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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

To own a home or rent? Let job security be your guide

A home has long symbolized the American dream. (Wrongly, in my opinion. But that’s another column.) But is a home still worth owning considering the…

It might be time to revisit those resolutions

How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? Me? I’m still in the process of trying to turn a handful of goals into habits.…

Advice that could help parents, students avoid big college debt

By now most students are done with their college applications. Postsecondary education is a passport to better earnings and more employment over a lifetime. College…

It's time to ramp up financial literacy standards

Do you know the answer to the following three personal finance questions? I came across them the other day while doing some research. Question 1:…

Retiring soon and looking for help

Q: My husband and I would like to manage our own personal finances in retirement. We will retire in about one year. Can you recommend…

5 trends that will shape our future

Earlier this month, Minnesota Public Radio host Gary Eichten, economist Louis Johnston and I held a public discussion at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn.,…

Several issues to consider in transfer of savings bonds

Q: We have two granddaughters and have been investigating some sort of “lay away” plan for them. We have a number of series EE bonds…

Older job seekers need to tap their networks

Q: I separated from my job after more than 14 years and have been looking for work. I was called in to do a few…

Understand trade-offs before investing in variable annuities

Q: My husband just turned 63 and I turned 60 several months ago. We have been saving for retirement for many years. … We started…

Special annuities have pros and cons

Q: When are taxes paid if 403(b) money is converted to a QLAC? Do they always have a death benefit that pays out the original…

Value-based investing takes hold

One of the more striking transformations in personal finance over the past two decades is the growing embrace of socially responsible investing broadly defined, also…

October is the time to start saving

With all the ambiguity about the health of the global economy and political uncertainty in Washington, D.C., October strikes me as a good month for revisiting the personal finance basics.

Simplicity isn't bad for your finances

An intriguing theme that ran through the Mayo Clinic’s Transform Conference in Rochester this month involved the push for patients to take greater control over…

Families upend post-World War II housing trend

Last week, I attended the North American Securities Administrators Association annual conference. One panel discussed differences and similarities among the generations when it comes to…

Do young workers save too much?

What's with the financial services industry and millennials? The rap is that these young adults are too conservative with money. They're savers, not investors. The…

Chris Farrell: Exploring the pitfalls of too-free markets

A welcome trend in recent decades is economists writing about the ordinary business of life for a broader audience. The latest addition is "Phishing for…

For many reasons, defaulting on student loans is a bad idea

Q: My wife and I bought a house and got married in the last year or so. I was lucky enough to have financially savvy…

Student heading off to college? Time to make a budget

Young students by the millions are heading off to college over the next several weeks, many of them for the first time. By now, parents…

How to weigh lump sum and monthly payment retirement options

Q: My husband has recently retired. We are facing the decision of whether he should opt for a very sizable lump sum pension or the…

Several options for helping relatives pay for school

Q: My niece just lost her husband and has two children, 8 and 9 years of age. Relatives are looking for a way to help…

Check out these online options for DIY financial planning

Q: My wife and I both turn 60 this year and are making a financial plan for the time when we start living off Social…

Congress needs to step up and improve retirement plans

Among the more dismaying trends in Washington is for lawmakers to constantly proclaim how average Americans aren't saving enough for retirement and yet Washington does…

Uncertainty puts values front and center in money decisions

Q: A friend forwarded a query from an acquaintance, a 65-year-old single woman. "She has paid off her house but the yard upkeep is demanding…

Long-term care costs aren't easy to plan around

This column is about long-term care. In other words, it won't offer any easy answers. Instead, it's a call for many aging baby boomers to…

In most cases, federal students loans remain the best option

We're in the financial season when families with college age students are figuring out how they'll pay the tab. Most will take out student loans.…

Improved robo-advisers are worth a close look

Q: What is your opinion about using automated investment vehicles, such as, Wealthfront or Betterment, as a place to put 401(k) dollars after a person…

Follow a dozen personal financial planning habits for lifelong success

The college graduation season is a wonderful moment for graduates and their parents. Even though there seems to be a certain cynicism about the worth…

Keep it simple: Why indexed funds are your best investment bet

Two recent news stories focused on one of the more divisive debates in retirement savings: Invest in actively managed funds or passive, indexed funds? The…

Taking the emotion out of investing with dollar cost averaging

Q: My partner and I are both high-income professionals in our early 40s without kids. We maximize our 401(k) and IRA contributions each year. Over…

Want to help your kids get a financial head start? Involve them

Q: My wife (50) and I (54) would like to help build future wealth for our two daughters, now 17 and 20. Among the options…

Chris Farrell: Does a new house at 56 make sense?

