Kelley Keehn

Many advantages to having a “squirm-worthy” chat with spouse, family about money

October 7, 2021

Not everyone is comfortable talking about money with family members – spouses, kids, and so on.

In fact, Kelley Keehn, writing for FP Canada notes that she has always found it interesting that “people naturally retreat when the topic of finances comes up.”

“While it’s perhaps not the most engaging dinner table discussion or a conversation-starter on a date, money is an important subject to be comfortable talking about,” she writes. “No matter our age, salary, social or relationship status, money is an essential part of our lives,” Keehn continues.

She cites a recent national survey by FP Canada, The Discomfort Index, as finding that the topics that make Canadians squirm the most are politics (26 per cent), relationships/sex (24 per cent) and then money – tied with religion – in third place at 23 per cent. By comparison, notes Keehn, only 12 per cent of respondents found talking about their health to be a “taboo” subject.

Strangely, notes Keehn, at a time when women’s earnings now account for 47 per cent of family income, women are “more likely to avoid the topic of money than men,” by a margin of 27 per cent to 18 per cent.

While most Canadians confide in their partners about money, there’s a whopping 40 per cent who won’t, Keehn reports. Only three per cent would talk about money with strangers, two per cent with “hairstylists and estheticians,” and one per cent won’t talk about it to anyone, Keehn adds.

Save with SPP did an interview with Kelley Keehn last year.

So, what can be done to get people talking?

Writing for the Sun Life blog, Sylvie Tremblay suggests that one barrier to money talk might be our level of financial knowledge. “All too often, resistance to talking about money in a real, substantive way stems from a lack of confidence,” she writes. Consulting a financial advisor – a view shared by Keehn – is a great way to educate yourself about the topic.

Another money talk ice-breaker could be picking a financial goal you both are interested and excited about – a major vacation, putting together a down payment, or setting up a registered education savings plan (RESP) for the kids.

Other ideas from Tremblay include making an annual “money talk” appointment with your partner, setting rules about “who is handling what” when it comes to money and bills, and finally, to get started on talking right away.

An article from the Desjardins Financial Security network gives some great ideas about talking money with your adult kids.

The article points out, citing research results reported upon by the New York Times, that 83 per cent of respondents (folks making more than $100,000 per year) said they would NOT disclose their income to their adult kids. Only 17 per cent said they would, the article notes, with the main reason given for a “no” being the belief that the parents’ finances are “none of their (the kids’) business.”

However, the article says, that’s not really the case.  First off, your money may be theirs one day – and data suggests that one-third of inheritors “squander their inheritance shortly after receiving it.” Talking about money with them now, and discussing how to make it last, the article suggests, is helpful.

If you support charities, this is a nice idea to discuss with the kids – perhaps you can help grow their giving values too, the article adds. A money discussion plays a huge part in boosting the financial literacy of your children, the Desjardins article states.

“Parents with a certain degree of wealth have an opportunity to gradually expose their adult children to complex financial concepts such as investments, business ownership or overall financial planning,” the article adds.

Finally, the article suggests, it’s never a bad idea to involve a financial advisor in matters relating to inheritances or “in-life” transfers of wealth to kids, to game plan for any tax issues in advance.

The bottom line here seems to be quite simple – if you aren’t talking money with your spouse, it’s probably time to start. If everyone knows where the money is going and why, you avoid surprises, which people really only like on birthdays and other key holidays. If you are on the same page with spending, you can get on the same page with saving.

Thinking about saving for retirement, for couples and also for individuals, is a key financial consideration. If you have a retirement plan at work, be sure to join it and learn about what features it offers, particularly when it comes to benefits for your survivors. This is a good idea for both partners.

If you are saving on your own, take a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, marking its 35th year of operations in 2021. The SPP offers you a “do it yourself” pension plan that not only invests your savings, but provides the possibility of a lifetime pension with benefits for your surviving spouse. Check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Pandemic has meant many adult children returning to the nest

May 13, 2021
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

With an end to the pandemic in sight, we are all hopeful that things are about to start returning to normal.

