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Problems With TIAA-Cref

This article was written by in Investing. 1,528 comments.

Apparently I was not the only person having problems with TIAA-Cref.

When I contacted the company to report my missing contribution, the customer service representative was very helpful and assured me the account would be adjusted. I had complete confidence, and when I checked my account yesterday, the deposit had been made and backdated. My minor situation was resolved to my satisfaction.

Do you have any thoughts about TIAA-Cref? Read the over 400 comments below and leave your own if you have an experience with TIAA-Cref to share.

Updated October 15, 2015 and originally published January 11, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 1528 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Swanson May 20, 2015 at 6:55 pm

When you deal with a Tiaa-Cref Wealth Management Advisor you deal with the following:

Very generous commission grid. If you are willing to focus on pushing clients into Tiaa-Crefs proprietary managed products you can make a tremendous amount of money.

External assets placed into Tiaa-Crefs proprietary managed products pay the following commission:

0 to 19.9 million in proprietary product placements pays .25% of the dollars placed in the proprietary product.

20 to 39.9 million in proprietary product placements pays .30% of the dollars placed in the proprietary product.

40 to 59.9 million in proprietary product placements pays .35% of the dollars placed in the proprietary product.

60 plus million in proprietary product placements pays .40% of the dollars placed in the proprietary product.

If you convince a client to move assets from their existing, low cost institutional defined contribution plan and place those assets into a proprietary managed solution, you will only receive .10% of the assets placed into the product as commission.

If you can convince a client to bring in outside assets to Tiaa-Cref but they want to self-direct, you will only receive .06% of the asset value transferred in.

Base salary plus very generous commissions on proprietary products.

Very top management at Tiaa-Cref has no idea how the heads of Tiaa-Cref Wealth Management is running the department. Morale is atrocious, Directors with little or no experience, retaliatory firings if you are not pushing enough proprietary products. Bad job for those who want to do the right thing by their customers.

Cull the entire Wealth Management Department from top to bottom. Many of the Directors are very complicit in unethical behavior.

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avatar Peggy S. June 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm

I had the experience of dealing with one of their Wealth Management Advisors. They contacted me because I hit the point of being identified as a “whale” (i.e. someone who has $500K or more in T-C). I agreed for them to do an analysis of my assets along with the projection though my life expectation – which was to about age 95 in their analysis. The result was that I would still have a sizable balance if I died at 95. I have a Financial Advisor at the firm where I have an IRA, a Roth, and a personal investment account. I had her do the same analysis and the results were the same. OK so good.

But the big difference is what the T-C person recommended I do. She said I needed REITs. That investment is NOT an available option in my plan (please note, the Real Estate fund that is available in not a REIT). Next she said I needed annuities. I only have less than $30K tied up in the TIAA Traditional, but I can deal with that. However, she pushed and pushed for annuities.

In contrast, my private Advisor – who did not know the T-C analysis results nor recommendations until after she presented her analysis and recommendations – said “what? No way do you need or want annuities. You are and active, informed, educated investor who is not dependent on having a check for a specific amount each month”.

So now I ask you. Do I believe the T-C person who is pushing the products for a nice commission? Or do I believe the private advisor who makes a commission based on MY decision? The answer is obvious to me. How about you?

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avatar Dinamarie June 8, 2015 at 12:31 am

It seems wise to generate and compare reports from different (competing) advisors like you’ve done. However, the wealth management report and investment allocation that my TIAA-Cref advisor provided me (Sept 2014) was prepared by Ibbotson Associates, an independent company that is a subsidiary of Morningstar. I’d like to believe that provides a bit of neutrality. Of course, all recommendations are limited to funds that T-C has access to within each separate plan. For example, recommendations within my university sponsored plan were almost all within T-C because the policy is restricted to those funds. However, recommendations within my 403(b) allocated a lot of my money to products that are not direct T-C funds. Am I wrong to think that Ibbotson Associates lends a bit of objectivity to the investment strategy report?

By the way, there are different ways to think about TIAA Traditional. Though it technically is an annuity and T-C would like you to treat it as such, you can also view it as a relatively secure savings account. Within my 403(b), money in TIAA Traditional is earning 3% guaranteed and I can move or withdraw money whenever I want. In my strategy, I keep 2+ years’ living expenses in this fund so my immediate future is not at the mercy of the market. I never intend to annuitize it even though this fund is called an annuity.

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avatar anonymous June 8, 2015 at 4:01 am

I concur with the above statement. This place has gotten so corrupt in the past few years. They are losing market share left and right and have to create ways to push all of us into expensive, low quality accounts. I was talked into moving my account into one that was 10 times more expensive. I have a university plan and demanded to know why I was being sold on something heavily in the past few years. It took a little digging, but happy I found out the good ole financial guys are now just as corrupt as these larger companies.
I have kept my university account in tact and as soon as I retire, I plan on moving it out ASAP to someone who has MY, yes MMMYYYY best interest in mind. Maybe that will be me.

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avatar Jim Woodhull April 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Courtney Foster robed me of my retirement money and none cares.
As I approached retirement Courtney Foster the rep from Melville in NY badgered and badgered me to switch to “safe” annuities. I repeatedly told him NO. Finally to shut him up, I agreed to shift 20% to these “great” annuities. after he did that I found he had moved 100% of my retirement in and I can only access 10% of it a year.
I called all levels of the company and was told “once enacted it cant be changed” even though I called the day after the change was made.
Be very careful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

avatar Peggy S. June 8, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Dinamarie, lucky you. Your analysis was done but an outside of T-C source. Mine wasn’t. All 4 of the bound booklets say “Prepared by: name, CFP, Wealth Management Advisor. From the recommendations that Ibbotson Associates gave you it does sound like you got some very objective advise for your 403(b) …SRA?. However, I will give you a word of advice. If you chose to implement any of their recommendations for investment in sources outside of T-C, you will have to roll-over the amount(s). That will not be the easiest thing to do (see my reply to Wizard below as well as the numerous earlier comments).
As for your funds in Traditional in your SRA account. True. They are not restricted in terms of withdrawing rate. Yes, 2 years of living/unexpected expenses in that account, given the interest rate, is not a bad way to go. However, you will still have to jump through hoops to get any money. So if your roof blows in a tornado and you need the $ NOW to replace it, don’t hold your breath for getting a check in a month. JMHO.

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avatar Dinamarie June 8, 2015 at 2:32 pm

I know I sound more defensive about T-C than I really am, and I’m constantly prepared to learn that I’ve misunderstood how my funds operate. However, I’ve had no problems phoning the “helper” who works with my Wealth Advisor and requesting a change in the amount of my systematic withdrawals. I also have a small amount of money in a T-C Money Market account (zilch interest) which I can access through checks; that’s my backup when the roof blows off in a tornado.

