Break Bread Together

There are many studies on the importance of family meal time.   For kids and parents the social activity of having a family meal builds closeness, better eating habits, confidence and helps with academics, physical and mental health and overall well-being. My favorite quote on the importance of dining together comes from the late Anthony Bourdain:

“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.” 

― Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook 

However, in a busy household nightly family dinner is not always easy (or even possible).  With school, extra curricular activities and work schedules getting the family together is not a simple task.

What is important is that it is the time together that matters, not the meal.  If a nightly dinner is not going to happen, strive for something like a proper Sunday meal with candlelight and all!

Another option, is skip the dinner idea altogether.  Do family breakfast.  20 minutes together to kick-start your day with some proper triggered conversation starters:

“What is one thing you are look forward to today?”

“What is one thing that you are concerned about today?”

“Before we head out the door share one thing that was good yesterday and one thing that was bad?”

“What was one thing you did today or yesterday that helped someone else?”

The meal matters for the nourishment, but the conversation matters most.  The conversation also needs to be with the kids talking (hopefully more than the parents)

When we share a meal, we often play a game. Some examples below:

Word association game: to help with vocabulary, state a word and then have your kids call out as many words with similar meanings.

The compliment game: each member states two things they like about other family members and they cannot be the same as what has been stated.

What happened today game: name one thing that made you happy, one thing that made you sad, one thing you did to make the world better and one thing you could have done better.

If you can- get around the table, enjoy a meal and each other.  It is amazing what you will learn and enjoy about your family by making family meal time a priority.


A Holiday Season of Red or Black?

‘Tis the season for sharing, family, giving and unfortunately overspending!

If one of your 2019 goals is to buy a property, keeping debt loads in check in more important than ever.  The impact of non-mortgage related consumer debt on mortgage qualifying is worthy of attention.

Continual Government mortgage rule changes and tightening of qualifying parameters over the last few years brought to light the significance of carrying debt for potential home owners has really brought this to light. Simply put, every $100 of debt payment is the equivalent of about $16,500 in mortgage financing.  This may not sound like a lot, but let’s consider a few numbers.

If you have $10,000 owing on a line of credit, banks and lenders have to use a payment of 3% or $300 against your qualifying (even if your minimum payments are less). This means your top end borrowing power is reduced by about 5%.  If you add a reasonable car payment of $300 in there, you are now down by a total of close to 15%.

With a household income of $80,000 this would mean a maximum mortgage of $320,000 compared to $365,000.  The numbers become quite scary if debt levels climb.  For example, another $300 in payments (or $10,000 in debt) would take that same $80,000 income to a maximum mortgage amount of $270,000.  Each additional $300 in debt payment is further reducing qualifying amounts by $50,000!

According to a recent report from Equifax * the average Canadian carries $22,800 in debt (excluding mortgages).  Just looking at this average, maximum mortgage amounts are potentially reduced by about $135,000 for these individuals.  For first time home buyers, or those looking to move up in property value, keeping your debt loads in check should be a main priority.

Again, if buying property in 2019 is in the plans, make sure to keep the holiday spending down and in the black.

[*] https://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/debt/equifax-says-canadian-delinquencies-will-probably-rise-this-year


The Sky is Falling…into our Bedroom

In 2010, my wife and I built our home on a great lot in Bridgeland.  We sit on a hill with a view of the Calgary skyline and can walk to downtown within 15 minutes.  We love our community and home, but this year we were hit with a homeowner’s nightmare (a major roof leak).

When I say leak, I mean the whole roofing system was compromised (it is a complex roof with peaks and flat patio spaces) and unfortunately for us, our lovely home was under siege from a sudden attack of water.

The entire upper level of our home had to be ripped out and the roof completely rebuilt, as our family of 4, along with 175 lbs of Labrador Retriever retreated to our new living quarters (the basement) for 4 months.  Going upstairs was entering a world of poly covering everything…like a scene from Dexter.

