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Chris Farrell

Columnist | Your Money
Chris Farrell is economics editor for American Public Media's weekly "Marketplace Money" show and author of "The New Frugality." He answers reader questions on most Sundays. Send questions to cfarrell@mpr.org and put "Your Money" in the subject line.
Recent content from Chris Farrell

How to make a difference and still pay off those student loans

The advice to pursue your dreams at work may be nice, but the borrowed money still has to be repaid.

Knowing when enough is enough just could be the secret to investing success

John "Jack" Bogle followed his own advice.
The wish to leave our heirs with a legacy is powerful. Don’t leave them without an estate plan.

No financial plan is complete without a basic estate plan

If you are among those who haven't put together a basic estate plan, get it done in 2019. Your heirs and close circle of relatives and friends will thank you.

Where to get information to plan future housing options

Q: I’m interested in gathering information to plan for moving from our home when we can’t take care of it. I am 68 and my…

Late to the retirement savings game? Frugality can bail you out

Clearly, the standard financial advice is good. Problem is, the approach isn't realistic for many people.

Just starting out? Here are some basic money tips

Money management for young college graduates is mostly adopting a few good spending and savings habits.

If you want to save more money, sweat the big stuff

That's the best way to free up cash that can be stashed away.

Retirement planning needs to factor in changing life spans

The school, work, retirement silos are coming down, and a more complex narrative is being scripted.

Study finds that despite better ways to save, many count on tax refunds

Tax refunds matter to household finances. That's the clear message from a recent study by the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute. The report draws on…

Use these good times to shore up household finances

In the late 1980s, I was invited along with a handful of other young journalists covering personal finance to meet with Sir John Templeton, an…

Explore your options when required retirement distributions kick in

Like so many laws attached to retirement savings plans, there are twists and traps for the unwary.

Experts recommend finance and investing books for younger readers

Q: I’m looking for book recommendations for teens about money management, investments, etc. My son is 14 and has a high interest in learning about…

To lower your household's financial risk, boost your savings

Living on the financial edge is a way of life for many. Now add federal employees to the list.

A quick look at 3 strategies for making your money last in retirement

Figuring out how to manage household income once you are no longer working isn't easy.

Even if you think like Homer Simpson, you can tackle retirement planning

Take your time if the prospect of retirement is coming closer. Think long about what you want out of the last third of life.

You can't time the market, you can manage your financial risk

Investors are worried about mounting evidence that the global economy is slowing down.

Before making money resolutions, talk it out with friends, family

The end of the year and the beginning of the new year is a good time for thinking about what we did with our money…

Changing tax laws puts spotlight on charitable giving option

It's the time of year when many taxpayers turn to funding their charitable giving before year-end. The tax code has allowed taxpayers who itemize to…

FIRE devotees are confusing being cheap with being frugal

The Financial Independence, Retire Early movement is getting much attention in the personal finance world, but there are less extreme ways to live a life of purpose and sound finances.

Rent or buy? How the housing slowdown affects your answer

Even when the housing market slows, buyers and sellers are always looking to make a deal.
A community Thanksgiving meal was held outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Fourth Precinct station in 2015.

It's time to give thanks and find ways to give back

Despite the best efforts of marketers, Thanksgiving is still focused on celebrating family, friends, neighborhood and community.

Why retirees are opting to stick closer to home

The housing market is changing for Americans living in their retirement years.The popular image of the typical retiree household is moving to an adult retirement…
You want to add to retirement savings, not subtract: The 401(k) loan isn’t a good way to borrow.

Why you should resist borrowing from your 401(k)

A recent scholarly paper suggests too many workers are taking advantage of the option.

Worried about the stock market? Shift focus to reducing debt

If my casual conversations are any indication, many near retirees are nervous about the increased volatility in the stock market. Should they sell? Stay the…

What's wrong with spending money on children and grandchildren?

What is a better way to spend savings?

Keep your investments simple, and you will reap the benefits

Complex financial products come with risks difficult to understand, and many charge high fees.
Graduates line up to enter The Shed at Tanglewood in Lenox, Ma. for the 2017 Berkshire Community College graduation ceremony on Friday, June 2, 2017.

College is still a wise investment, but choose carefully

The experience of the past decade suggests much of the conventional wisdom about the value of a college education remains correct.
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 1993 file photo, singer Aretha Franklin performs at the inaugural gala for President Bill Clinton in Washington.

How to get started on making a will

Of course, you know you should have a will. Then why do so many people procrastinate on getting a will?

Looking to shore up your finances? Consider I-bonds

No one knows when the next recession will hit or how bad the downturn will be when it arrives, so shore up your finances now.

Investors need to hedge their bets to fend off hackers

What we can do as individuals is limited.

Financial planning often turns on how choices are framed

The importance of framing financial decisions was a theme at this month's 2018 Retirement Research Consortium meeting in Washington D.C.

The act of giving can sharpen your household finances

Giving consistently also turns out to be key to managing household finances smartly over a lifetime.

Here are some basic steps to take to fight scams on elderly

Scams are a scourge, especially for older adults.

Is it best to tap savings or life insurance policy for kids' college?

This is one of those personal-finance issues where the answer lies in the details that you will need to research.

Retirement planning needs to include your social network

The research is compelling: A dearth of social relationships is as strong a risk factor for poor quality of daily life.

Setting money goals? First, decide what financial independence means to you

There is no one right answer. The value in the exercise is it should help you find the path toward achieving your goals.

For retirees, not spending enough is emerging as big issue

Older Americans often worry about outliving their savings in retirement. Yet several studies suggest the danger is exaggerated.
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More retirement plans to include this feature: A job of some sort

Most older adults no longer follow the path of abruptly going from full-time work to full-time retirement and living off their accumulated savings plus Social Security.
This tiny cottage on Lombardy Lane in Laguna Beach, Calif. is for sale at just shy of $1 millions is shown Friday, May 25, 2018. This one bedroom home

Should you buy in this hot homebuying season?