Regarding the Retirement Advisor Action Plan (suggested allocations), the report itself said it was prepared by my TIAA-Cref Wealth Management Advisor but the small print on the last pages states: “We have partnered with an independent financial expert, Ibbotson Associates, Inc., who has provided an investment methodology that is the basis for the advice supplied by the TIAA-Cref Retirement Advisor.” My wealth advisor pointed that out and said they turned my data over to Ibbotson who crunched the numbers and provided the proposed allocations. This was from an analysis done Sept 2014; I looked at my spiral booklets from earlier reports and I don’t see the same claim in those. Maybe this is relatively new? Or maybe I am idealistically misinterpreting how they use Ibbotson.

avatar The Wizard June 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Hi Peggy,
I’m also a Whale at TC for the last few decades or so. Fun isn’t it?
Sounds like that other advisor may not be familiar with TC’s terminology and details. In addition to Trad and TREA, the CREF side has several Variable Annuity accounts. But none of them REQUIRE one to “annuitize” for monthly income at retirement. That’s an optional step depending on your total financial picture.
So yes, I’d trust you WMA to be better informed about your TC portfolio…

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avatar Peggy S. June 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Sorry, Wizard. My other advisor has been in the business for 25+ years. She is very familiar with T-C. In contrast the T-C advisor is quite young (she could easily be my daughter or even granddaughter). The “check a month” was just an example. The point is that I do not need nor do I want annuities of any kind. When I met with the T-C advisor I specifically requested on advice on how to “spend down” my account (i.e. take a little from each of the funds, take all from a specific fund with a list/considerations as to the priority of funds to take from, etc). But to this date which is now 9 months later, I still have not had my request addressed. All I got was annuities, annuities, annuities!
So I have made my decision. I am stuck with the TIAA Traditional for 10 years for only about $30K so that is no big deal. Everything else will be rolled over to my outside IRA. On Friday I contacted them to request the forms for roll-over. You can’t download them. You have to phone the number listed on the site. Just to get the 2 forms (one for the employer contributions account and one for my SRA account) it took 1 hour. Yes the forms were sent/posted to my secure messages on the site, but interestingly I was told the messages would remain for just 30 days and then vanish (at least the guy told me that). But I did ask/comment about why/how it took one full hour just to get 2 forms. This is clearly an example of how they try to delay so I am glad I have started early.
In one of your earlier posts you said something to the extent that you may roll-over some funds to your IRA and that will be a breeze. Well, don’t count on it.

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avatar The Wizard June 8, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Too bad they gave you a newbie for a WMA. A really independent financial advisor might be your best bet if you can get one without paying a lot, year after year.
But your WMA and his/her team is the best starting point for initiating anything daring within T-C. I always do this via email so I have a written record of thing.
My WMA usually hands me off to Brad in Charlotte and that’s fine.

Attempting to do a transfer of some sort via phone call to some unnamed TC person is doomed to fail.

My most recent thing was to set up a recurring monthly transfer from my GSRA to a Roth IRA, all at TC. It took a few weeks to get this up and running but they got it right on the first try.
The same twelve page form they sent me allows for external transfers as well. I have good confidence in my ability to move funds from my GSRAs and even my GRAs, excepting Trad, to my Vanguard tIRA or Roth IRA…

avatar Peggy S. June 8, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Interesting addition here. As I said, I contacted T-C for the forms for roll-over on Friday. Today is Monday and I just hung up the phone from a call from T-C. He said he wanted to make sure everything was okey dokey with my latest contacts. He claimed he was with “quality control”. What? Never in the 20 years that I have been with T-C has anyone from “quality control” contacted me to determine if everything worked right. When I mentioned to him that my WMA has never addressed my request for advice/direction in the “spend down”, he suggested assigning me a different WMA. I said NO. I don’t need it or want it – just like the annuities!
While at no time in the conversation did he try to really talk me out of a roll-over to my IRA, he did push the issue that my employer pays the “fees” for my T-C accounts. And he further said that if I moved my $, I would be paying $X for someone to manage my account. (However, he said $X which was 10% not the typical 1%). That is very deceptive for the uninformed and is a real shocker number. I guess that is how T-C keeps you with them. They move the decimal point and then you are aghast.
Furthermore, he spoke about T-C was so good in investing/allocating my money. I told him that I make the decision of how my money is invested NOT T-C. He kept on going about how T-C makes the decision of what/whom to invest in and therefore they make the decision. He didn’t like it when I told him that if an investment fund is not performing as I think it should then I change my allocation to something else.
So there you go. T-C at it’s finest attempt to keep control of your money.

avatar Linda June 9, 2015 at 9:09 am

Peggy S.
When I read about the TIAA Institute’s co-authorship of a paper with the anti-pension Arnold Foundation, I did an internet review of the company. IMO, the company Board of Overseers, did not direct the company in a manner consistent with its prescribed mission. The controversial pension activities were not isolated to one paper. There was, at least one other paper endorsing defined contribution plans, co-written with a person from Ohio University TIAA officials were quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education and, if documents on the internet are correct, visits were made to state capitols. I brought the matter to the attention of more than 10 individuals in the company, I received one direct TIAA response, about the issue. It did not reassure me they planned to act in the best interest of pensioners who also had 403 b’s so, I moved my money out of TIAA to a local private financial advisor, registered with the SEC only. He selects stocks, which are in a TD Ameritrade account (I could have chosen a different brokerage firm), set up so that the advisor can not make withdrawals. If I see a stock I want him to buy, he does it. I get monthly statements from TD Ameritrade. For the amount I have, I pay a 1% fee to the advisor and amount less than 1% to TD Ameritrade. At a higher amount invested, the advisor fee would be less.
I’m not clear what fees I paid to TIAA and the plan administrator (my employer), during my tenure as an investor.
The more information I found about the company, for example, the President of the David Koch Theater is on the Board, the less I thought it was a good fit for me.

avatar Linda June 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm

In Peter Mallouk’s book on investing, he explains the reason an investor should choose an advisor who is registered only with the SEC, not with FINRA, and not by both.

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avatar Peggy S. June 8, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Interesting………..could you give us a synopsis of his reasons? I would think that registered with both is a good thing.

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avatar Linda June 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm

As I recall, Mallouk said the SEC registration carried with it, the regulatory requirement that the advisor act first, in the client’s interests. The other registrations had the effect of not protecting/voiding that regulatory mandate. But, to prevent any unintentional misquote on my part, I recommend reading his book. The book’s short, very readable and singularly, the best book I’ve read on investing.
(I receive no benefit from the recommendation and hadn’t heard of Mallouk until I came across his book at my library.)

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avatar Peggy S. June 8, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Thanks Linda….that is helpful.

avatar Arlene Andrew June 22, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I agree, It’s the best, clearest book I’ve ever read on investing and summarizes nearly every major investment issue I’ve read about elsewhere, including market timing, aversion to loss, index investing vs active management, and importance of fees.