The home no longer has new home warranty, our builder is long gone and insurance is working with us, but the shock of the sudden disaster and the financial implications to Mike Holmes it and “Make it Right” are big (think six figures big).   However, I’m a bright side of things kind-of-guy and I always look for lessons-so here they are:

You need liquid savings and ideally more than a couple months of living expenses.  If you have good equity in your home, you need to have access to it.  Adult problems may be a new furnace in -30 degree January, or a whole new roof and upstairs! For anyone that has put a lot of equity into their home, a secured line of credit is a tool they should have.  I cannot imagine how much more stressful it would be if we couldn’t write a cheque to fix it. Good luck going to get a mortgage with half your house ripped apart-and I deal in mortgages every day.

Families can bond in tough places and small spaces.  We had the girls on mattresses in the TV room.  We had the spare bedroom.  The dogs hung out between the two.  You make it work.  As long as you are healthy-it just doesn’t matter.  We felt like we lived in a small apartment and that was cool.  Space is great, but so is closeness.  It turns out, we all really like each other-for reals!

You can’t sell it and you can’t live with it, so fix it.  This is true in a lot of situations.  You have a tough hand, so play the game and get it done.

Plans change, or at least get put on hold.  We had plans to go to Scotland in 2018.  Now we don’t.  The reason might be the best lesson of all.

We sat down with our girls and explained we cannot get on a plane and stay in castles and learn about another culture by diving into it, for one simple reason-we have limited resources.  Fixing the house is going to cost a lot of money and we have to fix it.  Why is this so important?   Because it it about teaching our children the real value of a dollar.  When my youngest said she wanted to go back to Disneyland and then quickly followed that up with “never mind, we don’t have money, because of the roof” I think the message is getting through.

This roofing adventure is almost over and in the end we may have less cash, but are a little richer nevertheless.


STOP if you want to GO

Life can be crazy busy.  For me, most of the time, my life is some sort of organized chaos.  It is fast paced and unless I purposely stop-it is all go, all the time.

But you have to stop, just for you-even for a few minutes.  Stop to say thank you, or just to embrace all the good.  To have a moment of gratitude.  It can be a walk, a coffee at first light, meditation, prayer, reading-whatever works- the key is to just stop.

I try to do this at least twice a day.  Most often it happens during runs with my two awesome Black Labs (Miles and Rosie).  They help me relax and being outside with them helps me appreciate the complete awesomeness of the life I live and the people in it.  Why do my dogs do this for me? Because they are kick ass creatures and it is just what they do!

What can also help with stopping, is to say no.  This is a hard thing to say for a lot of people, but it is important to say it.  It is okay to say it. You are not a jerk to say it. Say no to the appointment tomorrow (if you’re already at capacity).

I am a four meeting limit guy.  I can rock up to four face-to-face meetings a day and be all in (with an espresso or two)-if you are meeting five with me, I’m letting you down before you get in the door.  If you have a full social calendar, turn down the party-just don’t always turn down the party.  If you want to say yes, of course say yes!

This leads me to the RSVP.  Say yes, say no, but don’t say maybe.  Maybe should only be said, if it is a “Wow, thanks for the invite, I just need to check my schedule and i’ll confirm back ” and then you ACTUALLY check your schedule and confirm back-tomorrow-NOT 3 WEEKS FROM NOW!

When you say maybe, you are telling someone:

A) I am waiting to see if something better comes my way

B) I am a total flake that cannot even plan a few hours of my life

A and B are bad outcomes.  No, is a fine outcome.  Yes, is a fine outcome.  Carly Rae Jepsenin’ your life…is no way to fill a calendar.  If you feel too busy, really focus on taking the time to stop and then, be all in, or all out, but don’t “Call Me Maybe”.


That’s the Goal

Another year is winding down and 2018 is just around the corner.  Of course New Year resolutions are being thrown out like free t-shirts at a sporting event.

Don’t state resolutions, but do set goals.

This morning, each member of my family wrote down three goals.  Why did we write them down?  Because studies have shown you are at least 40% more likely to achieve written out goals.

Why did we share them and do the exercise collectively?  Because the success rate of achieving goals again grows exponentially, simply by sharing them.

We all had fitness goals.  However, the key is to make them precise.