The economics behind the strong housing market are compelling.

These personal finance books would make great graduation gifts

They're a gift that will help establish a sound financial footing for the long haul.

A 529 plan can be great option for family windfall

Putting money into a Roth IRA is another good idea.

Values are beginning to play a bigger role in investments

Sustainable investing has gone from the fringes of finance into the money mainstream.

Nearing retirement? Eliminating debt should be a goal

No debt translates into more savings and mental relief.

Relieved that tax season is over? It's not. Time to look ahead

The info you gathered to finish your taxes offers a 2017 baseline for reviewing your spending, your saving and your giving plans in 2018.

Personal finance shouldn't just be about money

It's nothing but tactics to support the answers to questions over the years.

Financial firms offer free dinners with sales pitch. Should you go?

Don't go if there is even a small risk of feeling an obligation to reciprocate in return for a meal.

Is it wise to keep all your retirement money with one fund company?

Diversification is a time-honored strategy for reducing risk.

Farrell: Using TIPS as a hedge against inflation

Buying individual TIPS and holding until maturity is the best inflation hedging strategy.

Looking for investing help? Check out Warren Buffett's letter

Confused about the stock market? Worried that valuations are stretched and vulnerable to rising interest rates, but nervous about bailing and missing a rebound? The…

As senior population grows, so do scams targeting their money

Earlier in the week I had a voice mail on my cellphone. The message was a stern warning delivered in an over-the-top ominous law-enforcement voice.…

How grandparents can make the most of 529 plans

To simplify plan choice, it's usually cheaper to buy a 529 plan sold directly by a state.

Farrell: The ins and outs of rebalancing your investment portfolio

Portfolio rebalancing maintains your target asset allocation.

Think like an entrepreneur, even if you don't want to run a business

Even if you don't want to start a business, emulating the energy, the dynamism and the creativity of an entrepreneur on the job is savvy.

Key to aging well is to remain connected to social network

Research and experience come to the same conclusion: Loneliness is a threat to the quality of life of elders.

2018 could be tough, so aim for a financial margin of safety

The latest newsletter from Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group consulting, is titled, "2018 Top Risks." Here's how he opens his list of concerns.

What do you value? Personal finance literacy helps you find out

Utah requires that all high school students take a half-year course dedicated to personal finance topics.

Had a caregiving chat? This holiday season may be the time to start

The holiday season is a time for celebrating with friends, family, relatives and others close to us. That’s why I want to encourage you to…

Don't understand mandatory withdrawal rules for IRAs, 401(k)s? Join the club

A poster child for needless complexity is the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules for IRAs, 401(k)s and similar retirement savings plans funded with pretax dollars.

Nervous about the financial markets? Time to assess your risk capacity

The starting place for understanding risk capacity is your income and your career.

Life is short, so keep your finances simple

I’d love to help you, but I haven’t time. I can’t accept, having no time. I can’t think, I can’t read, I’m swamped, I haven’t…

This year, try some planning to align giving with values

With the holidays not far off, now is a good time to think about charitable giving and volunteering.

When planning your retirement, think of it as a sabbatical

Too many people still assume older Americans have little to offer.

After painful personal loss, managing money looms as key challenge

Divorced? Widowed? Losing a partner is traumatic and taking charge of household finances is rarely top of mind. The immediate aftermath of loss is for…
A financial plan concept. istock

Best to start early on estate planning

A major theme of this column is that managing money well over a lifetime shouldn't be complicated. All you need is a handful of good…

Chris Farrell: A money plan without bonds can work just fine

I'm 63 and retired. … I keep two years of cash, the rest in a diversified basket of high-quality stocks. … I'm single, no debt and own two houses. Am I crazy for not owning bonds?

Warren Buffett's advice to investors: Stick with index funds

I'm a longtime fan of investing for retirement in broad-based equity index funds. So is Warren Buffett, the greatest stock picker of the modern era, perhaps of all time.

Minnesota man's effort is aimed at restoring trust in finance industry

One of the most famous exchanges in the history of finance took place on Capitol Hill in 1912 between. J.P. Morgan, the world’s most powerful…
FILE - This Nov. 18, 2009, file photo, shows credit and bank cards. Apple fans who froze their credit after the Equifax data breach may end up with an

Equifax mega-hack means you need to freeze your credit

The clear personal finance implication of the Equifax debacle is everyone should put a "credit freeze" or "security freeze" on their accounts.

Farrell: Your life circumstances may dictate whether you heed market worries

The titans of Wall Street are nervous. The financial press has carried stories on the growing market concerns of well-known financiers and hedge fund managers.…

Estate planning is tough, so it pays to start early

A major theme of these columns is that managing money well over a lifetime shouldn’t be complicated. All you need is a handful of good…

Chris Farrell: Retirement guru's advice: expect surprises and save for them

Henry K. “Bud” Hebeler left Boston with a graduate degree in engineering from MIT in 1956 for a job at Boeing in Seattle. Some three…

Before changing jobs, be sure to run the numbers

Q: I’m thinking about changing jobs to reduce stress, potentially within the next year. This change could result in a big pay cut, so I’d…
Students headed to class at Western Washington University in 2016.

Most college students need a crash course in managing money

College is about to start. Have you had the money talk yet, especially with freshman students? Students need to know the basics of budgeting and…

Your savings plan needs to recognize a changed world of work

One theme from a recent conference on aging I attended has important personal finance implications, especially for the younger generations of workers: The trajectory of…

Keep big purchases within your means

I had several wonderful conversations with recent retirees about their personal finances at Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary open house last Saturday. One lesson stood…
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