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Letters: What's with all the different hosts on Marketplace Money?

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier prepares to place letters in a mailbox.

Jill Schlesinger of CBS MoneyWatch joins us this week to answer your letters. Plus, Personal Finance Sr. Producer Paddy Hirsch chimes in to answer a few questions about the show and search for a host.

Many letters have come to us asking about Tess Vigeland, the former host of Marketplace Money. Hirsch reminds listeners that Vigeland left the show in November and since then, Marketplace Money has been on the hunt for a new host.  However, finding the perfect voice for a program about personal finance takes time and we want to get it right.  Until then, Hirsch makes a plea for patience and hopes that listeners have been enjoying the rotation of fill-in hosts including Barbara Bogaev and David Lazarus.

Now, onto your personal finance questions. Amy from Alfred, Maine, wants to contribute to a college savings account for her niece and nephew. She wants to set up a 529 account -- an education savings plan designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs -- for the kids (since their parents would have a difficult time setting one up themselves).

"If you're not setting up a way to put away tons and tons of money, you can also look into the Coverdell, which can be used for secondary school, if there's going to be some private school potentially, a little bit more flexible. But let's say you want to do the 529. There is no problem. You can own this account. You, Amy, own the account, and make the beneficiary your nieces and nephews. You do need their Social Security numbers, but that's all you do need," says Schlesinger.

She suggests that Amy take a look at the website SavingForCollege.com to help explore different 529 plans.

"What you'll likely find if you want to buy a 529 or open an account in a state where you don't reside, then there's lots of options. Utah has a very good plan. There's no residency requirement there. Nevada has a very good plan. So you should look around and check that out. As you say, there is no obligation to necessarily send your kids to school in that place and it can be moved pretty easily among siblings," says Schlesinger.

For more advice on converting to a Roth IRA and advice on how to ride out market lows, click play on the audio player above.

About the author

Jill Schlesinger is editor-at-large for CBS/MoneyWatch.
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Jill Schlessinger’s response to the listener’s question on annuities was an unfortunately common and misplaced response among financial planners. Financial planners tend to look at annuities as an investment vehicle; as such annuities are a poor choice. But, annuities are not an investment vehicle, they are an insurance policy; one that guarantees an income flow in retirement regardless what is going on in the market, and in most cases until death (thus effectively addressing longevity risk). The fact is that the market is volatile, and will likely be more volatile in the future. Consider that twice in the last decade or so the market crashed by at least 50%. If that happened again in your retirement (which is very likely) the result could be devastating to a retiree’s savings (possibly exposing the retiree to out-living their savings). Having said that, people need to be on their guard against efforts of financial professionals to sell them questionable annuity products that provide the professional with attractive commission income. Caveat emptor.

I knew I'd never win a little piggy, but to have him reduced to a Twitter feed really miffs me. I don't use Twitter (never will) and I will miss the little oinker. I know that's a money saver for you, but now I lose the nice little image of the little pig flying off as a small reward to a smart safer. A virtual pig just isn't the same thing. Guess when I'm rich I'll have to buy a 3D printer and make my own. Okay, that will never happen. Sigh. I've finally gotten to the age where I really, really hate change and having everything reduced to bytes.

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