I am committing to a 100 push-up/day for 100 day challenge and taking boxing classes at a studio across from my office.  My wife, is going to do ballet classes on Saturday mornings and my eldest daughter is going to achieve her dance splits by doing stretching exercises on her yoga mat (set right next to her bed) first thing in the morning and just before bed.

Beyond the classic post holiday, “time to get in shape” goals.  Setting specific school, or career goals and personal achievement goals will help keep 2018 on track.

My five year old is committed to do more around the house to help the family (how she came up with that is beyond me, but awesome!)  She wants to wash dishes and feed the dogs daily.

Focus on areas that you need to work at and have the goals written down.  Better yet, re-write them daily, or weekly to keep them top of mind.  In my business, I can get bogged down and forget the basics to my early career success.

One of my career goals is simply blocking an hour each day, to “smile and dial” to simply call my clients. I want to make sure I am personally connecting with them to check in and check up on their mortgage and life needs (and not through email or text.)

Goals are the start, the set up and ultimately the end destination.  You may get there without setting them out, but by doing so-writing them down and sharing them, you will creat accountability and a road map to not only getting there, but getting there together-and isn’t that the ultimate goal?




Money Tip for Kids

One of the best life lessons my parents taught me was the value of a dollar.

From a very young age, I had a comprehensive concept of budgeting, savings, spending and prioritizing. Although there were a lot of methods my folks used to teach, the simple mantra from my father was “put money in your kid’s hands early.”

They figured out what they spent on me annually and put that money in my control. By the time I was ten years old, I was responsible to pay for everything (school clothes, hockey registration, entertainment-everything.) There was a limit on the money I had, and this forced me to really understand what things cost.

The cool shoes became less important, when I realized they ate up half my school clothes budget (besides they would go on sale in October, so I could wait until then to snag them). My parents let me fail and make stupid purchases-better to do this at 15 than 30! They gave me support and advice, but the money was mine.

I am sure if I suddenly didn’t want to be active and play sports and just spent my money on candy and toys, they would have stepped in. However, the great thing is my mind had developed to create a sense of responsibility, self worth and self-reliance. The result, I made the right choices more often than not.

I am a strong believer that children can handle money concepts and teaching needs to start early. Financial literacy is not something that can easily be learned in your twenties or beyond. A good first step is to set up a pay plan. By 4 or 5 years old, a child can earn money with chores and then learn how to use this money.

With my own young children, we have a chore/good human chart and weekly allowance.  Chores are just part of helping as a member of a household, but acknowledge effort and kindness is also important (so go ahead and expand the chore chart idea). From this allowance, a portion goes into spending (living), a portion into savings and a portion for charity (giving).

The savings portion goes into their own bank accounts. The spending portion is fine to be in a piggy bank (and if they want to buy a fidget spinner, or save it to purchase a Lego set, so be it). The charity portion allows them to develop a great sense of humanitarian responsibility and actively choose where they want to contribute.

It may sound cliché, but kids are the future and it is our responsibility to ensure they are prepared.



Time Doesn’t Come from a Store

Christmas is coming. Time for me to get all anti-commercial goods on you! I am serious about it though. I always think my girls have too much stuff. I have too much stuff. We all have TOO MUCH STUFF! I love giving and receiving presents. Most of us do. I am not saying this should stop, but a monetary exchange, a gift draw, or the like, really puts me off.

The greatest gift is time. This is true on all levels. Your time is solely yours (it may not feel that way sometimes, but it truly is YOURS TO GIVE). 

I saw the direct impact of giving time to underprivileged kids when I coached football for 10-12 year old boys from da’ hood. Many were tough nosed kids from single parent homes, with very few positive male role models. This was a rough lot, with an “F” the world attitude.

Yet, with the gift of my time-I saw actual positive change.  whether it was teaching one how to throw a spiral, or how to shave-they developed a sense of worth.  They saw they could accomplish things, as individuals and collectively. They experienced that someone believed in them, cared about them and wanted to teach them and spend TIME with them. This is huge!

I know some of these boys have since gone on to do great things. Go to university, become realtors, lawyers and teachers-role models and people of influence.  I had the honour of assisting a kid (now man), buy his first home this past summer. Some have likely ended up in prison too, but I know I helped turn some in the right direction. I maybe, just maybe, helped to save a few.

