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Anyone knowledgeable about TIA Cref?
Old 05-28-2011, 06:58 AM   #1
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Anyone knowledgeable about TIA Cref?

DD was recently hired as an art teacher at a nearby school. The benefits book she showed me was a very brief, high level description of their offerings. Retirement appears pretty good - immediate investing, immediate 5% match, rising later. They offer plans with something called Franklin Investments and with TIA Cref. From the breif description it looked like Franklin offered a standard set of managed funds while TIA Cref offered some indexes but it wasn't clear. I told her I had heard (here, where else) that TIA Cref is pretty good as these outfits go but asked her to get some detailed fund option info on both (or links to the offerings).

I have seen posts here about TIA Cref. Does anyone know whether there offerings are standard from school to school? Any advice on which funds are good?
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Old 05-28-2011, 08:11 AM   #2
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Choose the firm with the lowest expenses.

I'm with TIAA-CREF and I've always been confused by all the different classes of investments they offer. I can choose from CREF variable annuity funds to TIAA Retirement and Institutional funds. Most have expense ratios around 0.5%, which seems high to me.
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Old 05-28-2011, 08:23 AM   #3
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TIAA-CREF are, like Vanguard, one of the few 'good guys' in being genuinely 'owner operated' and usually having low fees. Check on 403bwise.com for more specific advice. They have a real estate fund that I would use if available. Their annuities give annuities a good name. Only issue is they are not as flexible as I would like.
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Old 05-28-2011, 09:29 AM   #4
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I've had a TIAA-CREF 403(b) for 25 years.

The fund selections are not the same at all schools. TIAA-CREF has relatively low-cost variable annuities that essentially are mutual funds, but they also have mutual funds. You will have to investigate which ones are available in the plan.

Tne variable annuities are probably only because historically the laws in the 1950's only allowed insurance companies to provide 403(b)s. Because the expenses are not high, they are not the kind of VA dissed on this forum all the time.

TIAA-CREF used to be lower cost, but they got the profit motive going and raised all their expense ratios over time. Nevertheless, it has got to be much better than the other choice.
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Old 05-28-2011, 09:33 AM   #5
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As for which funds are good, it will depend on which funds are offered.

The TIAA traditional annuity is like a stable value fund with a guaranteed minimum return. It is relatively unique in the world of 401(k)s and 403(b)s. Unlike a bond fund, it will never lose money, but it also won't have the performance in good times.

The TIAA real-estate account was the darling of everyone because it seemed to always go up and never drop in times of crisis. That myth was dis-spelled in 2008. People are able to front-run it because of the way it operates. Nevertheless, it is also unique in that it is not a REIT fund.

The other funds are basically mutual funds. The flagship CREF Stock fund is an all-around closet index fund with US, developed, and developing stocks of all market caps.

I think you would still want to investigate the funds that are offered though.
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:48 AM   #6
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I once had all my taxable investments with TIAACREF but moved to Vanguard when their fees went up, I imagine a lot of people did the same.

I'm with TIAA CREF for workplace retirement as they were the best firm on offer. But Fidelity has just been added so I'm researching them. If the fees are less I'll change providers.

I assume the retirement fund fees are higher than the equivalent taxable fund because of administrative costs......is that right?
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:57 AM   #7
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No, that is not right. For example, I have a Fidelity 401(k). The funds in the 401(k) have the exact same expense ratios as the same funds when they are outside a 401(k).
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Old 05-28-2011, 03:44 PM   #8
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Since we've had TIAA-CREF for 22 years and looking at retiring next year, we are trying to learn more. Will be following this thread to see if we can pick up anything. Not sure if I can offer much help though. They DO seem very happy to help and not just scrounging for more $ under their umbrella like VALIC.
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:01 PM   #9
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We do about half our investing through them. They are cheap. They match my Boglehead approach to investing well.

I like their traditional and real estate offerings. Their service for mailing things seems slow, and their web page is not easy to navigate.

Pleased overall.
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:19 PM   #10
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Does TIAA Cref sell to the general public or is it limited to educators?
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:39 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by chinaco View Post
Does TIAA Cref sell to the general public or is it limited to educators?
They have mutual fund offerings and IRAs open to everyone. As far as I know their 403b plans are only offered through non-for-profit employers. Products like the traditional account and the Real Estate accounts are, I believe, only available in 403b plans.

I've had 403bs with them for 30 years and have always been pretty happy with them -- decent fees, good help available.

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Old 05-28-2011, 04:41 PM   #12
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No, that is not right. For example, I have a Fidelity 401(k). The funds in the 401(k) have the exact same expense ratios as the same funds when they are outside a 401(k).
I'll use US Equity Index as an example of TIAA-CREF's confusingly numerous different, but similar funds and their fees.

TINRX US Equity Index Retail fund, expense ratio 0.28%
TIEIX US Equity Index Institutional fund, expense ratio 0.08%
TIQRX US Equity Index Retirement Class fund, expense ratio 0.33%
CREF Variable Annuity US Equity Index, expense ratio 0.42%
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:33 PM   #13
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I have some in a RA at TIAA-CREF. I have been happy with it.
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Old 05-29-2011, 04:28 AM   #14
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Do they sell SPIA (annuities) to the general public?
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Old 05-29-2011, 04:34 AM   #15
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I found this TIAA-Cref educational document on the web.


http://www.greateratlantachristian.o...t.Doc?id=10063


It provides a general overview of how they suggest that an annuity be used depending on one's financial situation.

It suggests guidance similar to Otar, Milevsky, Bodie, and others who see value in having some sort of guaranteed income.
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Old 05-29-2011, 11:40 AM   #16
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No, that is not right. For example, I have a Fidelity 401(k). The funds in the 401(k) have the exact same expense ratios as the same funds when they are outside a 401(k).
With TIAA-CREF I have "variable annuity" accounts. I have no idea why, it may be something to do with history and TIAA-CREF being more of an insurance company that a mutual fund company. But the bottomline is the expense ratio I pay is around 0.4%.

I see Fidelity has a Spartan few index funds with expenses at 0.1% and 0.07%. Is that what you pay in your 401k. If so I see every reason to jump ship from TIAA over to Fidelity.
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Old 05-31-2011, 02:49 PM   #17
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I emailed TIAA-CREF to ask about the expense ratios on their funds.
I believe most of the retirement accounts available via colleges
and non-profits are structured as variable annuities so they can be
turned into lifetime income annuities at retirement. This accounts
for the higher expense ratios......here is what TIAA said

"TIAA-CREF expense ratios are higher on the retirement side
than the retail side. This is because the retirement funds
can be converted to lifetime income which requires mortality
expenses to be included in the overall expense rate.
The retail funds do not offer this option."
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Old 05-31-2011, 03:47 PM   #18
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As for the OP, I think I would go with TIAA given your choices. If you have significant invested assets outside this account, I would put all my contributions in the TIAA traditional stable value type fund. It can be converted into a SPIA with several payout schemes when you are ready for it.

TIAA-CREF sells many products to the general public, as can be seen from a buzz through their website. The TIAA traditional account is not open to the public.
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