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.