Customer Stories

"Changes in the market are no need for panic if long-term savings is the goal.”

Leah Bitat | International Education Development Administrator | 43 years old
Participant since 2012

Get to know Leah Bitat

Leah is saving, minimizing debt, and taking advantage of her tax-free status

What does successful financial planning mean to you?

“Minimizing debt and maximizing savings by making smart investments in funds and assets that can be leveraged when needed. I was taught that changes in the market are no need for panic if long-term savings is the goal, so I have seen market downswings as an opportunity rather than a setback. I’ve always been very careful to choose diversified funds and to choose a company I trust to stay on top of those things.
I have friends that try and play the stock market. That’s a full-time job [that] I’m just not interested in. I work really hard and I love the work that I do, but I wouldn’t want to mess up my retirement planning. So, I just try to make sure that I automatically set aside funds before I can touch them. To do so, I work with a reputable company that’s going to manage those [funds for me].”

What are your financial priorities?

“I’m planning for retirement, continuing to save with my day job as I prepare to spend more of my time developing a new inclusive school in Algeria at my own expense. It’s my prime objective to build up retirement savings then try to zero out debt, and then save for [my son] Sammy’s education.  Since I work abroad, I’ve got the bonus that [my income] is tax fee, so I’m maximizing my contribution towards retirement.”

Who or what inspires your vision of retirement?

"My parents. They went from being university administrators in their professional lives to my father experimenting with organic dying and wool felting on his sheep farm in Maine, and my mother supervising prop design for opera productions in Alaska—when she isn't camping on the side of a glacier.
I have at least 25 years to go, but I put a sizeable percentage [of my income] towards retirement, as I don’t earn a high salary as an educator, and know from my parents example  that I’ll want to have a dependable long-term source of income to allow me to continue to live my dreams through retirement."
Working Together

How has TIAA helped you?

Leah follows key investing principles, working closely with TIAA. She says, “my relationship with TIAA is based on trust.”

Creating a source of income

Leah is saving 27% of her salary for retirement. “I know from my parents that I’ll want to have a dependable long-term source of income”

Investing as a habit

“I automatically set aside funds before I can touch them and that’s just something that I do.”
Lifetime Income

How can a retirement plan annuity help you?

Leah learned from her parents the importance of having a dependable source of income in retirement. TIAA offers retirement plan annuities that make it possible to save while you work and receive income for as long as you live, even when other retirement savings may run out.1

Builds your nest egg

Contributing to an annuity during your working years can help you build your savings.

Provides income

An annuity can help bridge the gap until Social Security payments begin and can provide income after other sources run out.

Offers security

You can plan for the future, knowing you’ll receive income for the rest of your life in retirement.
Leah's Inspirations

“You should enjoy going to work every day”

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This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation or investment advice in connection with a distribution, transfer or rollover, a purchase or sale of securities or other investment property, or the management of securities or other investments, including the development of an investment strategy or retention of an investment manager or advisor. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made in consultation with an investor’s personal advisor based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.

1 Subject to claims paying ability of the issuing company.


This article/story contains edited excerpts of an interview that describes the circumstances, opinions, and experiences of a specific participant from one or more of the companies in the TIAA organization (“TIAA”).  The circumstances, opinions, and experiences depicted may not be representative of the circumstances, opinions, and experiences of other TIAA customers and are not indicative of future performance or success.  Individual results and experiences will vary.