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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
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…

Young folks are holding off on that first home, and that's not bad

A theme of much personal finance commentary in recent years has been hand-wringing over how rising student loan debt burdens prevent young adults from buying…

Financial legacy means more than just money

“Generational wealth, that’s the key,” said hip-hop artists and entrepreneur Jay-Z in his song Legacy on his new album 4:44. He’s right. Legacy is a…

Why this is a good time for a household financial risk assessment

Rather than trying to divine the whims of investors, focus on calibrating your portfolio to the rhythms of your life.

Financial planning needs to include long-term care needs

Try this experiment. Get together with a group of people — neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances — in the second half of life. Open the conversation with…

Why a little inflation is considered a good thing

Q: Everyone is talking about the central banks getting back to the ideal target of 2 percent inflation. Why not 0 percent inflation? James A:…

Some personal finance books for the long haul

These suggestions aren't oriented toward surefire money making schemes. Instead, these recommendations are geared toward investing wisdom and money management insights for the long haul.

Grads are wise to save now, borrow sparingly

The season for high school and college graduation parties has started. I love these events with young people celebrating their achievement and eager to start…

How much should retired couples need a month?

Q: I never came across a talk or statistical data clarifying the average monthly income needed for a retired couple. One side is saving. This…

Company stock in 401k plan? Beware of putting eggs in one basket

A welcome trend in retirement savings is the movement away from employers allowing employees to buy company stock in the 401(k) plan or making the…
Senior business woman working on digital tablet at restaurant. istock

More retirees blending work and leisure

Options include part-time work, flexible employment, self-employment or an encore career.

Move over 401(k), 'side hustles' are becoming key retirement issue

Like stocks, bonds and mutual funds, participating in the “gig economy,” creating a “side hustle,” or starting a “microenterprise” should be considered part of a…

Looking to buy a home? Mind these financial basics

Spring is the traditional start of the home sales season. The market is hot this year, especially for first-time home buyers looking for starter homes.…

Consider tweaks, but don't bail from markets over political jitters

Every day we see evidence that Washington is sinking deeper into acrimony while problems fester and reasonable solutions are shelved.

It's high time families start having money talks

Talk about a generation gap. I recently looked at the TIAA 2017 Family Money Matters Survey and the results are dismaying. The families surveyed like…

Taking stock of what's changed since Kiplinger's debuted in 1947

Kiplinger’s magazine is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The economy and markets have gone through plenty of twists and turns since 1947. Booms and busts. Bull…

Why should you opt for equity index funds? Listen to Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett's annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders is always a delight to read. Buffett, the Wizard of Omaha, is among the great stock pickers…
display stock market numbers and graph. istock

Upbeat? Worried? Try these investment strategies

Three financial strategies that will help no matter what 2017 brings.

Here's what you need to ask your financial adviser

The Reuters News service headline was depressing: “From Wall Street to Wisconsin, brokers cheer Trump’s order.” The order that gave these financial advisers so much…

Savings gives you freedom to find that job you love

Are you thinking about changing jobs? The good news is that 2017 looks like a good year to take a leap. The big reason is…

Pick a money management strategy that suits you

A nice way to think about personal finance comes courtesy of Vitaliy Katsenelson, a Russian immigrant and chief investment officer at Investment Management Associates in…

You may not need as much money for retirement as you think

The image of retirement as leisure is powerful. Think of advertisements about retirement. The pictures usually involve golf, biking, an RV trip, perhaps a cruise.…

Breaking from the herd with your investments

Jeremy Grantham, 78, is a legendary value investor. He’s chief investment strategist at the Boston-based money management firm GMO. Grantham’s reputation is that he’s unusually…

Upbeat about 2017? Worried? Try these personal finance strategies

Stock market investors certainly seem enthusiastic about prospects for higher market values in 2017, largely reflecting the belief that the new administration will cut taxes,…

What's a fair fee for a financial adviser to charge?

Q: Is there is a fair percentage to charge to manage accounts that come to between $400,000-$500,000? I had taken a class about retiring and…

Traditional 401(k) or Roth? Taxes are key factor

Q: My company offers a Roth- 401(k) where I can contribute almost $20K per year. I can contribute even when my income is over the…

Despite political winds, investors should think globally

Globalization is under a cloud with the election of Donald Trump. Question is, what does his election mean for investors who own equities overseas or…
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