Q: My wife and I are planning to build a house. I'm 56 and my wife is 60. Here's where I need perspective: The dream…

Farrell: Starting over all over again at 61

Q: I have made many poor financial decisions in my life — starting with choosing a new field to major in that didn’t pay diddly-squat…

Farrell: Tax diversification pays for most of us

Q: Years ago, when our income was low, I bought into the idea of deferring as much ordinary income as I could. In hindsight that…

Farrell: Retirement planning requires more than just a 401(k)

Many boomers are re­imagining the last third of life to include paid work of some kind, usually part-time. Boomers are well-educated and healthier than previous…
Unretirement: The exciting prospect of aging

Unretirement: The exciting prospect of aging

Forget the dire demographics — the extra years in life expectancy are an opportunity we should embrace.

Farrell: Getting started with 529 college-saving plans

Q: I am looking for a 529 plan for my grandson. Do you have an idea on some of the better plans that seem to…

Farrell: Book has tips on getting the most out of Social Security

chris farrell Social Security is the foundation of America’s retirement system, a near-universal safety net against the risk of running out of money in old…

Farrell: New book offers useful tips on getting the most out of Social Security

Social Security is the foundation of America's retirement system, a near-universal safety net against the risk of running out of money in old age. For…

Chris Farrell: Think buckets for retirement money

Q: We are a semiretired couple. Husband works part-time in sales — mainly to keep busy and occupied after selling his own small business. I…

Farrell: Stock index funds tend to be the smart choice

Q: The Wall Street Journal reports that in the past 10 years, stock index funds have almost doubled to 35 percent of stock fund assets.…

Farrell: Life annuity not for everyone, but worth a look

Q: I am a 66-year old, single female with about $473,000 in IRAs and 401(k)s. About one-third-plus are in targeted retirement funds. I have been…

Farrell: Be wary of using variable universal life policy to save for college

Q: My wife and I are in our mid-40s. We are pretty well off financially. … Our saving for retirement looks strong. We also have…

Farrell: Finding a financial planner requires careful thought

Q: Any good ideas on how to go about finding a financial planner who won’t be working on some sort of commission? I’m just in…

Farrell: Three approaches to drawing down retirement savings

Q: I don't understand why all of the financial experts recommend that retirees withdraw only 4 percent (or less) of their nest egg in retirement.…

Farrell: College degree still pays off, but watch the debt

Last Monday I was on a media panel at the annual meeting of the Council of Independent Colleges' 2015 Presidents Institute, a gathering of the…

Farrell: Roth conversion requires tax payment analysis

Q: As a retired couple with income from a pension and Social Security, do we have the option of converting any part of our IRA…

Farrell: Reverse mortgages are worth another look

Q: My husband and I are 79 years old, retired, healthy and still living in our home. We have no mortgage and no debt ……

Farrell: The 'bucket strategy' for retirement

Q: I am an odd duck because I am retired with zero in bonds. I do not like them, and at this point rates have…

Farrell: Aiming for a six-figure retirement income

Q: I'm a big fan of Robert Kiyosaki. So why not invest for passive income to create an income stream when you are retired? I'm…

Farrell: Gauging how much to take out of retirement savings

Q: What are the downsides, if any, to taking interest-only distributions from a retirement plan? I am 63, semiretired, and am able to piece together…

Farrell: Key issues when considering Roth IRA conversion

Q: Even though I am in a position to do so, I cannot convince myself to convert my IRA (or part of it) of several…