I am trying to figure out whether to advise my adult kids to roll of their non-spousal T-C inheritances into an inherited IRA. They now receive small amounts of RMDs each year. Their accounts consist mainly of CREF stock and very little TIAA.

avatar pat July 14, 2015 at 6:25 pm

I am sure you are familiar with the esteemed SEC’s complicity in the 2008 saga. I would use 3 sources.

avatar soontobeformeremployee May 25, 2015 at 2:08 pm

There are 2 MAIN reasons for funds not being distributed in an easy fashion. The first being the common factor in this thread, they are tied up in the TIAA Traditional fund. The second is some Plans actually have rules in place that restrict certain withdrawals or have several hoops to jump through. There is nothing that can be done to go around them, though TIAA-CREF has to be the one to take the brunt of the anger, as many institutions don’t want their employees coming back to them because of it.

However, there are several instances that where it is TIAA-CREFs own need to save money that creates delays or hold ups on having distributions done from accounts.

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avatar Peggy S. July 15, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Yo,soontobeformeremployee, your name says it all. You must be a T-C troll on this site. I am NOT caught up in the Traditional Fund – only miniscule in it. Same as other former co-workers who have retired. The problem is getting out your totally vested funds.

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avatar Dennis Guilliams May 28, 2015 at 11:24 am

I have a self managed brokerage account with TIAA CREF. Unlike Charles Schwab and other brokerage firms I am unable to transfer money from my TIAA account directly to my financial institution on record, nor can am I allowed to transfer money from my bank to my TIAA account. I am required to download and sign forms.

In addition I use my Yahoo Finance Portfolio to learn how my TIAA CREF Mutual funds perform on any given day. TIAA CREF doesn’t provide this information until long after it is available on other sites.

I tried to use the “send an email” link to contact my advisors that are listed on my home page, and the links are not operational.

If you send an email with a question about your accounts, 90% of the time the email response you receive is “Call our brokerage office”.


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avatar The Wizard June 2, 2015 at 12:41 pm

It’s best to initiate transfers like this though your local WMA.
I’ve done it and yes, there are forms, but it works…

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avatar Peggy S. June 8, 2015 at 2:31 pm

What about people who are not “whales” and thus do not have a WMA?

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avatar The Wizard June 8, 2015 at 4:42 pm

I’m not sure, but from what I’ve seen, it could be a lot more difficult doing certain transactions even IF one is fully aware of applicable rules (and many seem not to be)…

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avatar Dinamarie June 2, 2015 at 1:24 pm

It strikes me that many of the complaints in this discussion have to do with frustration over FEDERAL regulations about retirement accounts. It doesn’t do any good to get mad at TIAA-Cref because you can’t access your money before you retire; you’d face the same problems with Valic or any other financial company. Likewise, the minimum 5-year payout for money in TIAA Traditional (when it’s part of a sponsored plan) is clearly stated in descriptions of that fund; shame on you if you put all of your money into a fund without understanding what it was. If you like TIAA Traditional but don’t want your money to be tied up, open a 403(b) and invest in TIAA Traditional there. You won’t face that 5-year payout restriction but the tradeoff is getting a lower interest rate.

However, there are some legitimate problems with TIAA-Cref especially when you begin making withdrawals from your accounts. I qualify for a wealth management advisor but they are under so much pressure they have no time for effective advising; in my experience, they last 8-12 months before burning out and then clients get assigned to someone new. The best advice I’ve gotten has come from representatives who answer the 1-800 number. It helps to do your research first and have specific questions in mind. “Do your research first” is the key component of that sentence.

For me, transitioning into retirement was incredibly stressful because finances were turned inside out; I was forced to confront how little I understood about investments, retirement funds, and taxes. Unless you are incredibly lucky and already have a trusted financial advisor, the only way through that maze is to educate yourself. I studied the TIAA-Cref website for hours until I was comfortable in my understanding of payout options. I researched all advice regarding investment strategies regardless of where it came from, and in doing so I exposed some incredibly stupid suggestions that were not in my best interest. Believe me, I started from total ignorance but was determined to understand the basics of how it works.

It should NOT be this complicated, but it is. I wanted to believe there was a system–a person–who would watch out for me but that just ain’t the case. In the long run, you are your own best advocate. Read, study, and do research to prepare yourself for that responsibility. Once you understand what’s going on, your frustration will decrease and you’ll be more effective at managing your money the way you want.

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avatar Linda June 3, 2015 at 8:49 am

“Research yourself”……..my experience
The fees charged by my retirement plan administrator (employer), despite requests, were not disclosed. Public universities are excluded from requirements to be transparent about the fees they charge to manage retiree plans like TIAA’s, (info. from the NLRB). I don’t know if this has a wider application to other employers.
As a 30 year TIAA investor, I was unpleasantly surprised when TIAA referred me back to the university for an answer to my question. At the bargaining table for fees, based on my experience, there is no investor representation and TIAA, for reasons I can speculate, was unwilling to disclose plan administrator costs that are passed on to investors.
Read back through the conversation threads to learn about a fine imposed on TIAA-CREF, a settled lawsuit, and the firm’s investing and political activities.

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avatar Patty O'Chair June 9, 2015 at 11:10 pm

I’m a former TIAA WM advisor. What you need to know about all the turnover at TIAA is this:
TIAA is using their institutional platform to generate individual retirement accounts in a managed platform that generates an extra level of fees and mitigates the companies risk of losing large institutional accounts. Regardless of how experienced or skilled they are, any advisor who doesn’t go along with this practice or suggests it might not be a good exercise of their fiduciary obligation is targeted. Their leads will dry up and if they don’t leave voluntarily, they will eventually be terminated for lack of production. If an advisor makes a more public display of their concerns in front of any managers, they are at serious risk of being ambushed with termination over some issue that has been quickly manufactured. In these cases the company typically lies or exagerates on the advisor’s U5 form, making them less employable and therefore, less of a competitive risk. It is pure evil what they do. The stories are legion and I know they are true because I know people who can no longer find work in the industry because they complained to management about having to cover up a previous advisor’s forgeries. As easy as it may be to dismiss what I’m telling you, I swear on everything I hold holy that this company is exploiting advisors and clients alike and ruining the careers of any advisor who tries to voice their ethical qualms. If you even follow their “values” and report the unethical practices or processes with which you are not comfortable, they will ruin you. And if you get caught pulling back the curtain….they will pay any amount in legal fees to silence it.

Someday, case studies will be written about the persistent and insidious exploitation of clients and employees at this firm. Until then, ask them why there is ONE page in their Portfolio Advisor presentation that is left loose while every other page is bound? That one page just happens to be the page describing the extra layer of fees of 75 to 180 basis points. They leave it loose because they know the advisors are under such pressure to hit quotas to avoid a Performance Improvement Plan that most of them will throw that page away and the company can then have both plausible deniability as well as incriminating evidence they may need to use to terminate the advisor in the future if that advisor’s conscience starts to bother them.

