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Does anybody use TIAA-CREF
Old 03-18-2015, 01:35 PM   #1
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Does anybody use TIAA-CREF

I am meeting with TIAA-CREF Financial Consultant next week to talk about my portfolio. Right now I am using a Financial Planner that I pay a fee based % of assets managed. About half of my portfolio is in Fidelity Funds and Half is in CREF TIAA funds. Those were the two Plans offered through the University I worked for. Just wondered if anybody has any opinion on using the knowledge of a Financial Consultant that is part of the TIAA CREF financial services , There is no charge for his services. I am currently paying my Planner about 4k every year. Just wondering if anybody has an opinion on this?
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:12 PM   #2
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About half of my stuff is TIAA-CREF from the time I was w*rking for Columbia U. Lamont labs. The other half is in Vanguard. I'm not a financial wizard, yet I never used any advisors. My research and risk taking FWIW is sufficient to keep me more then solvent even through the serious dips of yore...

Never ever considered having or allowing someone else meddle in my financial affairs.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:21 PM   #3
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I work at a university and have visited with the TIAA-CREF planner. I thought it was adequate. Probably not as comprehensive as you might find elsewhere but considering that it's free I was pretty satisfied.

I felt pretty confident about our plan going in and was validated by the meeting. The only thing I thought was strange was that all my TIAA-CREF assets are in one of TIAA-CREF's own target date fund and they recommended I spread it out into a multi-fund portfolio.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:22 PM   #4
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From my faculty days, I have a reasonable amount at TIAA-CREF. When I began work it was actually the only thing you could do and I have been happy with the part I have in Traditional and now what I have in the Real estate fund. When they opened up the investment side things changed a bit. I have heard stories of "advisors" pushing to move assets to TIAA without any real benefit to the investor. The only thing I have used a TIAA advisor for was to estimate the pay out amount of my contracts.

I would suggest you examine why you are using an advisor and paying $4K a year for that service. Their crystal ball isn't any better than yours and the fees you pay are trimming your portfolios performance. I would suggest you invest a little time in reading and take over this task yourself.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:25 PM   #5
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I've never used any kind of FA, but as I am getting ready to RE soon, I decided to schedule a free consultation with the TIAA-CREF rep at my University as a check on my assumptions and to ask some procedural questions. After he suggested I had plenty of $ to retire based an assumed annual spending of 5% of my portfolio, I quit listening to him. I'm 43 with 2 young kids, so 5% is waaaay more than I would be comfortable planning on (my target is ~ 2.7%). Got what I paid for.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:31 PM   #6
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I am meeting with TIAA-CREF Financial Consultant next week to talk about my portfolio. Right now I am using a Financial Planner that I pay a fee based % of assets managed. About half of my portfolio is in Fidelity Funds and Half is in CREF TIAA funds. Those were the two Plans offered through the University I worked for. Just wondered if anybody has any opinion on using the knowledge of a Financial Consultant that is part of the TIAA CREF financial services , There is no charge for his services. I am currently paying my Planner about 4k every year. Just wondering if anybody has an opinion on this?
My wife used TIAA-CREF when she was working at a university, her plan offered very conservative options, but nothing wrong with that. Their advisors are going to vary, but they should meet the needs you describe. The odds are stacked against your FP being worth $4K/year advising you, but it's your decision. You can always go back to your FP, or another FP if you're not satisfied with the free advice you get from TIAA-CREF, but you'll never get back the $4K/year...
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:10 PM   #7
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Lump2, all my retirement funds are at TIAA-CREF, and I've been satisfied with the advice I've gotten. They've relied on computer-generated projections and recommendations -- I don't recall an adviser giving much advice without that.

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Old 03-18-2015, 07:48 PM   #8
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TIAA-CREF is sort of what you make of it. They have some middle of the pack mutual funds and if you get them through your retirement plan they will be structured as variable annuities probably with ERs in the range of 0.3% to 0.5%. Don't be alarmed at the variable annuity structure/description, they act just like regular mutual funds....it's a historical thing.

The stand out product form TIAA is TIAA-Traditional. If you got into that before 2010 you'll be getting about 4.5% interest. TIAA also has some good SPIAs. Any TIAA-CREF FA is going to steer you towards their products, so maybe 50% in a range of their "variable annuity" mutual funds....again these basically act just like mutual funds in an IRA or 401k and......and some annuity income.
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:31 AM   #9
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TIAA-CREF is sort of what you make of it. They have some middle of the pack mutual funds and if you get them through your retirement plan they will be structured as variable annuities probably with ERs in the range of 0.3% to 0.5%. Don't be alarmed at the variable annuity structure/description, they act just like regular mutual funds....it's a historical thing.

