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: 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 There is a 2 percent penalty if withdrawn within the first 5 years.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
Posted In: debt, debt counseling, debt management, NFCC
Is it possible to find free/sliding scale ongoing debt counseling? A friend in Louisiana is in her 60s and facing the consequences of years of terrible financial decisions. I think she's beyond the point where one session of debt counseling could help her. I've seen patterns in her that I've seen in others who grew up poor: When they were young, they learned there was no way to ever catch up financially and be in control. So she has no sense that it is possible to be in control of her money. Thank you, Robin, Boston, MA
Posted In: health care, medical care, Supreme Court, health insurance
However the Supreme Court decides its ruling will push health-care reform to the top of the campaign debate. Health reform won't go away. The costs of the system are too high. The fiscal, economic and household pressures remain too great. Back to the future won't work.
Posted In: emergency savings, Savings, student loan debt
I'm a 36-year-old single professional in the DFW metroplex that tries to think long-term in my financial planning. I put 12 percent of my around $100,000 salary into my 401(k) with company match. Currently, the retirement fund is valued at about $100,000. I owe about $12,000 on my student loans (4.25 percent fixed interest, originally $80,000) and I have about 27 percent equity in my $180,000 town home. I recently refinanced my home at 4.125 percent for 15 years. My credit card debt is maybe $1,000. After surviving a layoff well (due to a generous severance in the Great Recession), I was scared straight once I started working again. I now have about $15,000 in an emergency fund and next year's bonus will go to this, too. So I have three questions: 1) Do I need 6 months of bills or 6 months of salary after tax? 2) Should I park this in savings? Or is there a better financial instrument? 3) Is the emergency fund a higher priority than nuking the graduate school debt? I appreciate your guidance. Keith, Plano, TX