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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

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…

Feb. 1: 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: 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: 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.…

Farrell: As volatility returns, it's time to take a portfolio selfie

The stock market got off to a rough start in 2014. The U.S. employment numbers were deeply disappointing two months in a row. Other data…

Farrell: Spending retirement funds can be harder than saving them in the first place

Q: My husband and I have accumulated a nice chunk of money for retirement. But I think getting the money was the easy part. Now…

Chris Farrell: President's 'MyRA' should ignite more savings plans

Americans aren’t saving enough for their elder years. We all know this, but the numbers still are startling. The typical value of 401(k) and IRAs…

Farrell: A primer on bonds, interest rates and bond ladders

Q: What are the benefits of owning a bond fund or individual bonds? How does one determine if Treasury, municipal, corporate, inflation or international bonds…

Farrell: Investment fears prompt question on index funds

Q: Since I am so fearful of investments of any kind, I thought I would ask you a question about them. I have an IRA…

Chris Farrell: Rewiring the risk and reward equation for better sleeping

Q: Investment advisers often tell you to only invest in stocks an amount that allows you to sleep comfortably at night. My problem is a…

Farrell: Worried about heady markets? Time to rebalance

Despite momentary downdrafts, the major stock market indexes keep reaching new highs. The good news is that there are few signs of widespread irrational exuberance…

Farrell: New generations will redefine retirement

The power of stories is vastly underestimated when it comes to economics, managing money and other aspects of everyday life. Earlier this month, I attended…

Farrell: Debt collectors: Time to tame the Wild West?

Would you like to weigh in on the debt collection industry’s practices? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking comments on major areas of concern…

Farrell: In investment matters, a higher standard is better

Who can you trust when it comes to managing your money, especially your retirement savings? Sad to say, trust is in short supply in finance.…

Farrell: Nobel winners have both rational and irrational covered

The Nobel Prize in economics took a strange twist this year. Lars Peter Hansen is an uncontroversial choice, respected for his complex econometric tests. But…

Chris Farrell: On financial opportunity costs

I gave a talk recently on personal finance and financial literacy at Century College in White Bear Lake. Students, teachers, and people from the surrounding…

Farrell: Should reader manage money himself?

Q: Should I manage our portfolio myself? As my wife and I near the age 59 ½ milestone in our planning process I would appreciate your…

Farrell: Common sense personal finance advice fits on an index card

Memo to parents, grandparents, recent college graduates and, well, anyone interested in managing their money well: Personal finance is nothing more than a dozen or…

Chris Farrell: Giving leads to smarter saving and spending

Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century social-philosopher (and the only Frenchman that Americans consistently seem to love), marveled in “Democracy in America” at how citizens…

Farrell: Financial stakes are higher for 'free-agent' workers

The Star Tribune had an important story last Sunday by Adam Belz on the rise of the contingent labor force. Contingent workers include freelancers, contract…

Farrell: In 2014, save more, borrow warily and work in retirement

Welcome to the new year. No, I haven’t lost it. I know that Jan. 1 marks the official launch of a new year. But for…

Farrell: With so many time pressures, keep investing simple

My image of summer is that it’s a season for taking it easy. Everything — including me — should move at a slower pace compared…

Chris Farrell: Calculate your 'lump-sum' decisions carefully

Q: I retired this past January from the U.S. Postal Service and am wondering what to do with my TSP [Thrift Savings Plan]. I don’t…

Farrell: Are employer 401(k)s cheaper? It all depends

Q: Is it true that an employee’s company cannot profit by their 401(k) and cash-balance plans, and thus are less expensive investments than what would…

Farrell: Beware overtures from hedge funds

Hold on to your wallet. That’s my reaction to the news that the Securities and Exchange Commission has lifted a ban on hedge funds advertising…

Farrell: Federal loans offer more flexibility for student borrowers

Q: Can you tell me why the ­private student loan is not the way to go, why a federal student loan is a better option?…

Farrell: Finding a safe spending meter in retirement

Q: I would like to get your opinion regarding the “Modified RMD Withdrawal Strategy’’ that appeared on the Boston College Center for Retirement Research website.…

Student loan dilemma and the pilgrims of 1620

Last week, the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS) held its summer meeting at Macalester College in St. Paul. I participated in a…

Chris Farrell: Economics Prof. Robert Fogel saw what's wrong with our retirement system

Nobel laureate and University of Chicago Prof. Robert W. Fogel died last Tuesday at age 86. Fogel was a remarkable economic historian. In college I…

Minneapolis man sentenced in drunken-driving death

Ramsey County District Judge Salvador Rosas on Friday ordered a Minneapolis man who drove drunk and killed a college student to view traffic camera footage…

Farrell: Planning needed to cancel a credit card the right way

Q: We just found out that our credit score is not the best. We owe nothing but have five credit cards that we no longer…

Farrell: Japan market rout offers investors a learning moment

The Japanese stock market has entered “correction” territory, down about 11 percent from a five-year high reached on May 22. What’s going on there is…

Rebalancing is a simple but effective way to manage your money

Q: Is there a preferred way to rebalance a portfolio? My bond funds need an infusion. It seems like it might be good to harvest…

73-year-olds search for a good, fee-only financial adviser

Q: My husband and I are having a discussion (or more of a disagreement!) on planning for our future. We are both 73 years old.…
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