One trend that’s been happening since last year, reports Global News, is “young adults (being) forced to move back in with their parents.”

Factors like campus closures or lack of employment are reasons why the kids may return to the nest. Another factor might be the fact that housing is so unaffordable these days.

What should parents do to make the best of such a situation?

Noted financial author and commentator Kelley Keehn recommends setting “some ground rules” before the kids move back in.

“Are they paying rent? If they’re unemployed are they looking for work? When they do get back on their feet do they need to pay back the bank of mom and dad?” she states in the article. If these details aren’t clear right off the top, “resentment can set in,” the article warns.

The trend of kids returning home is big south of the border as well, reports the Huffington Post. Numbers of Americans aged 18 to 34 returning home are rising, and parents – who might have been thinking of downsizing – are now thinking about going bigger on their homes to make room for the kids.

A total of 26 per cent of millennials live with their parents in the U.S., up from 22 per cent before the recession of 2007, the article notes.

But there’s good news – the kids moving home are taking advantage of the situation to boost their education, and ideally snare a better job, the article concludes.

The PsychCentral blog says there can be a lot of positives for the relations between parents and kids when they move home, but parents need to stay calm about the unexpected change.

“Don’t freak out,” the publication advises, and blame the kids for not trying hard enough to be independent. Have conversations about “what is OK and what isn’t OK” in your house, and remember your kids aren’t teenagers and will be expecting more freedom than in the past. Try to make sure the kids are contributing, even in some small way, towards the costs of living, and set up a timetable for their stay, the article adds.

WebMD expands on that point, advising us not to “fall back into mommy mode” and realize that the now adult kids have “different attitudes, needs, and eating, sleeping or partying habits than they did when they were younger.”

Save with SPP can add this important thought for parents – the kids are almost certainly doing this move as a last resort. Few adult children truly want to move home. So, if you do get a second chance to live with your kids, make the most of it – you’re helping them to get ahead in life by doing so.

Do your kids have a pension plan at work? If not, the Saskatchewan Pension Plan may be a smart option for them. A truly end-to-end retirement program, SPP takes your contributed dollars, invests them professionally and at a low cost, and then can convert those invested savings into a lifelong pension when you reach the golden handshake. SPP has been securing retirement futures for 35 years now – check them out today.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Canadians stressed about money, financial buffers can help: FP Canada’s Kelley Keehn

September 10, 2020

FP Canada recently released their annual 2020 Financial Stress Index. Save with SPP reached out to FP Canada’s consumer advocate Kelley Keehn, a noted financial author and educator, by email to find out about the survey’s results.

Q. Research shows money is number one worry, and that people worry about saving for retirement and debt. Is there a relationship between the two – like, if you are paying down debt you can’t save for retirement, and vice-versa? And maybe also did you find out what people think the consequences are of not having enough for retirement (working forever, a less exciting retirement, etc.)

Yes, money still is the #1 worry. FP Canada’s Financial Stress Index found yet again that people worry more about money than health, relationships or work.

The survey didn’t go into your exact questions, but I can anecdotally state that without a clear financial plan, it’s nearly impossible to figure out complex scenarios like paying down your debt vs. saving for an RRSP (or using the tax deduction to pay down on your debt), etc.  And you’re correct, that the consequences for not having saved enough for retirement means either living with less or working longer.  

Consistent with previous years, in 2020 money is the number one cause of stress for Canadians by a large margin. Money (38 per cent) outranks personal health (25 per cent), work (21 per cent) and relationships (16 per cent) as the top source of stress in Canadians’ lives. This is particularly significant given multitude of non-financial stresses related to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The 2020 Financial Stress Index also reveals that as Canadians age, they feel less stressed about money – with 44 per cent of 18-to-34-year-olds listing money as their leading concern compared to one-in-four (25 per cent) of those aged 65+.

Q. Putting money aside for an emergency fund is a great idea – we would like to hear a bit more about this, if possible. Are people basically realizing they need to create one for the first time? Or are they moving from having a sort of contingency credit line to having actual savings? We guess it’s because of the pandemic that this is being considered more?