I know the power of time first hand-I know it is the greatest gift you can give. So, why not give it to your own kids, your nieces and nephews-your loved ones?

Instead of new Barbies, a Lego set, or a new high end coat-plan a family day hike in the mountains. Actually go, pack a lunch. Make a memory and use the experience to teach about nature. The questions of discovery that come from kids will be more than worth it.

Take your nephew skating all winter-pick him up, get him on the outdoor rink. Plan a weekly bike ride with your niece-each week try a new route for new adventures. Cook with your mom (someone better learn her recipes!)

Go fishing with your dad-or work on his car. Set aside time with your spouse, even a glass of wine once the kids are asleep-that is a set meeting-that you cannot skip (because you have too many more important things to do). Plan an exercise get together with your friends, where you try something new-like yoga, or spin class.

For my family, we make sure the holiday season is filled with outdoor fun. A skate night at Olympic Plaza, or sled races on the toboggan bowl in Bridgeland are worth far more than any wrapped gift.

Just give a time commitment and stick to it.  A few less gifts under the tree will not ruin Christmas-it just might make it better. If time is money-set the spending limits high this year.

So, I’m a Dance Dad

My two daughters just finished their year end dance recital and after watching two hours of dance-I have come to the conclusion that I am a dance dad and I love it.

Why I love it is not about the dancing. I love music and art, so I do enjoy dance, but it is more what I am seeing come from within my little girls. They both have danced since she age 3 (their mom danced and did professional theatre, so trying dance as a little girl was inevitable).

However, what I have seen in both is such growth- measurable growth as an athlete, artist and person-a desire to compete, to be better, to work harder. Becoming stronger, both physically and mentally, as well as a real growth in responsibility and commitment-has all further developed thanks to dance. A beaming smile to be able to go on stage and DANCE!

Success in life is so important and the way to measure success is really very simple. Are you BETTER today than you were yesterday-and what are you doing to be even better tomorrow? That is all that matters. It is not about being the best. It is not about money or fame-it is an internal measurement. Are you better?

Watching my daughters dance is inspiring. It makes me ask myself this very important question. AM I SUCCESSFUL? AM I BETTER TODAY THAN I WAS YESTERDAY? I am not about to put on a ballet leotard and dance-but how am I better in my life?

What can I do to be better as a father, a husband and friend? What can I do to better hone my craft? Most importantly, what can I do to be a better citizen-to make the world better? What can I do to better share my gifts, my time and knowledge-to contribute? To give. To be successful.

I always say my kids inspire me and when the final curtain closed on Gotta Dance 2017, my daughters, had once again inspired me more than they even know. Dance-so much more than music and steps-success is in every breath.


Wedding Season-Is it Over Yet?

Now that another season of weddings is drawing to a close, I have to say I love marriage. I love my marriage. I love religious marriage. I love civil marriage. I love gay marriage. I LOVE MARRIAGE! But I hate weddings. I don’t hate having a wedding, or attending a wedding, I just don’t like what having a wedding tends to entail these days. And more importantly what they do to brides and grooms.

I am all for the celebration of two people committing to each other and I love parties, but the time, effort and money that I see going into a wedding blows my mind.

When I sit down with a client that is struggling to pay bills, or save for a down payment telling me that they are planning a big wedding celebration that they clearly cannot afford, I have to wonder why? Celebrate your love and union with your family, friends and partner-throw a party, pop some bottles and eat some ribs-but don’t go into debt to do it!

Furthermore, don’t let planning a wedding consume you. It is not that important. Your marriage is-your wedding isn’t.

Here are my top tips for those looking to take the plunge:

1) Don’t go into debt to have a wedding. This is likely the biggest mistake you can make heading into a marriage. Finances (along with infidelity), is the most common reason for divorce. Starting your marriage under an unnecessary debt load is putting pressure on your finances and your marriage-where’s the love in that?

2) Don’t extend an engagement for the perfect venue (whatever that means)-if you have 2 years to plan a wedding, you will take 2 years. If you have 6 months, you will take 6 months. Both events will essentially be the same.

