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Hired, fired, can’t retire

Heard on:
Sian-Pierre Regis and his mother, Rebecca Danigelis.

Sian-Pierre Regis and his mother, Rebecca Danigelis. (Courtesy of Duty Free Film) Duty Free Film

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Retirement was never really something Rebecca Danigelis thought about. She’d always prioritized her two sons. A single mom, she sent her boys to a private Catholic school, even when tuition took up much of her income from working at a hotel.

“It was very, very hard,” Danigelis said. “I never really involved them in my worries. I’d always make them think everything’s fine, to make them feel secure.” 

It seemed like all her hard work paid off when her son, Sian-Pierre Regis, got into a good college. From there, liquidating $20,000 from her retirement to help cover tuition felt like an easy decision, since she never planned to stop working anyway. At the time, Regis didn’t know much about 401ks. He wasn’t aware that cashing out early would result in penalties and taxes.

“It was just kind of like, OK, this is the way that you access money,” Regis said.

But in 2016, several years after Regis graduated and just as his journalism career was taking off, Danigelis discovered she’d been let go by the hotel. She was given two weeks’ severance. Suddenly, Regis had to figure out how to help his mom get back on track after losing her career.

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As they considered her options, Regis set out to return the investment his mom had made in him all those years before. That meant becoming roommates.

If you like this episode, share it with a friend. And to get even more Uncomfortable, subscribe to our newsletter. Each Friday you’ll get a note from Reema and some recs from the Uncomfortable team. If you missed it, here’s the latest issue.

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“This Is Uncomfortable” is Reema Khrais, Donna Tam, Hayley Hershman, Camila Kerwin, Phoebe Unterman, Marielle Segarra and Marque Greene.

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