All my life in the industry, I have taken the role of fiduciary very seriously. My reputation and integrity are worth more to me than any amount of money. I do not bear false witness. I speak the truth and I do not rationalize what I know is a breach of trust. I was shocked to find what I found was common practice at TIAA and they came after me when I raised my concerns. They tried to ruin my reputation and my professional future. I know 12 other people just like me….they are simply too petrified about what they’ve seen happen to others to speak up.

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avatar Peggy S. June 10, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Thank you for your honest report. You should know having been a T-C WMA. Basically what you are saying is confirming what has either been said on here or insinuated. As for the one loose leaf page……….hahahaha. Yep, I never got it. So someone “accidentally” lost it – right?

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avatar Linda June 10, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Thank you for sharing this information.
It is unfortunate that more employees planning for retirement, are unaware that TIAA–CREF’s mission and practice have substantially diverged.
The relatively recent change in culture is transparent, based on a great deal of info. available on the internet. In January, TIAA-CREF gave a “Samuelson” award, to a VP of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. “Fix the Debt”, Peterson’s half-billion dollar campaign, has faced withering criticism that should, IMO, tarnish candidacy for an award, given by a non-profit, in the “public interest”.
A transmutation as substantial as TIAA’s can’t remain under the radar of progressive media indefinitely.

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avatar Peggy S. June 10, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I would absolutely love it if the media did pick this up. But T-C does advertise quite a bit. So various media (i.e. Television) may ignore it because of the advertising dollars.

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avatar Linda June 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm

At least two media picked up the Arnold/TIAA Institute anti-pension collaboration. One post was at Truthout and the other was at a nationally popular and respected industry website.
Exposing the impact of business decisions, by the 0.2% is, indeed, difficult. There is the issue of advertising dollars and also, vulture philanthropies, that co-opt media with donations.
Recent funding from Gates, Waltons et. al., created education “news” outlets, that a number of teachers think, reflect spin in favor of Common Core (Silicon Valley) and charter schools (hedge funds).
IMO, the non-profit TIAA-CREF should have a minimum of a 2% return advantage over firms that have to pay owners. Under those circumstances, it is impossible for me to reconcile their activities, in any light except the one you suggest.
There are reports on the internet that cite specific colleges that stopped TIAA participation in retirement plans, offered to employees. It would be instructive to know why.
It may surprise you that the Overseer Board’s mission is, “To forward the cause of education and promote the welfare of the teaching profession”.

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avatar Susan July 1, 2015 at 1:01 pm

This is very timely. I discovered that I could have had a tax advantage re: my scheduled necessary early withdrawals LAST YEAR because I was that “magic age.” When my withdrawals were set up in 2008, I could have scheduled it less than one month later and gotten a 10% State and City tax break (because of a $20,000 exclusion.) I won’t bore you with the quizzical remarks I got from TIAA-CREF when I asked why I wasn’t encouraged to set up the date a little later. (In fact, the NY office – where I live and where I have physically meet with TIAA-CREF reps in the past – has been forwarding their “overflow” calls to TX and NC, thereby disallowing any conversations about state taxes.)
Does anyone know what government agency regulates or deals with gaffs concerning TIAA-CREF accounts, please? (The SEC? https://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/mr-noaction/2008/tiaa-cref050208.pdf and http://www.jta.org/2013/05/30/news-opinion/united-states/sec-permits-tiaa-cref-pension-fund-to-ignore-divestment-proposal ) I work in the legal field, and I believe that I should have been informed. This is hardly retail: TIAA-CREF accounts ARE for the long haul and the reps need to be responsible to their clients/customers.

avatar Linda Bricker July 9, 2015 at 10:09 pm

There’s FINRA, which fined TIAA-CREF for issues related to customers (referenced in earlier posts).
But, FINRA is funded by financial firms like TIAA-CREF, and they voluntarily belong to the group, if I understand correctly.

avatar Pam April 13, 2016 at 9:28 am

Hi Peggy,

I have a program, MoneyTrack on PBS. My mission is to educate individual investors. Could we chat? Thank you! Pam

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avatar frustrated June 11, 2015 at 10:54 pm

I sit and read this and have gone back and forth about posting, as I am an employee.

I understand everyone’s frustration, but imagine the frustration of an employee that is truly trying to help the participants, because after all…we are told to “Put Our Customer First”.

It is frustrating that we were lied to during the interview, while we are salaried and this is not a sales job, they are constantly on us about our dollars and numbers. I have seen 3 times in the last two days about our WMA not being there for our clients or only concerned about outside assets. Because of this, we have lost all 3 clients, who have taken a lot of money with them.

For me, it has gotten to the point that I will pay the money so that I can leave before my year is up. I came from another financial institutional who found ways to bend and help our customers, even if it meant that we had to eat the cost on wiring/overnighting funds.

Anyway, there are secrets and ways to get around certain rules and though, unfortunately, still creates a lot of frustration.

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avatar Linda June 24, 2015 at 9:49 pm

FT.com reports that “TIAA-CREF is a big backer of overpriced CEO’s, according to a shareholder advocacy group.” (Steve Johnson, May 10, 2015)

Evidence mounts that TIAA’s values are at odds with the investors, with whom the firm is most identified. The firm’s vestigial reputation won’t, indefinitely, protect it from blowback.

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avatar zkeith June 29, 2015 at 11:07 pm

I’m thinking of rolling over a 403(b) account I have at T/C into a self-directed brokerage IRA account at T/C. The advantage is that I will have access to a far greater number of investment possibilities than are available in my 403(b) account. Trades will cost $9.95. One disadvantage is that I’ll need to take out the remaining amount of 2015 RMD before the rollover can occur. I’m wondering what others’ experience has been with the self-directed brokerage IRA at T/C. Any and all feedback will be appreciated.

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avatar Peter-D-G June 30, 2015 at 12:43 am

I moved my wife’s 401K to T-C about two years ago and tried to use T-C’s self-directed brokerage IRA but gave up after a few months. Their website was just to awkward to navigate. I had my IRA at Schwab for many years and found that T-C’s web site is just a joke compared to Schwab’s. Also T-C’s commissions are just totally out of line. My advice is move the 403b to an IRA at Schwab or Vanguard, but don’t try to use T-C’s “brokerage.” I ended up moving my wife’s account to Vanguard since my plan was to mostly use Vanguard ETF’s. It turns out that Vanguard provides plenty of free trades so the few trades that I make in non-Vanguard ETF’s are all commission free also.

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avatar Diane June 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm

A few years ago, while I was still working, I was advised to put a large portion of my retirement into the safest investment funf -the TIAA CEFF “traditional”. Unfortunately, I was not properly advised (by their advisor) of the consequences of taking that action.