3) Accept by telling any supplier you are planning a wedding means at least a 25% premium on their fee (I don’t have statistics to verify this-but I am confident you could plan the exact same event labelled as a family reunion for a whole lot less money.) Weddings have become a huge industry. You are paying a premium to have a wedding-know this going in and budget accordingly. You ought to prioritize and be willing to cut things. Your centre pieces are great-but were they really worth the $1000?

4) Remember it is not YOUR DAY. Sorry, it just isn’t. You are throwing a party and it should be about your guests. They are coming for you, so please acknowledge that fact by ensuring they have a great time and don’t have to incur costs that may be beyond their comfort levels. Making them wait, not having transportation options, having 7 speeches about how great you are-this is all about YOU. Make it about the people that are there to celebrate you, your love and your commitment to each other. You wouldn’t throw a dinner party to honour yourself (unless you are at narcissistic A-hole.). So don’t throw a wedding doing that either!

5) Your wedding day may very well be the best day of your life (although it will likely be replaced with a new greatest day at some point), but remember, it is just one day. What really matters is your commitment and effort to every day that comes after.

Marriage is not some amazing, blissful fairy tale on its own. Marriage is empty and you as partners need to fill it. Commit to your vows. Your commitment to love, support, passion, compromise and adventure-taking less and giving more-that will make your marriage full. If more couples put the time, effort and resources into their marriages that they put into their weddings, I think we would see a lot more happily ever after.


Slaying the Tickle Monster

I no longer attack my daughter with tickles.

She doesn’t like it because she says it makes her feel like she is going to pee. Sneaking up on her and attacking her with the “tickle monster” while she was frantically telling me to stop, seemed to me to all be in jest. That is until I realized that I was giving her voice no power. She was saying “NO, STOP, I DON’T LIKE IT, OR WANT THIS.”

By continuing to tickle her, I was saying with no words at all, I can overpower you, I can do what I want to your body and person and I don’t need your consent. How awful is that?

In social development a clear understanding of consent must be learned at a very young age and it is important that as parents, and responsible citizens, we teach it. I think we ought to be even more cognisant of how young boys deal with consent. A boy being tickled, or wrestled with more often than not, has his voice ignored. Just a little rough housing has no harm, unless said boy doesn’t want it. A boy, just like a girl, needs to know if he says no, it means no. If he hears no, it means no. If we as adults, reject his voice, how can we expect him as a grown man to respect the voice of someone else?

This past school year a group of boys tried to kiss girls in my daughter’s class. Why the boys wanted to do this is irrelevant-what mattered is many of the girls didn’t want to be kissed. The boys would chase, girls would scream. What might seem to be 5 year olds being silly kids is a root to a much deeper problem. The understanding of control of your body, respect of another’s and fully understanding any advancement towards another person is not acceptable without their consent, is fundamental in social upbringing. Why is this such an important lesson that must be instilled consistently, and from the start?

Rape. Just writing it makes me cringe. Having two young daughters I am more aware of rape culture than I ever used to be. The fact that rape culture is even a description of an epidemic sweeping our society is an awful reality, but is a reality that cannot be ignored.

Unwanted sexual advancements and assaults, especially in schools (places that should be held in the highest regard in society), are occurring at staggering levels-with many cases never being reported at all. We cannot be silent about it. When you have college campuses draped with banners proudly boasting appalling messages of RAPE, you’ve got a major problem on your hands.

It is not all in good fun to flaunt “thank you fathers for freshmen daughters” or “fresh meat” or “you’ve been her daddy for 18 years, we’ll take it from here” or the worst of the bunch, “NO MEANS YES”.

No should be the most powerful word anyone can say to another person. NO doesn’t just mean NO, it means STOP. The problem is somehow, especially with a mob mentality, consent is seen as an ambiguous concept that is up for interpretation. When in fact, consent should be and is the clearest damn thing that exists. If a person doesn’t say yes, then they have said no.

Let’s make sure our little boys and little girls know this while learning their ABC’s and 123’s and if you have to slay the “tickle monster” to help teach this lesson, bring out the sword.