusted off your mortgage statement recently, now is a great time to have a look. Do you have an interest rate high enough that it might justify breaking your mortgage, paying the penalty and getting in at a lower rate? Perhaps you've been sitting on the variable vs. fixed rate fence and might be wondering if you should lock in?

Call your banker for options and remember to shop around. There's a few banks out there offering 2% plus cash back if you bring your mortgage to them. But of course, they've capped the offer and have their limits, so make sure to read the fine print as always and crunch the numbers.

You'll have to call your bank to find out what your penalty would be if you broke your existing fixed term mortgage, but you can get online and play with different interest rates and even do some pre-remortgage shopping.

A few calls could potentially save you thousands of dollars. Have a look at your mortgage details today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Finding the motivation to melt your mortgage

April 9, 2010



Who wouldn’t love to shave a few years off their mortgage payments? Burn My Mortgage aims to do just that, casting families in the GTA to participate in the new W Network series, billed as “home finance meets The Amazing Race.”

Check out the full article at:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Why are Canadians taking on more debt?

The recession, depending on where you lived in Canada, was tough for many, but I think opened our eyes to one's true needs vs. wants. I was proud of the many articles and conversations eliciting chats about watching our spending, cutting back or what I like to call, "intelligent frugality". Apparently though, the lessons were short lived.

According to the Globe & Mail this morning, CIBC economist Benjamin Tal said, "As of February, household credit was up by more than 7 per cent from a year earlier – more than three times faster than income growth.

The debt-to-income ratio, as a result, hit a record 147 per cent in December, and is accelerating at the fastest rate since the mid 1990s." Here's the full article:

Consider this the next time you're thinking of buying something on credit that you don't absolutely need - how long do you want to be a slave to your lender? When I was in the financial industry, I'd ask my clients a question: What does more money, less debt mean to you? Of the thousands of answers I received over the decade I was in the biz, the answers varied (more vacations, putting the kids through school, being able to retire, etc.), but there was one common theme as I questioned further. Every root answer was the same - freedom.

So, if we all want more freedom - what money can buy - why then, do we continue to fall prey to financial slavery?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mortgage basics - understanding fixed vs. variable rates

With all the mortgage options these days, you as the consumer have more flexibility than ever. But with choice can come confusion and the importance to fully understand the terms and definitions.

Someone last week told me they could get a 5 year mortgage for 2.75%. That's sort of true.

Right now, a five year fixed, using RBC and BMO as an example, you could lock in at 3.95%. It's a fixed rate and no matter what happens to interest rates, you're guaranteed the same rate for five years; thus the term "fixed".

Here's where it can be a bit confusing. You can have a five year "term" with a variable rate. Basically, if you chose this option, your interest rate would float with prime (right now 2.25% plus or minus the deal you get from your bank) and if interest rates increase or decrease, your rate also increases or decreases. The five years in this example pertains to not being able to leave that bank or change your options (some banks do allow you to lock in your variable rate - some options don't). However, your rate is not fixed in this example. Plus, there's "closed" or "open" terms. The latter means that you could fully pay off your mortgage, move it or change it without penalty - but you'll pay a higher term to do so.

So back to my friend's comment - yes, you could get a "five year mortgage" for under 3%, but remember, that rate would not be "fixed".

Make sure to read the fine print and understand what each term means before signing on the dotted line. Still confused? Check out your bank's website. All the big lenders have fantastic sites with explanations of their products, calculations, comparisons of options and more.

Check back shortly and I'll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of fixed vs. variable rate mortgages and how to choose which is right for you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Clean Your Household Finances With Host Kelley Keehn

Production Heats Up On RTR Media's Burn My Mortgage For Corus Entertainment's W Network

Spring Clean Your Household Finances With Host Kelley Keehn's Top Tips

Producers Casting For Families in the GTA

TORONTO, March 18 /CNW/ - Burn My Mortgage is a high-energy, action-packed, half-hour television series about making your hard-earned money go further. Hosted by Kelley Keehn, one of the country's most respected and widely-quoted financial experts and authors (CBC and CNBC contributor, quoted in Oprah magazine), the series is set to debut in fall 2010 on W Network.

"The series is best described as "home finance' meets the "Amazing Race", explains executive producer Kit Redmond. "Kelley Keehn and sidekick Chad Bisch lead the featured family through a series of entertaining challenges. Families discover how to knock years off their mortgages and save hundreds of thousands of dollars on interest payments."

Producers RTR Media are currently casting for families located in the GTA. Visit Each family that follows the rules and successfully completes the challenges receives a head start savings reward of up to $5000.

Host Kelley Keehn, author of six books including She Inc., The Woman's Guide to Money and The Prosperity Factor for Kids, offers up her top three tips to effectively "spring clean" household finances:

1) As with dieting, tracking your finances is the most important first step to a fiscally refreshed spring! Try my 30-day "Anti Budget". Track every dollar your family spends and at the end of the month, see where you can trim the fat. No need to forgo the lattes or weekend cocktails, but what about the $100 a month magazine subscription or the $50 in ATM fees? A library card is a great way to get the kids involved while still being able to access the latest DVDs and CDs for free!

2) Check credit card and bank statements regularly. Go online; it's a safe and effective way to check your purchases. Make a record of when each statement generally arrives. This could be a red flag that someone is redirecting your mail and possibly committing identity theft. Don't recognize that insignificant purchase on your credit card statement? Give the company a call - that too could be an early sign that your information has been stolen.