Three years ago my husband had open heart surgery and was told he would need a heart transplant. I retired in order to care for him sooner than I had planned. Now he is no longer considered a candidate for a transplant and we find ourselves trying to live on Social Security.

While traveling around the country to various hospitals in our efforts to find a hospital that would consider him for a transplant, we ran up large credit card bills. The tests involved would require our staying out of town sometimes for weeks.

I now find myself in the position of trying to pay these creditors on Social Security alone, having previously used all my “liquid” funds.

Long story short, TIAA-CREFF now holds over $25,000 of my money that I can’t get my hands on except for the once a year percentage payout. I’ve tried working with TC, but they won’t budge.

So, all I can say is be very careful and don’t just listen to their financial “advisors” about where to put your money. You could end up flipping burgers for money when you’re in your 70′s.

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avatar Peter-D-G July 1, 2015 at 12:13 am

Consider yourself fortunate. I have 20 times as much locked up in TIAA-Traditional and I’ve seen posts from people with as much as a million there. In general it’s a pretty good fund these days but TIAA is totally negligent in not warning people about the lock up period.

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avatar Diane July 1, 2015 at 11:22 am

I know…. Just feel like something should/could be done to hold them more accountable for this negligence. Maybe some sort of fine to opt out early?

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avatar Linda July 2, 2015 at 7:57 pm

The apparent friendly links between TIAA and Pete Peterson, a hedge funder who has, reportedly, spent $ I/2 billion to undermine Social Security, should be on the radar of people relying on S.S.

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avatar Diane July 2, 2015 at 9:38 pm

Thanks for your comments. I have filed a complaint with the SEC, because I truly believe the actions of T-C were not compliant with their fiduciary responsibilities, but I doubt it will make any difference.

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avatar Linda July 3, 2015 at 8:13 am

The SEC’s protection of Wall Street can be deduced from information about the revolving door between government and industry, exposed at SunlightFoundation.com.
Currently, many organizations are calling for the ouster of the head of the SEC, Mary Jo White, based on charges of Wall Street cronyism.
The wife of TIAA-CREF CEO , Roger Ferguson, is a former SEC Commissioner now working for a law firm with financial firm clients.
IMO, the future of American democracy rests on Americans abandoning big investment firms and banks, using credit unions and independent financial advisors, instead. It depends on people like those who write comments at this site, making their employers aware of the actions of the retirement investment firms, and asking for alternatives. It requires popular support for organizations like the Campaign for America’s Future and the Center for Media and Democracy.

avatar Diane August 3, 2015 at 10:31 pm

In looking further at the form I signed, it says that funds can be moved out of the traditional account over a 10 year period. It does NOT say that the maximum amount that can be transferred in a year is 10%. Therefore, is unreasonable to assume that one could transfer up to 90% one year and 1% the other 9 years? Just wondering…

avatar Linda July 6, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Yahoo Finance lists CREF as a “notable investor” in Pearson. Pearson is a backer of for-profit, “schools in a box”, along with Bill Gates and Zuckerberg. Bridge International Academies (the brand name for the schools in a box) were criticized in a letter from more than 100 international organizations (posted on-line). The organizations chastised the World Bank for promoting and funding a relatively expensive, for-profit product, to the poorest of the poor, while excluding public education from support. What a massive change for TIAA-CREF, from teacher welfare and historically, the public good, to its current mutation.
BTW, Bill Gates’ PR, as a great philanthropist, hides his controversial tax, pension and economic views which can be found at many sources, including the blog posts of Diane Ravitch. Microsoft and Pearson announced a deal to develop curriculum for Common Core, simultaneous with Gates’ philanthropic spending of $2 bil. to get support for the copyrighted Common Core standards, which would provide the market for the corporate product.

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avatar Larry H July 10, 2015 at 1:09 pm

I worked at a University 25 years ago and enrolled in TIAA-CREF for the two years that I was employed there. Getting that small amount of money out of TIAA is next to impossible. No other 401K that I have has put the onus on the employee to make all the contacts with the former employer, since TIAA is the one with the relationship with the University. I spent a career dealing with government employees and TIAA tops the states and Fed beaucracies at obfuscating, delaying obtructing and passing the buck without being helpful in the least. I refuse to just let them keep my money and am considering spending the entire amount that I have at TIAA for legal counsel to give them a dose of what they are giving to me.

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avatar Peggy S. July 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm

You go guy. Our hearts are with you…..as well as our wallets!

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avatar Steve July 14, 2015 at 5:31 pm


My situation was virtually identical to yours and although I used to post here for time, I stopped when I eventually did get my money. When i was posting I was called a troll by one of the posters, a term I found entertaining as I was able to document the names and contact dates which took place over at least a year. The fiasco has mercifully faded from my mind, although my financial planner still advises me of others who go through the same thing I did and now you are experiencing.

In comparison to my overall investments, the amount was incidental, but getting it became a matter of principle. Dealing with TIAA-CREF was, for me as a seasoned investor, beyond belief and way beyond my experience with any other investment firm. A clown show at best, duplicitous at worst!

I do feel genuine sorrow for those who have to rely on TIAA-CREF for their retirement. Hang in there!


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avatar Peggy S. July 15, 2015 at 1:35 pm

I can’t wait until it is a faded memory. My financial advisor has also said the same thing about other clients. We/they get their money from other “firms” but it is horrible to get your money from TIAA-CREF. I have more than a small amount in T-C. But I will be damned if they keep it or put me into one of their annuities. As for the “clown show”, if that were true we could all just have a good laugh. But alas, it is not funny.

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avatar Linda July 14, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Imagine if Social Security was handed over to Wall Street. The shams of financial firms are far worse than the worst government program. Last year, Daily Beast reported TIAA-CREF’s CEO was Wall Street’s fantasy pick for Federal Reserve chief, which is an indicator of where his allegiances are.
Is there evidence to refute an opinion that TIAA’s top board is phantom?

A bus tour (AROS), organized by professors, is moving through Pennsylvania this summer, visiting college campuses and urban areas to focus attention on the takeover of public education by Wall Street and Silicon Valley. How great it would be if there were two buses on the tour, the latter contrasting the stated mission of TIAA’s Board of Overseers with its practices.

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avatar Linda August 5, 2015 at 11:52 am

TIAA investors benefit from a strong SEC. The current SEC Chair is Mary Jo White, “By June 2, 2015, she had had to recuse herself in about 50 cases (due to the potential for lack of objectivity, based on her former employment or her husband’s current employment) …” The NYT continued their article, by writing that it “compromised the effectiveness of the SEC.”
There is a call for Americans to contact the U.S. President, at 202-456-1111, where volunteers record the opinions of the people, to convey to the President. Please call and ask the President to request White’s resignation.
The wife of TIAA President, Roger Ferguson was an SEC commissioner, who now works at a law firm that has financial clients.
The revolving door at federal agencies must be stopped. The agencies were created to prevent abuses that harm the interests of the nation’s citizens, not to grease the wheels for top industry managers.