Farrell: How to sort through options for annuities

Q: I received the option to take a lump sum, a monthly annuity payment or wait until I'm 65 to take the monthly payment. What…

Chris Farrell: Retirement years are an economic opportunity

At the first White House Conference on Aging in 1961, President Kennedy remarked that while we have "added years to life," the challenge is how…

Sept. 21: Farrell: Encore careers affect planning for retirement

Last week, I spent a few days in Phoenix thanks to Experience Matters. It’s a remarkable nonprofit that brings together talented workers looking for their…

Chris Farrell: How to evaluate advice on your retirement portfolio mix

Q: At 48 I adopted my son, who is my only child. He just started college, and I’m paying tuition from my Social Security. I’m…

Farrell: How to pay for the best financial planning advice

Q: Many experts recommend hiring fee-only financial planners. I get that a fee-only planner can be paid hourly or flat rates. Can a planner who…

PIMCO havoc makes the case for index funds

A Wall Street drama. A financial soap opera. Yes, the abrupt exit of bond king Bill Gross from the firm he co-founded, the mutual fund…
Farrell: Finding flexible college savings options

Farrell: Finding flexible college savings options

Q: My son asked me today, “You and mom have a savings account for our college, right?” I’m disappointed in myself that we have less…

Farrell: A quarter million per child? Yes ... and that's before college

“What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “And a sentimentalist,” he added,…

Farrell: Your time horizon is critical in a strategy to hedge inflation

Q: What is your view on the never-before-experienced impact of so many global central banks pouring new money into the economy to keep rates low…

Farrell: Complex tax strategies call for due diligence

Q: My wife and I are retired boomers with decent defined-benefit pensions. We don't really need the money in our qualified (tax-deferred) savings to live…

Farrell: Planning a financial reset in three stages

Q: I don't have wealth and have a lot of debt from a business that has been draining my personal funds for several years. I…

Chris Farrell: Boomers and millennials share goals and bonds

I was a guest lecturer recently at an advanced undergraduate finance class at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The students were impressive in their research,…

Farrell: Finding an executor takes legwork, trust and money

Q: How do we find an honest and reliable institution to administer our estate after our passing? We do not have children and do…

Farrell: Rent or own? Which is best in a senior cooperative?

Q: I am very interested in senior cooperative housing and have my name on a waiting list. I am 65 and plan to retire in…

Farrell: Tapping 401(k) is unwise because of tax bite

Q: I recently took a new job with another company and now have a 401(k) at the old employer worth about $42,000. Normally I would…

Chris Farrell: Hunting for a CFP requires research and diligence

Q: My husband and I are 67 and both still working, but need assistance to start thinking about a retirement budget and especially tax advice,…

Farrell: Financial literacy equals optimism

On Wednesday I participated in Minnesota Jump$tart’s annual event at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Minnesota Jump$tart is part of a national coalition focusing…

Farrell: These books can get you up to speed financially

Q: I have children in their 40s and 50s, and grandchildren in their 20s. What book or books about money management and financial planning would…

Farrell: New thinking on when to file for Social Security

Social Security is the foundation of America's retirement system. One of the most important financial decisions about the elder years is when to file for…

Chris Farrell: Long-term care insurance is a difficult decision

Q: What is your position on long-term care insurance? I am a healthy 60-year-old woman. We have no debt and own our home. I hope…

Farrell: Diving deeper into the complexities of 529 plans

Q: The timing of last week's article ["Lots of options for gifting to their granddaughter"] was very good and thank you for the information. So…

Chris Farrell: Lots of options for gift to granddaughter

Q: We have been saving money on a monthly basis for our 4-year-old granddaughter’s education. The account pays a modest return. We are interested in…

Farrell: What are your options with a 'frozen' 401(k)?

Q: My 401(k) plan was terminated and assets frozen when the company was sold close to a year ago. What is a normal and reasonable…

Farrell: It college worth it? Yes, but be smart and curb borrowing

The drive from the Twin Cities to St. Peter on Wednesday was pretty miserable, cold and windy, the highway periodically obscured by gusts of snow.…
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