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Teni Danoukh 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. Here’s what Teni Danoukh, one of our California Young Advocates, had to say:

Have you thought about retirement yet?

I was born in Iran, when I came to America my mother never failed to remind us how important saving money for retirement is. So, from a young age I have been saving up for retirement, as I knew having a good job will only last me until 65 years old. Today, there are many employers that pay into a retirement savings plan (e.g. 401k, 403b), so when I got out of college, I was on the hunt for a job with a 401k option in the benefits package.

Where did you first learn about retirement saving or planning?

As I mentioned, my mother taught me the importance of savings and plannings but also taught my sister and I about the different plans and how to open up an IRA account outside of the options offered by employers.

When you hear “retirement” what comes to mind? 

The first thing I think about is vacation time! Retirement is a privilege that is earned after years of hard work both in the workforce as well as in the years prior with education. However, I am aware that many people no longer retire at 65 and work many years after that age due to different economic implications that have occurred in the US.

When you hear “savings” what comes to mind?

I automatically think about how much money I have in my savings and if I can afford to put some more money in there this month. Being exposed to money and savings at such a young age, I feel I have an obligation to my mother and my savings account to make sure that some sort of money is always going in there. I dedicate 30% of my monthly income to my savings for that rainy day. Today, as I sit here and write this post, the world is being affected by COVID-19, causing many people to lose their jobs. I am fortunate to have listened to my mother and saved as much as I did because the stress and burden of a pandemic like this does not affect my life as much as it could have.

Have you heard about California’s new retirement savings program, “CalSavers?”

Yes, CalSavers is a great way for young people to start their retirement plan. As many young people decide to take on freelance work and/or have jobs that do not offer retirement plans, Californians have a new option for a savings program if options like a 401K is not offered.

Why is planning for your future important?

We never know what tomorrow will hold, as we are witnessing a global health care disaster. Planning is so important for times of uncertainty. Unfortunately, money makes the world go round, therefore we have to take care of our own future and be accountable for emergencies that can occur at any point. There are penalties for taking out money from retirement plans early, as they are designated for a later time in life, however, if there comes a time when an emergency happens and extra money is needed, this can be a good back up option.

What advice would you give young adults about planning for the future?

Young adults, like myself, need to focus on making sure they can rely on themselves for their own well-being. I live my life with a simple quote, “Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun.” In order to live a fun and exciting life, like all young people want, we must make sure that we build a solid foundation that we can stand on in order to have the extra fun. Oftentimes we forget that we will get older and will have families of our own, and have to take care of our parents that are getting older. This being said, with the right tools set in place, planning for the future can be easy and beneficial for everyone that you care about. Saving is challenging and requires a lot of discipline, but is essential for the future and gives you peace of mind.

What are some ways we can educate young adults about retirement planning, any why it’s important?

Another great quote that is a guiding principle in my professional life is, “Networking is one letter away from not working.” We can educate young adults by educating, networking, and providing resources on social media platforms. The first step is to learn what is right for you and make educated decisions on how to save.

Teni Danoukh is a graduate student at California State University at Northridge studying healthcare administration and a member of Young Invincibles’ Young Advocates Program in California.