Do you ever dream of paying off your mortgage?

How about before you turn 30?

That dream is a reality for one Toronto-area man, as one of our most-read stories of the week was the tale of Sean Cooper, who bought a house in 2012 with a $255,000 mortgage on it.

Three years later, he owns that house free and clear, thanks to his aggressive savings plan.

Sean Cooper

Sean Cooper's aggressive plan to pay off his mortgage in three years made headlines this week. (CBC)

To be sure, it's not for the faint of heart. Cooper worked three jobs at a time to pay down his debt, and it's not a stretch to suggest that he socked every single spare cent he could get his hands on toward that mortgage.

Cooper's story has been dismissed as an extreme example by many, but there's no denying he has some valuable insights for anyone who owes money, starting with the basics:

  • cut out the frills,
  • earmark any windfalls or raises to debt repayment, not "lifestyle inflation,"
  • and above all, don't take on any more debt even if rates are low.

"Most people, when they hear this, they either think I'm crazy or ambitious, hopefully mostly the latter," Cooper told us this week.

So which is it? If you haven't already, check out his story, and decide for yourself.

Airline profits soaring

Two other stories this week that really resonated with readers were about the quarterly earnings at Canada's two biggest airlines: WestJet and Air Canada.

Profits are up at both, costs are down (thanks largely to cheaper jet fuel) and it's looking like nothing but clear skies for an industry that has seen its fair share of turbulence.

First it was WestJet reporting on Wednesday that it will be eliminating free checked bags on all economy fare flights to Europe and sun destinations starting early in the new year. That brings the policy in line with the airline's practice on other flights, where free and unlimited checked bags are a thing of the past.

WestJet was not alone in announcing strong results. The next day, Air Canada said its profit and revenue was up, thanks in part to the lower fuel costs, and the cheaper loonie.

Time will tell if it lasts, but with several new competitors announcing new routes for Canadians in recent months, it's looking like the airline industry's history of losing money is a thing of the past — for now.

Trudeau cabinet unveiled

The biggest news of the week, however, was Canada's new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, revealing his cabinet selections. 

There were lots of new names — and half of them were women, for the first time ever — but from a business perspective, the one to remember is Bill Morneau.

He is Canada's new finance minister and you could be forgiven for not knowing who he is, because Morneau is a first-time MP. He won the Liberal stronghold of Toronto Centre for the Grits and is moving quickly from backbencher to power player.

He may be a newcomer to politics, but he brings a wealth of private-sector experience to the job, including time as a top executive at Morneau Shepell, Canada's largest manager of private sector pensions.

And even though he comes from the one per cent, he says addressing income inequality is a particular focus of his.

"Income inequality is something that's not good for anyone," he told The Exchange. "We want to make sure that Canadians all have a fair chance at success and if there's continuing levels of inequality it does take away hope for those that aren't doing as well."

Other stuff

Those were just a few of our most read stories this week. Be sure and check out our website often, or follow us on Twitter to always stay up to date.

In the meantime, here's a day-by-day list of our most read stories this week.