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avatar Patricia August 13, 2015 at 10:54 am

My father died in 2001 and as the executor, I have been trying to close the accounts he had opened to the minor children. This has been going on for ten years. TEN. I have never gotten
such a run a round from any mutual fund company. I finally contacted the AG’s office in Mass,
which sent me a pile of paperwork an inch thick. Mind you, there was no trouble with other accounts with other companies. So now I find out that my niece has probably lost most of her $$
despite her calling the company, someone found the account and then they lost it. So it is now
worthless, in unclaimed property. And they are going to do the same with my kids, now 19 and 22.
My blood boils so I have been throwing everything in the trash, except now they are threatening
to send these accounts to the state. How do they stay in business?

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avatar Linda August 13, 2015 at 7:41 pm

I don’t know if FINRA would be helpful to you or not.

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avatar The Wizard August 13, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Sounds more like FOURTEEN years, not ten.
And they stay in business by steeling money from people who attempt to retire or die. Plenty of those each year, so the cash keeps piling up!!!

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avatar mike goff August 27, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Where can i find a lawyer who will help me with TIAA??

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avatar Lucy Skeen September 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Good Luck Getting Your Money
In mid August I called TIAA-CREF to withdrawal my piddling retirement account. (I am 66 ) they explained that I needed a Spousal Waiver form. So I asked them to mail it to me. 10 days later I received a cover letter, but no form. So I called again to request it be mailed. Once again, 8 days later I get another cover letter but no form. Very frustrated I found one on their website, had husband sign it and got it notarized and mailed it overnight. I then get an email saying they had everything needed. Another two weeks and no money! So I call to ask why and they said I had the wrong form. By this time the 30 days had expired and I had to reapply! Just unbelievable incompetence . 40 days and I still do not have my money.

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avatar The Wizard September 23, 2015 at 6:42 pm

This is understandable.
If they paid out money to everyone who asked for it, what would they be left with?
That’s right, NOTHING.

So they drag things our in the hope that you might DIE before they pay you, so they get to keep it all.
This is their standard way of steeling money from participants…

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avatar ethicwatch September 29, 2015 at 11:51 pm

Still snarky Wizard. It appears TiaaCref has been reorganizing its processes for at least 3 years. Participants can use their online secure accounts to withdraw funds. Participants need to read their plan document. Employers place restrictions on withdrawals of vested funds ie age restrictions. Some actions require employer representative signatures others do not. The two companies with shared employees definitely has communication issues. The information on the website is more for individuals than those in employer plans. The call center employees know more about individual accounts than employer plans. The employer is the policyholder for group plans which isn’t explained in any web based company documents. You access those documents through the SEC. The company should have explained the continuing process changes to employer plan participants through a secure email.

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avatar Peggy S. September 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Oh dear Lucy, you did all the right things but now T-C says old form. Once you finally get the right form, T-C will tell you another form is needed. As Wizard says T-C is “good at doing what they do” which is to readily accept your money and then hang on to it as long as possible. The hanging on part is accomplished by their not sending you the form as well as having old forms on their site. Or, as in my case, the site does not have the forms you need and they make you phone them to get the form. Then after spending at least one hour on the phone the form becomes available to you.
Good luck girl. A friend of mine finally got her $ when she said her attorney would file suit against T-C.

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avatar anon December 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm

peggy, you seem to be the ringleader here so I’ll reply to your comment. i work for TC as a field consultant, meaning I’m on the road day to day at different institutions doing 1-on-1 meetings on campus. first, the company has put in major upgrades to streamlining all these service issues you people speak of. secondly, all i see is basic service complaints that have been solved in these upgrades i just mentioned. mostly they were made on the IT side. anyway, no one here has said pip about investment performance. isn’t that the most important thing? that the money you invest works for you and produces earnings? the company is top of the top in that regard. just look at your accounts. and where else in the world can you get a free 3% non-restricted in your supplemental 403b? the answer is simple – nowhere. all advice offers are in fact utilizing ibbotson methodology. we just take the information you give us and put the report together. there is a trade off for everything in life. you took a free, non risk bearing 3% in exchange for some accessibility restrictions. in this current interest rate environment i cant tell you how many “whales” have called me asking if they can get in on that account. in other performance news, TC has outperformed all of its competitors in terms of performance over the last decade, mostly due to low fees and social responsibility. and in regards to getting your money – everything can be done online now, but if an academic institution requires spousal waiver for you to take cash, that has nothing to do with TC. i’ve been with a few financial services companies in my 7 year professional career and TC is like heaven. so they were behind the curve on getting your cash in your hands immediately. that’s been dealt with. if you dont want to put money in a managed account then dont. do your research and find a rep that knows the processes and procedures and stick with that person. and for the annuity complaint..you werent complaining when your money was growing in an annuity. and with people living longer and longer, guaranteed income seems like a pretty good deal to me. but if you dont want it, you dont have to take it. most of you have amassed significant accumulations in your TC traditional account. were you going to take it out all at once? i didnt think so. so 10 years to deplete a guaranteed interest account doesnt seem like a bad deal. my free 3% with no expenses destroyed your account you have with your independent investment adviser this year. since you’re in retirement, in a country with little to no economic growth, doesnt a free 3% sound pretty good year to year? you cant get what you get with TC anywhere else and your lucky to have had your money with this firm.

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avatar Peter-D-G December 11, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Nice post anon. You should have someone rewrite it so it’s readable. “my free 3% with no expenses” huh ?

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avatar Peggy S December 12, 2015 at 11:10 am

Dear anon,
Well first your name “anon” says it all. And I do want to thank you for calling me a “ring leader”.
You go on and on about the “guaranteed annuity”. I have zero problem with it – although there are some people in this site who do not understand the 10-year thing.
So, deary, you now have 7 years in this field. Congratulations. I have spent around 40 years of my life investing in personal and retirement accounts. My current non-TC investment advisor has over 30 years of experience in the field. You think you can compete with her?
Obviously you either didn’t read all my comments or you picked a couple to then declare me the “ring leader”. My concern is getting my $ out of T-C (other than my minuscule amount I have in the “guaranteed annuity”.
Sorry T-C troll, you are barking up the wrong tree. Hope you are happy with your T-C employment.
Hey BTW, how old are you? Another 30 year old……….telling everyone who has been working with systems like T-C for 30+ years, that you know more?

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avatar Unhappy Teacher September 30, 2015 at 12:13 pm

If you are a teacher do NOT select TIAA-CREF for your retirement plan. TIAA has the worst investment choices and products. PLEASE CHOOSE THE TEACHER RETIREMENT PLAN OFFERED BY YOUR STATE. If TIAA has monopolized teacher retirement in your state, you should encourage your teacher union and PTA to lobby against forcing teachers to invest with TIAA-CREF.

