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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

In a world with ho-hum investment returns, it's time to save more

A movie I’ve watched many times with my sons is “Dumb and Dumber,” the 1994 comedy starring two nitwits played by Jim Carrey and Jeff…

Giving can help shape a healthier approach to our finances

What does a Trump administration mean for health care insurance coverage, financial regulation and immigration? Is inflation poised to come roaring back? What are the…

Advice on finding a new financial counselor

Q: I am a child psychologist and feel confident at my job. As confident as I feel in my career, I feel equally helpless when…

You are retired and your IRA closes. What now?

Q: I’m 66, retired, and am a full-time caregiver to my wife, now bed-bound. I have a $300K IRA (through my last job) earning 1…

Farrell: Retirement is about more than just money

Last week I interviewed onstage Jo Ann Jenkins, chief executive of AARP and author of “Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best…

Chris Farrell: Savings are key to enable flexibility in life

The personal finance hub NerdWallet recently published a report that concluded that millennials will need to save 22 percent of their income for retirement. You…

How long-term savers can hedge against return of inflation

Back in 2004, I wrote “Deflation: What Happens When Prices Fall.” I argued that the U.S. had shifted from an economic environment where inflation (rising…

Credit card debt on the rise? Here are two ways to attack it

In recent weeks the economic news has been good. Specifically, the Census Bureau reported an across-the-board gain to household incomes last year. The Bureau of…

Farrell: Going all cash can help you establish a sound budget

In his latest book, “The Case Against Cash,” Harvard economics professor Kenneth Rogoff pitches the controversial idea that there is too much paper currency sloshing…

Four basic steps to managing your risk

In a blog post from earlier in the summer, the Progressive Policy Institute’s chief economic strategist Michael Mandel smartly illustrated the unpredictable impact of technological…

Chris Farrell: Many families fail to communicate about estate planning

Q: Can you suggest any good book(s) about how to plan for an estate and communicate the plans so that expectations are managed? I am…

Don't buy into despair on outlook for retirement

Personal finance numbers are sometimes sobering. The financial services behemoth Fidelity recently came out with its latest estimate on how much 65-year-olds can expect to…

Communication is big missing element in estate planning

Reading through the estate planning section of the most recent Family & Finance study by the personal finance behemoth Fidelity, I was reminded of the…

College students should skip the plastic

The other day I was asked if entering college students should get a credit card when they head off to school. My answer is that credit cards and college undergraduates don't mix.
Will you really be able to work into your 70s?

Will you really be able to work into your 70s?

Many need or want to. Here's what may be necessary to do it.

How to find an adviser to help you spend your retirement savings

Q: We now find ourselves fast approaching retirement. Our current financial planner has been very good in the accumulation phase of our lives, but we…

Goal of money management is freedom of choice

Earlier in the week I spent two days at a conference on the future of liberal arts colleges. Like many established, successful American institutions, liberal…

Best to keep it simple when devising financial plan

Recently I looked at some research suggesting that the typical American has poor health insurance plan literacy. A scholarly paper by George Loewenstein, a Carnegie…

When markets go sour, sticking to basics still important

Are you used to financial earthquakes by now? Brexit — shorthand for Britain's decision to leave the European Union — is only the latest global…

When it comes to student loans, flexibility is the key

By the margin-of-safety metric, federal student loans come out way ahead. Federal student loans are designed to be flexible during the payback period.

Why your financial adviser needs to be held to highest standard

You have probably heard or read about the Department of Labor’s new rules requiring financial advisers of retirement savings plans — 401(k)s and IRAs —…

A commencement message for parents of recent college graduates

College graduation is a hopeful, optimistic time of transition. But the personal finance message of this column is directed at the parents of recent college…

On the lookout for fossil-free funds

Q: I understand the wisdom of index funds. However, I’m trying to divest of oil and gas/fossil fuels and most index funds hold them in…

Retirement plans need to lay out more than financial future

Popular advertising images still associate retirement with full-time leisure: Travel. Golf. Barbecue and drinks on the patio. The vision of retirement-as-leisure took hold in the…

Listen to Warren Buffett and embrace low-cost index funds

Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger excoriated Wall Street last weekend at the company’s annual meeting in Omaha. The two…

Develop a sound financial strategy after graduation

We’re almost in the college graduation season, a wonderful time of celebration. Students will get their diplomas. Most will also receive their student loan repayment…

We can't afford our financial ignorance

The Minnesota Personal Finance Decathlon State Championship for high school teams was held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis on April 6. I was…

Deciding where home is can be a key question to the aging process

When it comes to planning for our elder years, savvy future retirees crunch the numbers, pore over their 401(k)s and IRAs, learn about their Social…

How to regain control of your IRA

Q: I feel I have lost control of how I invest in my IRA. I am self-employed and have had two advisers over the past…

It is possible to create your own job market

Lucy Kellaway, the insightful career columnist for the Financial Times, gave good advice in a recent column to a 55-year-old finding it hard to get…

Stick with broad-based index funds

Q: The USA Today article surprised me. How does this concentration of profit-generating power relate to investment choices? I’ve been a proponent of broad-based index…

Playing it safe with home-sale proceeds

Q: After 25 years, I am selling my house. I expect to get a fair chunk of change in equity … I am divorced, currently…

Why retirement planning needs to go beyond a savings strategy

Last week I joined more than 400 people at the annual Encore.org conference in downtown San Francisco. The social venture is in the vanguard in…

Low fees help index funds deliver sweet returns

Q: I often read about the S&P 500 Index Fund. What are some of the other index funds available that have a reliable history of…

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…
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