Chris Farrell is economics editor of Marketplace Money, a nationally syndicated one-hour weekly personal finance show produced by American Public Media. Chris is also economics correspondent for Marketplace, the largest business program in broadcasting and chief economics correspondent for American RadioWorks, the largest producer of long-form documentaries in public radio. He is also contributing economics editor at Business Week magazine. He was host and executive editor of public television’s Right on the Money. He is the author of two books: Right on the Money: Taking Control of Your Personal Finances, and Deflation: What Happens When Prices Fall. Chris is a graduate of Stanford and the London School of Economics.
Posted In: 529 college savings plan, loan student debt, colleges
We have a 529 plan and also the option to take out a subsidized Stafford loan. Does it make sense to take out the loan and leave the 529 money alone, then pay off the Stafford loan after graduation? (I'm thinking that the 529 would still collect interest for a few more years, while there is now interest on the loan for a few more years.) Thank you! Gabrielle, St, Paul, MN
Posted In: Savings, mortgage, condo
When I look at the interest rates on various savings accounts, they are all way lower than the 4.6 percent I'm being charged on my mortgage. I do recognize my condo as providing me with a service, and my minimum payment now is actually less than the rent I was paying on a studio 4 years ago! But, if I think of the equity I gain as a sort of savings account for a future upgrade, I'm just not sure how to compare my options. The simplified thought process I currently go through is that any extra I pay on my mortgage saves me 4.6 percent in interest that I would have to pay, while that same money would only earn me maybe 2 percent in a savings account, so it is better to save 4.6 percent by never having to pay it. Am I totally off? Erin, Boston, MA
Posted In: Roth-IRA, student loans
I am graduating from medical school. I have debt of about $170,000 at 6.8 percent non-compounding interest and $12,000 at 4 percent. I also have a Roth IRA with about $4,000 in it. Should I invest in my Roth IRA while making payments next year? I make $45,000 next year then $52,000 the year after, then $60,000 the third year. Do I put everything I can into paying off debt, or do I try to put a little in the Roth while making my income-based repayments on the loan? (Expected payoff is in 10 years.) John, Wauwatosa, WI
Posted In: interest rates, Economy, bonds, Savings
The survey consensus was for no increase to slight increase in interest rates for 2012. Nothing dramatic. Very muted. There's no sense that the economy will turn gangbusters. At best, the economy will show modest gains in 2012.
Posted In: home, home equity
Three years ago -- fresh out of grad school, with new jobs and lots of optimism -- my husband and I bought a beautiful house that we love. Trouble is, we spent too much money. Now, our mortgage consumes nearly all of our monthly income, leaving us very little to save for retirement, our kids' college funds or do the things we love such as traveling. The question, then, is: Should we cut our losses, try to sell and buy something cheaper? Julia, St. Paul, MN
Posted In: annuity, immediate annuity, retirement savings, 401(k), IRA, pension
I am ready to convert my 401(k) into an IRA. I am 61 years old and want to start taking annual distributions. The current balance in the 401(k) is $562,000 and I would like to withdraw 4 percent annually. Fidelity Investments is recommending a Guaranteed Annuity of $400,000 and the remaining in a managed portfolio fund (balanced). The annual fee for annuity is 1.90 percent of the balance and the managed portfolio 1 percent. These are the only fees. There is a 2 percent penalty if withdrawn within the first 5 years. Is this a good option, or should I keep the money in moderate conservative index funds? Emma, Las Cruces, NM
Posted In: home equity loan, debt, Savings, Taxes
Hello. I'm 50 and single. I have a 15-year mortgage at 3.5 percent. My income is more than $80,000. I have a Roth and I am maximizing my company's 403(b) account. I have no credit card debt -- no debt in general except the mortgage, so I don't have a lot of write-offs. Does it make sense to get an equity loan and finish my basement so I can get a bigger write-off on taxes while investing in my home, or should I continue to just sock money away because it is better to not have debt? Thanks. Lisa, Salt Lake City, UT