Before the crisis, many stats revealed that 50 per cent of Canadians were just $200 away from insolvency.  I don’t know the current numbers, but one could suggest that it’s much worse now.  And, many people don’t realize that the time to get a line of credit is when you don’t need it (i.e. not after you’ve lost your job). 

A recent Canadian Payroll Association survey revealed that it’s not the amount of income that you earn that reduces stress, it’s the financial buffer that you have.  The problem for younger Canadians is that they haven’t been in their career long enough to save (i.e. student loan debt, getting into a home). 

Q. The financial regrets part is fabulous. We wondered whether “having a better job” might refer to having a job with better benefits (or maybe just better money). We retirees sure wish we had had the brains to try and find a job with a good workplace pension earlier (this writer got such a job in his mid-30s). That sort of thing.

The survey didn’t dig deeper unfortunately.  But people really should think of their career as their fourth asset class. If you’re in a high-risk career like an entrepreneur, your investments should perhaps be less risky.  On the flip side, a professor with tenure likely takes less risk with their investments, but possibly should. It’s essential that your career is part of your financial plan (do you have a pension or not, benefits, etc.)

Q. The number one takeaway from the research – what results surprised you the most, and why?

That Canadians are still not reaching out for help and thus suffering sleepless nights.  We wouldn’t self-diagnose when it comes to our health, nor would we go on a new road trip without the help of Google maps on our phone.  Why do so many Canadians still not reach out to a financial pro like a Certified Financial Planner (CFP)?

We thank Kelley Keehn for taking the time to answer our questions, and her colleague Emma Ninham for setting things up.

Is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan part of your own financial plan? The SPP could serve as your personal defined contribution pension plan, a workplace pension or can supplement any workplace or government pension plans to which you belong. It’s a plan with a long history of successful investing returns at a very low management cost, and has averaged returns of more than eight per cent since inception. Consider checking out SPP as a way to help take the stress out of retirement saving.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.


Book makes “fin lit” understandable, easy to digest, and inspires action

August 29, 2019

A fear one has when picking up a financial self-help book is that the advice it contains will be so confusing and complex that you’ll feel less financially literate than before.

That’s not the case with A Canadian’s Guide to Money-Smart Living, by Kelley Keehn. In fact, her book – a slender volume – is designed to break down big ideas into small, digestible ones. And once you’re done, you feel that maybe yes, you will go out and follow some of the things you’ve learned.

Keehn begins by saying her mission is “to make Canadians feel good about money.” She says her mom, who as a single parent was an excellent manager of money, would probably change her view that “money doesn’t grow on trees” to “money doesn’t grow in plastic.” Keehn says her mom saw credit cards as being for emergencies – and that they should be paid off in full, every month.

Yet, Keehn writes, even though someone making $51,000 a year will see, in his or her life, “over $2 million past through (their) hands,” why are so many Canadians “living from paycheque to paycheque… burdened with excessive debt… and not better off when it comes to retirement?”

Keehn’s advice is simple. We need to take control of our finances by spending less than we earn, and by paying ourselves first – saving before you spend. “Do not look upon savings as something left over after you’ve spent everything else. Save first, live and budget within the net amount.”

Your goal, she writes, should be “a comfortable life.”

“I’m not talking about applying some complex budget plan to your paycheque that requires you to watch every penny in order to squeeze out something at the end of the month to be put away and called `savings.’ I’m talking about setting aside something from every paycheque before you do your spending,” she writes. The goal should be 10 per cent of your gross earnings, she advises.

You and your partner also need to do a little goal-setting to get on the same page, she writes. Define your goals, establish a “needs and wants” list, check your progress, talk about next steps, make changes, and “take action and get help,” she recommends.

The book reviews major spending categories and offers specific tips to manage each. In the mortgage chapter, her advice is to “seriously consider your options to speed up the mortgage amortization,” so that your biggest expense is paid off as quickly as possible.