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avatar Linda October 12, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Three things turned me off to the company. The TIAA Institute co-wrote and released a paper, with a v-p of the anti-pension Arnold Foundation. TIAA’s work against pensions was not isolated to that one paper. The second thing was the company’s unwillingness to disclose the amount of fee my employer (school) received as a plan administrator for the 403b. The third thing was the report of the Oakland Institute about TIAA investments.

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avatar ethicwatch October 12, 2015 at 7:40 pm

Back in the day the quarterly annuity statement showed payout examples, the statement clearly stated the information was for a 10 year immediate annuity. Lifetime income would calculate income that includes vintage amounts based on the year the monies were contributed, therefore the example is deceptive and as a result many participants do not choose lifetime income for their retirement savings/ or annuitization.

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avatar ChFC November 7, 2015 at 10:08 pm

I am a financial consultant in NC and T-C is trying to take over the entire state county by county. Craven county being the first to witness the demise. They offered them the world to kick out many different providers only to offer their 403b exclusively. They did it and now their county is about to realize how big of a mistake this is. T-c will make it as hard as possible to get your money moved from their control…..This tactic is called conservation and they will use every legal use of it to hold your money as long as possible. Universities all over our state are finding their promises empty and their professors held captive by the company when they leave and wish to better their investments. If you like the runaround approach give their service center a call…..they will happily place you on hold until you hang up from frustration. If you are tired of the frustration you should find a local honest firm, like mine, that will help you get out of the contract that you were swindled into.

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avatar Melissa November 20, 2015 at 5:27 pm

I’m a fairly new member of staff at a university and just set up my relatively small retirement contributions through TIAA-CREF to be automatically withdrawn from my paycheck. It’s a target retirement fund.

I’ll admit to not know as much about retirement funds as everyone else here seems to, but some of the horror stories here have me wondering whether I should continue or cut things off and try to get my money back.

I fully fund my Roth every year and set aside a good amount in savings, but not having an active retirement plan kind of bothers me. I’m honestly not sure how to proceed from here.

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avatar Peggy S January 21, 2016 at 3:07 pm

You can’t get your money back from TIAA-CREF until you leave your employment. Yes, there have been horror stories on here. But in all honesty you should continue with T-C. You can contribute up to around $18,000 tax deferred. As long as you qualify for Roth (via income limitations) yes, do continue with it. But don’t drop T-C. Just realize the comments regarding difficulty with T-C are from people who have left the employment for another job or for retirement. Some of the hurdles/difficulties encountered are not T-C’s problem but are “rules” set by the employer or the plan administrator. The important thing is to know those hurdles are there and whom you need to deal with to fix it. Hopefully for you it will happen many years from now. And who knows, maybe things will be straightened out by then. So for now just focus on building a retirement fund with T-C.

As for the target fund, that is an excellent way for a naive person to start.

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avatar Observer November 24, 2015 at 11:59 am

I have had it with this organization. Back office sloppiness has cost me. In one case, they mishandled a six-figure distribution, sending a check (when I was out of town) instead of processing direct deposit (for which I had sent all necessary materials) — all of this without the courtesy of a call to say they would not do the direct deposit.

Now I am subject to high pressure sales tactics from a WMA, including what I am fairly certain is duplicity in trying to lure me to a consultation.

Fees are much too high. The TIAA 2030 Lifecycle Fund has as its lowest fee .42% (.54% reduced temporarily). Not everyone can get that fee. Vanguard’s similar 2030 fund has annual expenses of .17%.

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avatar Linda December 12, 2015 at 12:29 am

anon typifies the type of company that TIAA-CREF has become. And no, anon, the 3 generations of my family did not choose TIAA-CREF solely based on performance. When we each joined, the company was limited to people working for the public good, medical doctors, professors, researchers, etc. The company’s prior motto, about the public good, was why we invested with this NON-PROFIT. (BTW, TIAA’s performance should be a minimum of 2% higher than the market b/c they don’t have to pay shareholders.) Ask internally, why some colleges no longer offer TIAA-CREF on their campuses and why FINRA fined the company.
I pulled my investment out of TIAA, for three reasons. (1) Their campaign against pensions. Truthout and Francis Denmark, at a pension and investment newsletter site, wrote disparagingly about the company’s involvement. (2) TIAA wouldn’t tell me the amount my plan administrator i.e. employer, charges me for my account. TIAA referred me to the university that told me, it would take a FOIA request before they would release the info., That’s an example of TIAA-CREF’s concern for its investors?
(3) I read the Oakland Institute report, checked info. at the Sunlight Foundation, and read about the company’s voting record for disclosure of political spending. Since then, I see that the inside newsletters show a mutual admiration society with Pete Peterson, who has spent a reported $500,000,000 to take down Social Security. TIAA-CREF is just like all of the other Wall Street firms except it masks it, with a prior reputation for having lofty ideals and mistaken notions about what non-profit means. If the investors knew that the President of the David Koch theater was on the Board, they would begin to ask questions.

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avatar Peggy S December 14, 2015 at 7:46 am

you say “in regards to getting your money – everything can be done online now”. Totally WRONG – you don’t even know what can or cannot be done. I was hoping you were correct so I just checked the T-C site for the forms. This is what I got ” Roll over or transfer to another financial institution – Call 1 888 556-2917″. Yep, still the same old, same old. Make you spend a hour on the phone just to get the forms. I suggest that instead of being the head cheerleader for T-C that you check the accuracy of your beliefs before you go spouting off.

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avatar Vincent Campo December 16, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Dealing with TIAA/Cref has been and continues to be a nightmare. I have tried for over 5 years to get my money transferred into my current retirement system with absolutely no success. I was able to retrieve one check because it was in my states unclaimed funds account. The latest problem involves an online transaction to withdraw the full amount (yes I know about the tax penalties but I don’t have many options besides getting a lawyer) on Dec 15, 2015. I just received an email stating that I cancelled the transaction (which I DID NOT). I have now been on the phone with them over 20 minutes. I am not expecting much help.

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avatar Prof. G. December 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm

My experience with TIAA-CREF (40 years paying in to a 403B, then the past 3 years taking money out) has been entirely satisfactory. I’m not denying or minimizing problems others have described on this website, but my experience has been different. Withdrawals have become easier and faster during the past 3 years, with everything including spousal waiver and plan rep. approval now being processed electronically. This fall my RMD funds were transferred to my bank during the night just two working days after I phoned in the withdrawal request.

I recently annuitized most of my TIAA traditional, which required filling out a long (but not unreasonably long) request form. The process went smoothly. The monthly amounts I’m receiving correspond exactly to the projections made several times during the past year using the retirement planning tools on the website. My calculations show that the amounts are quantitatively valid given my wife’s and my life expectancies.