3) Seeing double digits? Take a look at your credit cards and if you're not consistently paying them off each month, call the credit card company to negotiate a better rate. Points cards are a great tool to get rewards fast, but not if you're carrying a balance. Generally these have a high annual fee and steep interest rates. Consider the lower rate, no frills cards that most banks offer if you're not paying your cards off each month.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finding a hidden gem to call home - Cambridge Suites Hotel Toronto

Recently I began the search for a hotel sponsor in Toronto for an extended stay. Hotel choice is always important for the overall success of a trip for business or pleasure, but when it is your home for months at a time- there are many things to consider.

In the greater Toronto area alone there are over 183 hotels and over 36,000 hotel rooms. I was determined to find the ideal hotel and room for my stay. Initially, when I set out to find my ‘home away from home’, I had planned on approaching one of the larger hotel chains I have stayed at on previous trips to Toronto for possible sponsorship. Then I started asking myself some key questions and my thoughts dramatically changed.

Location, Location, Location- When you are in a ‘foreign’ city the location of your residence is second to none. It's essential not to have to travel across town to meetings, appointments, shipping, for entertainment etc as it wastes time and adds stress. This can also be very important if you have a significant other, friend or family member traveling with you so they do not feel stranded at the hotel during the day.

Service- When you are staying at a hotel you have expectations. For example, cleanliness, and friendly, accessible, accommodating staff. This is the expectation, when it is surpassed, you become a loyal customer.

Amenities- It is important to make sure the hotel of choice has the amenities that are important to you. For example for business trips to have Internet access and any other technology necessary, or for the health conscious individual an adequate fitness facility as well as access to convenience health foods.

When I was browsing through hotel options Cambridge Suites ( kept coming up. I was skeptical at first never hearing about them before, I was not sure of their reputation despite being an avid business traveler. I was on their website and the more I learned, the more I was impressed. The location was great, they offered extended stays, the amenities I desired, but still I was not convinced.

I started reading the tripadvisor ( reviews to get a better sense of the hotel. To my amazement the general manager had taken the time to respond to each comment made, good or bad- an indication of great customer service.

My office approached them for sponsorship, still slightly hesitant. The result surpassed all my expectations. The general manager and the director of sales and marketing were quick to respond, professional, accommodating, enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with.

Within days the deal was negotiated and I, my staff and family was welcomed with open arms to my home away from home.

I'd highly recommend that you check out this lovely hotel on your next visit to Toronto.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

PC vs Mac - which computer should you buy?

If you've read my latest book, She Inc., you know too well my rant on the Mac vs. PC debate and my long-term support of the latter.

My "cool" friends jeer at the fact that I still use a PC, constantly sending me those Mac commercials with the out-of-touch, geeky, PC spokesperson. I've never had a reason to switch and quite frankly, the thought of learning an entirely new operating system, the Mac language and more, evokes great buying trepidation.

However, I'm also a fan of the power of 3's - third time's a charm, three strikes, you're out - and pondering the latter, my PC's on it third strike. My six year-old baby, my laptop, has lived far beyond his expected years with three replace hard drives, mucho memory and yet he still can't play a YouTube video without stalling out and having the fans kick into overdrive.

That's strike one. Strike two, he had a virus that rivalled the H1N1 for computers. With two weeks at the repair shop, reinstalling all of his software (which took days for my assistant to fully find - you'd be surprised how much software one accumulates over six years), and much cost, I must admit that the ridicule of my Mac friends has worn on me (Mac apparently doesn't have the virus issues that PCs do). Lastly, I've heard nightmare stories about operating Vista, and with such a change in operating system if one does buy a new PC, I think I might make the Mac leap yet.

Cost is a huge consideration as the Mac laptop I'm considering as a cool $1,000 plus over that of a PC comparison.

Here's a great blog that I found detailing the advantages and disadvantages, cost and otherwise of PCs vs. Mac - .

Happy shopping and leave me a post with your thoughts on the PC vs. Mac debate.

The costs of professional teeth whitening

It's all the rage. Every magazine tells us, men and women, that a brighter smile is the quickest way to shed years off your face. But what's the cost?

As an avid coffee drinker and occasional red wine drinker, I've used teeth bleaching for years. Unfortunately, I lost my teeth trays some time ago and thus had to start the search all over again for whitening options. Here's the skinny on glowing teeth without breaking the bank (especially if you don't have a dental plan - although, I'm not sure most would cover whitening):
  • Whitening strips. I opted for the professional whitening strips (as opposed to those at the drug store) which cost about $100 for a 30 day package. Personally, I found them messy, annoying to use with minimal results. I stopped half way through with a box full of these strips left. I suppose if you've never used traditional teeth bleach, you might find the effects noticeable, but too lengthy of a process for me.
  • In office whitening systems. I found a dental clinic offering ZOOM in-office system for $299, which has come down dramatically from it's $600+ price tag some years ago. I also found some clinics quoting $1,200 plus for in office whitening so be diligent in shopping around. If you opt for this option or similar in-office systems, be prepared to have your teeth cleaned first (I called around and this cost can vary from $200 - a whopping $600). Also be prepared for a great deal of pain (although short-term) if you have sensitive teeth. The dental office I used also sent me home with enough touch up gel for many more applications plus, customized teeth trays.
  • Take home options. If the pain and cost of in-office sessions have you questioning a brighter smile, shop around for custom fitted trays and take home gels. I highly recommend this option over the store bought trays as you likely don't want the harmful bleach leaking out into your system and you'll have whiter teeth quicker.
  • Bleach doesn't work on stains. Lastly, I learned that whitening systems are not aimed at treating stains. So, your least costly and pain free solution might be to drop in for a quick polish touch-up at your dentist's office.