In the chapter on credit cards, she notes that most Canadians have a “household debt to disposable income” ratio of around 170 per cent. She cuts to the chase here, recommending people carry no more than three credit cards, and to avoid department store cards that carry higher interest and “are a temptation you should resist.”

Interestingly, she says debit cards can be expensive “unless you have a no-fee arrangement with your institution,” so consider carrying cash to avoid debit card fees.

With any type of consumer debt, remember that when interest rates go up on a loan or line of credit, so do your payments – and you still “have to pay back the entire principal.”

There’s a chapter on retirement savings that walks you through the rules of RRSPs and RRIFs. For RRIFs, she says when you withdraw money each year, it “doesn’t mean you have to spend it, all you have to do is report it as taxable income.” So that money could be reinvested in a TFSA or non-registered account, she says. She explains Old Age Security, noting that depending on your income in retirement, you may have to pay back some or all of the OAS payments you receive. (A good reason to bank it until tax time.)

This is a great book that makes you feel energetic about winning back control of your wallet. It’s a highly recommended addition to your retirement planning library. And a great destination for the money you save is a Saskatchewan Pension Plan account!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Aug 26: Best from the blogosphere

August 26, 2019

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

A new snag for retiring boomers – helping the kids buy a house

Troubles for the poor old boomers continue to mount.

Not only are they carrying more debt into retirement than ever before, prompting some to work longer than they planned, but they also want to help their kids. A new survey carried out by the Leger group for FP Canada finds that nearly half of boomers with kids under 18 intend to help them buy a home, even if it postpones their retirement.

The survey is covered in a recent Advisor’s Edge article. The Housing Affordability Survey found that “48 per cent of these parents intend to help their children buy a home, up from 43 per cent of parents surveyed in 2017,” Advisor’s Edge reports.

As well, 39 per cent of those surveyed “expect to postpone their retirement to help their kids buy a home,” which is up from 27 per cent two years ago, the article notes.

The reason for a delayed retirement may be that 30 per cent of respondents planned to dip into their retirement savings to help the kids, up from 21 per cent in 2017. As well, 26 per cent said they would tap into their own home equity to aid the children, up from 23 per cent a couple of years ago.

Thirty-four per cent, the article notes, report that “the financial strain of helping their children” is creating problems with their ability to pay down debt. That’s up from 22 per cent in 2017.

“Even though it’s natural to want to help your children, it’s essential to carefully consider the impact on your own financial security before helping with such a huge purchase,” Kelley Keehn, a consumer advocate for FP Canada, states in the article.

This is a great point. More and more retirees are finding that the biggest costs of retirement come near the end, when a growing number of seniors find they need long-term care in nursing homes, a cost that can be quite significant. You want to help the kids, sure, but you must avoid (if you can) the danger of leaving yourself short when you are too old to work, and your savings are beginning to dry up.

The takeaway from this is that our kids are facing a much more expensive life than we have experienced. Of course they will need some help. That’s a good reason to increase your own commitment to your retirement savings. If you have a little more income in retirement, why, you will have a little bit more to help the kids, right?

An easy way to prevent being short on cash in retirement is to join the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. The money you put away now, while you’re working, will grow into a future stream of income that will supplement whatever you get from government pensions, workplace retirement programs, equity, and so on. It’s a wise step to take!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Jul 8: Best from the blogosphere

July 8, 2019

A look at the best of the Internet, from an SPP point of view

Caring for parents hits retirement savings bottom line

New research has found that 14 per cent of Canadians with a living parent “are expecting the impact of helping their parents financially will mean delaying their own retirement,” reports Wealth Professional.

A further 12 per cent say caring for parents will prevent them from paying off debt, the magazine notes, citing research carried out by Leger for FP Canada and Chartwell Retirement Residences.

Other fears connected with parental care include having to take time off work to look after parents (a concern for 13 per cent of respondents), or having to quit work entirely to provide care (a fear for five per cent of those surveyed), the magazine reports.

For sure, having a parent who develops a serious illness and can’t live on their own anymore can throw a wrench in any plan. Is there much that can be done about it?

