Author Topic: Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?  (Read 3951 times)

Schaefer Light

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Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?
« on: November 22, 2014, 09:25:59 AM »
My wife is a teacher and her employer offers a retirement plan through TIAA-CREF.  I'm looking at the latest quarterly statement for my wife's plan and I can't make heads or tails of it.  There are no ticker symbols, no mutual funds I can find anywhere online, basically nothing that makes any sense to me.  This looks like a bunch of gibberish compared to my 401(k) statement.

The statement says she has some money in a "retirement" plan and more money in a "TDA" plan.  Immediately beneath that, it says she has those same dollar amounts in two different annuity contracts.  One annuity contract has the same amount as the "retirement" plan and the other contract has the same amount as the "TDA" plan.  Looking in the investment details section of the statement, I see that all of her money (in both the retirement and TDA plans) is invested in something that looks like a 2050 lifecycle fund.  It's listed as "TIAA Acc Lfcycle 2050 T4", but there are no ticker symbols and I can't tell if this is a mutual fund or something different.  I've looked for it online, and the closest thing I could find was a TIAA-CREF mutual fund with ticker symbol TLFRX.  However, I don't think this is the same fund because the share price isn't even in the right ballpark.

If anyone has experience with TIAA-CREF and can explain what I'm looking at, your help would be greatly appreciated.  I have no clue how TIAA-CREF works, or how we can take money out of this plan when my wife retires.  I'd like to roll everything over to an IRA, but I don't even know if that's an option since the money seems to be in annuities.

feelingroovy

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Re: Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2014, 05:38:22 PM »
I'm not sure I can give you exactly what you're looking for, but I can help some.  I have TIAA-Cref Accounts from when I worked at a university.

The "retirement" plan and "TDA" plan are just different accounts, like a 457 and a 403b are different accounts.  For example, at my university, the university had one account called an "Optional Retirement Account" that despite the name, wasn't optional-- 3% of my salary came out of my checks plus they added 8%.  It's still listed as ORP on my statements.  I'm not sure what the legal name of this kind of retirement fund is: 401k, 457? 

Then I had a 403B, which I could elect to contribute to.  TIAA-CREF calls this a TDA: tax deferred annuity.  It's just the name of the account because originally TIAA had only annuities and CREF had stock accounts (IIRC).  That doesn't mean it's invested in annuities, though that is an option.  My TDA account is invested in an S&P500 index fund and a bond fund.

If she logs into her account online, she'll be able to see the list of investments in each account --it sounds like she has only one fund in each account.  If you hover over the name of the fund, it will give the ticker symbol as well as performance info, share price, etc.

pbkmaine

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Re: Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2014, 08:30:53 PM »
Call TIAA and make an appointment with an Advisor or Wealth Manager. Wealth Managers have more training but can be harder to get. They will walk you through the wild and wacky world of TIAA-CREF. Part of the reason their stuff looks so weird is that they have been doing this for more than 100 years and have evolved a unique system.


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Schaefer Light

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Re: Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2014, 02:12:06 PM »
Thanks for the advice.  My wife will apparently have the opportunity to sit down with one of their advisers at the end of the school year.  I think I'm going to have to attend this session with her.

pbkmaine

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Re: Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2014, 08:50:42 AM »
That would be a very good idea. Ask lots of questions and follow up until you receive them. Have them run some fixed annuity calcs for you. You may not want to annuitize, but it will be a useful benchmark.

NinetyFour

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Re: Can anyone explain how TIAA-CREF retirement plans work?
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2014, 08:57:58 AM »
I also have my retirement finds in TIAA-CREF.  I agree that it should be pretty clear after your wife logs on to her online account.  I hope that she has choices other than a Lifecycle Fund, because the expenses for those funds are crazy high.