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Gianna D’Arrigo on Retirement

Young Invincibles recognizes the importance of planning for the future and having a retirement savings account. In California, for example, we’re supportive of programs like CalSavers that make it easy and accessible for young people to have access to a workplace retirement savings program and the peace of mind of feeling financially prepared for the future. We asked some young Californians what they thought of retirement and what their plans looked like. Here’s what Gianna D’Arrigo, one of our California storytellers, had to say:

Have you thought about retirement yet? If so, what about it?

Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it. My main financial concern right now is paying for my education and avoiding taking on debt. For a lot of people, college seems like the only way to get a good job, especially if you live in the bay area like me. 

In my family, pursuing a college degree was not a question. My mom instilled in me the idea that getting a college degree would be key to helping me achieve my goals.

After being sure that I wanted to attend college, I had to figure out how I was going to pay for it. That’s why paying for college and avoiding debt are my main concerns right now.

When you hear “retirement,” what comes to mind?

A rudimentary concept of retirement that I have is how you’re supposed to put away a percentage of your paycheck that you can live on in the future. Also, I know there are a bunch of different programs and options that certain jobs with benefits may offer, but I haven’t looked into the specifics like the advantages and disadvantages of each plan. 

When you hear “planning for the future,” what comes to mind?

When I hear “planning for the future,” I think that can apply to a lot of different things. Right now, I feel like I’m planning for my future in regards to trying to avoid student debt, being able to own property, getting an education, and building my career. That seems like a distant future to me while retirement seems even farther away than that.

When you hear “savings account,” what comes to mind?

When I was 18, my family and I opened a savings account for me. It was supposed to be a rainy-day fund that I was only supposed to add to and not take out from, but it’s been necessary for me to pay my college-related expenses like textbooks and food. In that regard, the savings account has been a life-saver. But I don’t think that was its intended purpose. 

I think it’s really difficult for college students to save because of how exorbitant not only tuition is but all the other college-related expenses. 

I know colleges and universities can take steps to minimize costs for college-related expenses like providing open-source resources such as allowing students to check out textbooks at college libraries. It’s frustrating that there are options out there to help students, but they aren’t highly publicized or made available to students. Fortunately, I’ve seen how my college tries to minimize costs for students by making textbooks available for checkout at my college library. 

What does your retirement plan look like? If you don’t have one, what do you think it should look like?

Right now, I have no retirement plan. As of now, I have some idea of retirement plans like a 401K, which I hope to have once I start my career. I know there are a lot of options for retirement plans out there, but I don’t know too much about all of them. Retirement is still a new topic for me. 

I was raised by a single mother and the only things I know about retirement I have learned from observing her, but we haven’t discussed yet more specifically what a retirement plan would look like for me.

For me, it’s really important to have a cushion in my budget and being able to have extra money for emergencies. Right now, I’m living paycheck to paycheck and I don’t have the financial means to plan for an emergency or for outlier situations that might come up. Being able to have that extra cushion would mean having some sense of financial security. Given that I’m still in college, financial security for me now means having extra income. Later on, financial security might mean being able to have enough to make investments or rainy-day funds. 

Do you think planning for the future is important? Why or why not?

I think a lot of young college students fall into the trap of financial immediacy – that’s part of why we have such a huge student debt crisis because the money is there, it’s easily accessible, and we may not necessarily have the tools to plan for our financial future.

Young people are forced to make life-altering decisions at a young age. Things like what career we choose, how we spend large sums of money, and where we spend it. I think there should be greater emphasis on financial literacy and planning for financial stability in the long run. 

Do you know about CalSavers? If so, what do you know? What would it mean to you to have access to opportunities like Cal Savers that can set you up for a financially stable future?

I have a limited understanding of the program, but from what I heard so far, I like that it offers people more flexibility and peace of mind when it comes to retirement. I do want to look more into the program and see if it’d be a good fit for me as well.

Having access to options like Cal Savers would feel liberating knowing that I have a safety net and that I’m starting to save now. It’d be a relief knowing that I’m not late to the game due to college-related expenses. I think the option to save money now for future scenarios is going to do much good for a lot of people.

What advice do you give your peers about planning for the future?

After this conversation, I’m motivated to create a retirement plan. First and foremost, I want to educate myself about the different retirement plan options and I feel like I will be better informed to help other students who want to get an understanding of their retirement options. I think doing a lot of research on different options will allow me to better understand the benefits that different jobs offer and how beneficial they will be for me. I encourage others to do their research and see what may work best for them and their situation.

Gianna D. D’Arrigo is a sophomore Political Science student at Saint Mary’s College of California and serves as the student body’s Sophomore Class Chair.