According to Sharon Henderson, VP of Marketing & Communications for Chartwell, an important thing to do is to talk with the parents about the possibility of a future health downturn.

“One of the biggest concerns we see in retirement living is the avoidance of financial conversations between adult children and their senior parents. This can create uncertainty and prevent proactive planning for support later in life,” she states in the article.

It’s important to go over the potential costs of long-term care, and to be aware of what measures the parents have put in place to help pay for it, the article advises. As well, there are tax credits available if you are acting as a caregiver, the article notes.

As Kelley Keehn of FP Canada notes in the article, “the senior years can be financially challenging, and as a result, many older Canadians turn to family members for support. That can cause a significant financial strain, and as Canadians live longer, that strain will only grow.”

Some great things about retirement

While it’s a safe bet that no one’s retirement will be completely smooth sailing, there are good things about it that we must not lose sight of, reports US News and World Report.

For starters, “a weight is lifted from your shoulders when you quit the rat race,” the article notes. There’s more time for movies and TV. You can try new things, join new clubs, and meet new people. And if you miss the routine of working, you can still do it part-time, the article suggests. There’s loads more time for family and friends, and to “give back” via volunteering, the article notes.

Other ideas include travel, enjoying the “time to do nothing,” and generally doing what you want instead of what others want you to do, the article concludes.

Whether it’s caring for a relative or doing your own thing, retirement is a time of life where you’ll appreciate having money. Sure the government provides some, but if you don’t have a workplace pension, or you want to supplement what it provides, consider saving on your own via the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. You can start small, you can ramp up your contributions as your income increases, and when it’s time to collect your savings you can receive it as a lifetime monthly pension. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing, classic rock, and darts. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22

Have you committed financial infidelity?

March 22, 2018

My husband and I joke that it would be pretty hard for one of us to make a major purchase without the other finding out because all our accounts are online and both of us “visit” our money frequently. Also, our Capital One MasterCard has an annoying but useful safety feature that generates an email to each of us each time a charge is posted to our account.

However, an online poll conducted by Leger for Credit Canada and the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) earlier this year revealed that 36 % of Canadians surveyed have lied about a financial matter to a romantic partner, and the same number of participants had been victims of financial infidelity from a current or former partner. Furthermore 34%  of those polled keep financial secrets from their current romantic partner.

Kelley Keehn, a personal finance educator and consumer advocate for the FPSC, which helped create the survey told the Toronto Star that, “Financial infidelity is generally defined as dishonesty in a relationship when it comes to money, but she noted that the term is vague and it requires you (as a couple) to define what that means.”

“If you have separate accounts in your relationship and you both discussed openly that your money is your money and their money is their money, and you’re free to do anything that you want, then spending and saving and not telling the other person wouldn’t be an infidelity,” she continued.

Other survey results reveal that:

  • Participants aged 18 to 34 were more likely to be victims of financial infidelity — at 47% — than those aged 65 and older, at 18%.
  • Gender and income do not play a significant role.
  • 35% of men surveyed and 37% of female participants said they experienced financial deception from a partner.

When asked about the worst forms of financial deception they experienced from a former or current partner, common offences cited were:

  • Running up a credit card without informing a partner.
  • Lied about income
  • Made a major purchase without telling me.
  • Went bankrupt without informing me.

Financial infidelity doesn’t get as much press as the other kind of infidelity but it can destroy your marriage. In fact, a 2014 BMO poll revealed that 68% of those surveyed say fighting over money would be their top reason for divorce, followed by infidelity (60%) and disagreements about family (36%).

Blogging on The Simple Dollar, Trent Hamm offers Ten Red Flags of Financial Infidelity and What to Do About It. He concludes:

Financial infidelity can be overcome, of course, but it requires honest effort from both members of the relationship. Accusations won’t solve the problem, nor will anger. It takes time, it takes communication, and it takes calmness. If you can’t bring those to the table yourself, you are a big part of the problem. Moving forward isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about finding a new direction that works for both of you.”

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Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.