The stand out product form TIAA is TIAA-Traditional. If you got into that before 2010 you'll be getting about 4.5% interest. TIAA also has some good SPIAs. Any TIAA-CREF FA is going to steer you towards their products, so maybe 50% in a range of their "variable annuity" mutual funds....again these basically act just like mutual funds in an IRA or 401k and......and some annuity income.
+1 My wife was in TIAA-CREF for a short time in her career, and the available mutual funds were all burdened with VA expenses as I recall. TIAA-CREF is one of the better ones I've seen for teachers, but I don't care for the insurance (VA) expenses you have to pay for during your career.

I found that over the years - the companies we've been employed with really didn't understand what they signed up for relating to retirement plans, and/or took the cheapest plan available (plans were changed regularly and didn't always get better, if you know what I mean). I found one that had a clause that automatically put all retirement accounts of a deceased employee into a spousal annuity - employee/spouse had to have signed a waiver form to avoid this scenario. That document was never provided to the company and never explained to their staff (got a nice cash thank you from my wife's company for that, and the company dumped that plan the next year).

Personal experience with FAs has not been favorable either. Pushed their own agenda in every case - once to the detriment of our funds (if I had followed their recommendations).

I took the time to educate myself about investing after the detrimental advice from that FA (read a lot of good financial self-help books). I've found after doing the research/reading on the subject matter - that it's not that difficult to manage your own retirement funds (and no one knows what the market will do tomorrow). I've self-managed for us throughout our careers and now in retirement. Rolled over all 401Ks to IRAs at Vanguard when career moves were taken. We've no pensions, and live off our investments (retired early at 58/56).

A simple strategy of three index funds (total stock, total bond and international) will work for everyone - never had a FA recommend them, except Vanguard (we're Flagship with them and they offer portfolio analysis for free). You have to remember - no one will ever protect/watch over your financial assets anywhere close to what you do.....
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Old 03-19-2015, 08:41 AM   #10
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I hope you can go to a forum for TIAA-CREF participants. The forum members have given me some of the best advice financially, and they can further comment on financial consultants.

I've been communicating with this forum for close to 15 years, and the same members are on it. I'm retired now for 1.5 years and living on my TIAA traditional and of course social security, and doing very well with it.

The web address is TIAA-CREF Funds
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Old 03-19-2015, 09:36 AM   #11
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+1 My wife was in TIAA-CREF for a short time in her career, and the available mutual funds were all burdened with VA expenses as I recall. TIAA-CREF is one of the better ones I've seen for teachers, but I don't care for the insurance (VA) expenses you have to pay for during your career.
Yes it all stems from the original teachers retirement side of the company being an insurance company. CREF produced the first variable annuities so that teachers could invest in the stock market and then easily annuitize the account when they retired. The CREF variable annuities have some ER overhead, but it's not terrible and act just like mutual funds in a 401k; they can be bought and sold and income taken in the same ways.....but you also have a retirement annuity income option built right in.

I use TIAA-Traditional as a stand in for a CD, right now it's paying 4.5% interest. I can take that interest as income or set up systematic withdrawals or pay the entire account out over 10 years.
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Old 03-19-2015, 11:43 AM   #12
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My father had quite a bit in TIAA-Traditional (starting in the 1970s) so he was grandfathered into a good rate (about 3% + dividends). It worked very well for him in his 80s and early 90s -- especially during the Great Recession.

A few things to note about TIAA-Traditional -- at least for the contract that my father had at a state university and that I had at a private university:
  • If he wanted to move money out of TIAA-Traditional to CREF funds or elsewhere, he would have to spread the withdrawls over 10 years (9 years and 1 day), as noted above. I'm stuck doing that with my own TIAA funds now; 1/10th rolls to a Vanguard IRA every April, with another four years to go.
  • This is not true for a surviving spouse rolling over to a traditional IRA: the TIAA funds are immediately liquid, so she will be rolling everything over to Vanguard.
So if you meet with a FA, it might be good to get clarification on the rules about TIAA-Traditional.


A few years ago, I had a "free" consulation with a TIAA-CREF FA, who recommended getting out of their index funds, and into their equivalent actively managed funds. That's when I made my move to Vanguard.
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Old 03-19-2015, 02:15 PM   #13
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I have not had good experience with the TIAA advisors, except to explain the rules of what you can and cannot do. Moved to Vanguard for lower expenses. However, I keep a chunk of my assets at TIAA to use two funds: TIAA traditional and Real Estate. Some of my TIAA traditional is in the supplemental retirement fund, and since I'm over 59.5 I can withdraw at will yet it pays over 3%. So it serves as a substitute for CD's or bonds in the present environment.
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Old 03-19-2015, 07:46 PM   #14
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Good point about it serving as a substitute CD at 3%. That's how my father used it.

