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Post-Christmas Credit Card Blues


  • Firstly, don’t panic. You are not the first person to have overspent at Christmas and you certainly won’t be the last.

    Philip H. Gennis,
    LL.B., CIRP
    Vice President,
    Recovery &
    Grant Thornton
  • Secondly and perhaps most importantly, don’t play ostrich and bury your head in the sand believing that the mess you have created will all miraculously disappear. The truth is, the quicker you recognize that you have a problem and take steps to deal with it, the more options you have for dealing with it.

  • Thirdly, don’t insulate your spouse or partner from the problems. The sooner he or she realizes that financial restraint will be the watchword for the short-term the more contribution that your partner can make to the solution and the less likely your financial woes will get in the way of familial harmony.

  • Fourthly, don’t get into the blame game. Most families spend money on gifts for each other remember. Blaming your partner will not get the problem solved which, after all, should be the primary objective.

  • On a more practical level, do not, at all cost, dip into savings or worse yet retirement assets to pay off the credit card excesses. These debts can be retired with some hard work and some intelligent cash management; savings, on the other hand rarely can be replaced.

  • Don’t kid yourself into believing that by making minimum payments on your credit card balances that you will eventually get out of the mess you find yourself in.

  • Don’t start taking cash advances from one credit card (assuming that you have any credit room left) to make minimum payments on another. This will lead to a situation from which you will never be able to extricate yourself.

    NOTE: Philip Gennis will be presenting on the topic of "Employee Financial Ill-Health-A Death Knell for Productivity" at the IPM Toronto One Day Conference on May 16, 2007. For more information, Click Here


  • Make a commitment as a family to get out of the financial bind as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

  • Remember that there is a fine line between “want” and “need”, a line that is often severely obscured by our spending habits.

  • Take stock of your financial circumstances. Look at what you own and what you owe.

  • Look at all your sources of income. Remember, for those who are salaried employees, your pay-cheques for the first six months of the year are smaller than they are for the last six months.

  • Remember that monthly living expenses are subject to change. Everyone knows what their fixed monthly expenses are, eg. rent, mortgage, loan payments, cable, daycare, child support, bus pass, etc. On the other hand, fixed occasional expenses may be forgotten about until the time comes to pay them, for example, car and house insurance. Finally, flexible expenses are rarely considered, for example, heat and hydro, phone, food, clothing, vehicle operation, house repairs, entertainment, recreation, etc.

  • Look to see if you can consolidate your debts through the use of a line of credit from a bank. The best rate of interest for these lines is one that is secured against your residence, however, these usually require that you pay interest only which creates a great temptation and may in fact defeat the purpose unless you are prepared to commit to a monthly payment which allows the full debt to be retired in a reasonable time. Getting consolidation loans from finance companies should be considered as a last resort as should credit cards which offer low interest rates for credit balance transfers. While this latter option may be appealing, there are hidden costs such as administrative fees of up to 2% of the balance for making the transfer and high interest rates after the initial grace period.

  • Realize that budgeting your income is the key to money management. Often the financial resources you expect to have available during the month do not cover your predicted spending and saving. You then have to take a hard look at your spending and balance it either by increasing your resources, reducing your wants or doing a little of both.

  • Set debt reduction as your primary goal and set priorities for you and your family. Assess all the different methods of reaching the objective.

  • List the trade-offs that must be made. What must be sacrificed to get what’s wanted?

  • Develop a strategy for taking action. If spending has to be reduced, decide specifically what regular expenses to cut. Decide on the timing: when does everyone start to make the specific cuts. Set a deadline for reaching the goal.

  • Seek the help of professional financial advisors who can assist you in canvassing the best options available to you and direct you to your goal as quickly as possible.

    Philip H. Gennis, LL.B., CIRP is Vice-President,
    Grant Thornton Limited and can be reached at
    (416) 777 - 7221 Website:

    Involving Employees in Corporate Ethics

    In today’s competitive labour market, it is expected that demand will soon outstrip supply of skilled workers. According to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., we can expect to see a 33% rise in the demand for talented employees over the next 15 years and a corresponding 15% drop in supply. Employers will need to find new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. Often employment decisions come down to “fit” with organizational culture and work environment. At the heart of any organization are its people and the values and ethics by which it operates.

    The importance of corporate culture, values and ethics has risen, particularly against the backdrop of a series of high-profile scandals in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors here and abroad, renewing the focus on these critical organizational elements. Increasingly, the failure of ethics in business is having an impact on public perception of particular sectors and organizations.

    A Failure to Make It Real

    Many organizations have implemented various mechanisms to encourage ethical behaviour and support employees in dealing with ethical dilemmas they face on the job, such as values statements, codes of ethics, ethics officers, and training programs. These tools serve two purposes: they provide some external assurances of corporate compliance with operating standards, regulations and expectations for social responsibility, and they provide employees with an understanding of what to expect as employees and what is expected of them.

    If a strong values and ethics framework is critical to a high performance organization, why is it often lacking? Why does it seem that many employers are facing very public corporate ethics challenges? Senior management, often faced with competing priorities, will document the organization’s values and ethics through policies and codes but fail to involve employees in a way that translates them into meaningful terms. Moreover, without visible commitment by management in their words and actions, employees often view codes, policies and statements as “window-dressing”.

    Involving Employees In Developing Corporate Values and Ethics

    Employees need to understand the relevance of values and ethics policies, codes, and statements to their own jobs in order to integrate them into the business’ daily activities. Involvement of employees can vary along a continuum from one-way communications (such as the distribution of values statements) to surveys, to deliberative engagement processes that allow employees to provide more considered input. When deciding whether to initiate a top-down or bottom-up employee engagement exercise, it is important to assess corporate culture. In some large organizations, the preference is to define values and ethics at the highest level. This may be based on risk exposure (for example a financial institution) or due to the hierarchical nature of the organization. Alternatively, more open and progressive organizations involve employees in the actual creation of corporate values and ethics.

    Regardless of the approach taken, ideally managers should engage their employees around the organization’s values and ethics informally through their everyday interactions. This will help foster employees’ understanding of organizational values and ethics within their individual contexts, and managers’ understanding of the ethical challenges facing employees in their day-to-day activities. For example, employees in front line sales or fundraising positions will face different ethical dilemmas than those working in finance or audit positions.


    Involving employees in developing and/or translating organizational values and ethics into something that is real for them will strengthen an organization’s governance framework and help to manage risks of potential embarrassment or damage to a company’s reputation. Employee involvement can open up the culture to support a two-way exchange on values and ethics, and help employees to feel comfortable in raising the ethical dilemmas they face. At a minimum, the inability to operationalize the corporate values may result in a failure to reinforce employee ethics. At its worst, it can lead to a workplace where employees are disengaged, look the other way when they see actions or behaviours that contravene corporate values and ethics, are cynical toward management’s commitment to values and ethics, have lower overall satisfaction, and are less committed to the organization.

    In high performing organizations, a strong values and ethics framework can act as a compass for employees as they try to navigate the complicated world of work. It will also support corporate branding and communications to new employees about what the organizations stand for. This will become an essential foundation that will serve organizations well as they prepare to compete for top-talent in the future.

    Jennifer Smith is President, and Natsuko Kodama is a Consultant/Researcher with JLS Management Consulting Inc., a Canadian firm specializing in organizational renewal.

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