That said, if I left my mother's spousal IRA in TIAA-Traditional, she would not get 3%+dividends; her return would drop to a shade less than 1%. The very good rep in the Beneficiary Support office tipped me off on that.

So, heads-up to anyone who is leaving instructions to a spouse to "stay the course:" confirm what the TIAA-Traditional return will be for the spouse (or other beneficiary).
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Old 03-19-2015, 10:16 PM   #15
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Good point about it serving as a substitute CD at 3%. That's how my father used it.

That said, if I left my mother's spousal IRA in TIAA-Traditional, she would not get 3%+dividends; her return would drop to a shade less than 1%. The very good rep in the Beneficiary Support office tipped me off on that.

So, heads-up to anyone who is leaving instructions to a spouse to "stay the course:" confirm what the TIAA-Traditional return will be for the spouse (or other beneficiary).

This will be good for me to look into as DH's money is 1/2 TIAA-Traditional at 5% and 1/2 other. I don't like TIAA-CREF much and I wonder if I would be allowed to move it if DH dies before me.


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Old 03-20-2015, 09:08 AM   #16
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Call the "Beneficiary Relationship Team" at TIAA-CREF and ask. The FA's don't have a good grasp of IRA rules.

For my mother, we are using a two step process: move his funds to a new traditional IRA in her name (and I chose to take everything out of TIAA-Traditional, and make a simple portfolio of the Equity Index Fund, International Equity Index Fund and the Bond Plus fund). Step two will be to rollover this new IRA from TIAA-CREF to Vanguard, and wave goodbye to TIAA-CREF.
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Old 03-20-2015, 08:38 PM   #17
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If DH dies before me -,he is 9 years older than me but strong like bull, but hopefully that won't be for a long time, I don't plan to leave any $ in TIAA-CREF.


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Old 03-20-2015, 09:43 PM   #18
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If DH dies before me -,he is 9 years older than me but strong like bull, but hopefully that won't be for a long time, I don't plan to leave any $ in TIAA-CREF. Sent from my iPhone using Early Retirement Forum
People are being unnecessarily negative about the retirement side of TIAA-CREF. Their equity and bond offerings are ok. Not as inexpensive as Vanguard, buy cheaper than many. TIAA-Traditional and the Real Estate Fund are very interesting products and if you want an SPIA you'll get a good deal from TIAA. I can see an argument for rolling over money to Vanguard for the cheaper fees, but I would not give up TIAA-Traditional especially with the current prospects for bonds, why would I give up fixed income with a guaranteed minimum of 3% that will probably do better if interest rates go up while bond funds will go down in value.
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Old 03-21-2015, 08:24 AM   #19
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People are being unnecessarily negative about the retirement side of TIAA-CREF. [snip] I would not give up TIAA-Traditional especially with the current prospects for bonds, why would I give up fixed income with a guaranteed minimum of 3% that will probably do better if interest rates go up while bond funds will go down in value.
Right -- TIAA-Traditional at 3% is a good product, and the other side of the house has products and fees that are pretty good.

My point, as a heads-up to others, is to make sure they know the terms upon inheritance. If my mother had been able to keep 3% + dividends at TIAA-Traditional, we would have kept funds there as the fixed income portion of her portfolio. BUT the terms would be different for her: less than 1%. So that makes it less attractive, and the simplicity of having all of her assets in one place wins.

So folks with TIAA-Traditional may want to check out what the terms will be for the surviving spouse (which is some thing that would never have occurred to me, and I'm grateful that they pointed that out), and make their plans accordingly.
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Old 03-21-2015, 10:57 AM   #20
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Right -- TIAA-Traditional at 3% is a good product, and the other side of the house has products and fees that are pretty good. My point, as a heads-up to others, is to make sure they know the terms upon inheritance. If my mother had been able to keep 3% + dividends at TIAA-Traditional, we would have kept funds there as the fixed income portion of her portfolio. BUT the terms would be different for her: less than 1%. So that makes it less attractive, and the simplicity of having all of her assets in one place wins. So folks with TIAA-Traditional may want to check out what the terms will be for the surviving spouse (which is some thing that would never have occurred to me, and I'm grateful that they pointed that out), and make their plans accordingly.
Yes TIAA-Traditional new accounts are not nearly as good as the old ones. If you have the 3% min guarantee it's a great substitute for CDs and bonds, but if you inherit TIAA balance I'd also roll over to Vanguard if I didn't continue to have access to the 3% min.
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