I agree with Anon’s point that lower liquidity is reasonable in an investment like TIAA traditional that pays a relatively high interest rate (given current conditions) coupled with the guarantee that one’s accumulation can never decrease.

My institution changed its retirement plan several years ago from all-TIAA-CREF to a multi-provider system administered by TIAA-CREF. Some TIAA-CREF options were closed and replaced by T. Rowe Price and other funds. In cases where the old and new funds are directly comparable, I’ve monitored performance of each. Some new funds have slightly outperformed the TIAA-CREF equivalents, while in other cases the TIAA-CREF funds have done slightly better.

I have a WMA whom I haven’t had occasion to work with closely, but in the interactions we’ve had there has been no pressure to do anything with my accumulation other than what I have wanted to do.

I don’t see the broadening of TIAA-CREF’s participant base beyond education/ research as any benefit to me, and I agree with other posts here that their recent political leanings are troubling. But when it comes to stewarship and availability of my retirement investments, I have no complaints about TIAA/CREF.

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avatar Linda January 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Prof. G,
If TIAA-CREF no longer has marketplace ethical constraints, implied in the motto, serving the greater good, shouldn’t its performance (non-profit) equal competitors and then, benefit participants, by an additional amount, equal to what shareholders receive from firms?
Because I was unable to get TIAA-CREF to tell me what fee I paid for plan administration by my employer, I’m curious what rate you paid.
At the risk of sounding critical, what are you doing to thwart Wall Street’s and Silicon Valley’s takeover of U.S. democracy, to fight concentration of wealth, climate change, etc. Your vantage point as beneficiary of a system that provided economic opportunity to you, confers obligations, yes?

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avatar Peggy S January 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Prof G.
Good for you. There is NEVER a problem if you do annuities with T-C because T-C still “holds” your money. The problem is when you no longer want your money in T-C. They do everything to prevent you from taking your money out.

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avatar Ruth Daly January 13, 2016 at 4:13 pm

I have had nothing but problems with TIAA-CREF brokerage. I had had accounts with the other side of TIAA-CREF since 1989 and have always had a really positive experience. But, on the brokerage side of TIAA-CREF I have been given the wrong information every time I ask. And to make things worse, I have paid a substantial amount of money in excess fees and lost revenue due to the mis-information that they have provided. When I call to inquire about this, they just find more reasons to charge me more and more. I can’t wait to get my money out of that account.

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avatar Linda January 14, 2016 at 11:03 am

The finest journalist in America today, Jane Mayer, just published a book detailing the Koch family.
The Overseer Board of TIAA-CREF, includes the President of the David Koch Theater.

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avatar Linda January 27, 2016 at 11:24 am

The…… NON-PROFIT …….TIAA-CREF could work on the side of the working and middle class, who are responsible for U.S. productivity and economic growth, by using their voting rights to force companies to voluntarily disclose the details of their spending on public policy engagement. Non-disclosure is what the industry, that generally supports corporatist political candidates, wants.
Exactly how much do Roger Ferguson, CEO of TIAA-CREF, the Overseer Board, and, TIAA’s much-admired friend, hedge-funder, Pete Peterson value democracy? Or,
do they debase the sacrifices made, over the past 250 years, for the American democracy, with their silence/support for non-disclosure?

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avatar B.mcwright March 8, 2016 at 12:09 pm

When I contacted T-C about my UTPA contribution, the agent gave me a number more than $8000 less than the university had me as vested. I contacted T-C again and explained, the agent said that he would give the problem to his supervisor…a very experienced, capable and high level person. A few days later, this guru told me T-C was right, I was wrong and the university was wrong and I was 8k short. I did not accept this and contacted the UT system in Austin, TX. The lady in charge of the ORP said she would investigate and did. She discovered that I was right and was owed more than 8k than TC had recorded. The error took many phone calls and several weeks to reconcile. T-C was thoroughly and completely useless, uninformed, arrogant and lazy. The so-called expert looked at the computer input…which was a mistake by their own people and did not look at or call UTPA retirement or UT retirement to check the figures. Tiaa-CRAP is the absolute worst to deal with when there is a mistake. Their agents are sloppy, arrogant and treat clients like we are stupid and do not know our own contributions. Of course, they did not apologize or even acknowledge their mistake…when I finally got my money, I took it out of TC and hope to never deal with them again.

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avatar Prof Pumpkin March 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Believe it or not I had trouble getting money IN. That may speak to some kind of general incompetence (?). When my university got a new contract with TIAA/CREF (the same as the multi provider contract a poster describes above), without realizing it, a very small amount of my 403B got transferred to Fidelity. I did not want it there, and wanted it back with T-C 403B earning its steady 3 percent guaranteed a year (I like the 403B because unlike the traditional TIAA, there are no restrictions and i can move it whenever i want). After many phone calls (as it was not possible to do online), twice i got a form thru the mail eventually, and twice i filled it out. second time i even got a bank guarantee signature to be safe- remained unclear if it was needed. After a few weeks, I had a voice mail saying they could not process it and could I please call them. I gave up at that point. the 3 percent on such a small amount – 5,000 – was not worth any more of my time- there was nothing more i could possibly give them to transfer the money back in anyway. (some of the problem could be on Fidelities end too – that is, everyone does there best to keep you from moving your money out. One hold up had been that Fidelity would not show my account number online and I could not get that account number from anyone. its not that it showed i even had an account number – there just wasn’t one…I think TC offered a 3 way phone conversation at one point, but by then i was so fed up. i do have other thngs to do…)

it seems like from reading posts, people who get annuity payouts – small dollar amounts each month- do so smoothly, but those who want to to take big chunks out quickly are met with resistance. disturbing. and probably not unique to T-C but definitely a wake up call for me.

I think i’m a whale also – have to check my latest balance – i did not receive any phone calls, but did have an advisor assigned to my case automatically- nothing i asked for- the name just appeared one day. i usually ignore that, and call the general number. once i somehow got my advisor, and she was pissed that i would call the general number- kept telling me i should call only her. yet gave me no reason i should do that. Fat chance.

i’m in a weird position where I am out on disaiblity- retired from the university, but not seperated from the university. So there’s no way i can get my money transferred at this point. Apparently in 5 years, there will be that seperation. Alot is sitting wasted because i hated their funds. was going to transfer it to their brokerage, but found it so unpleasant, ive just let it sit there. but interesting to read that even when i can by law transfer it, i will run into trouble

Can those who run into trouble have the intended recipient deal with the paperwork? usually people who will get your money are highly motivated (obviously) so can they work on your/our behalf to help get that done?

The reason i found this site was I was thinking of using the bank part, which is open to everyone and not connected really with T-C, for a spare 50K i don’t know where to put. the interest on a money market for that is 0.75 which is better than the current near 0 it earns. interstingly, there have been tons of complaints on the bank part in ability to get ones money out, so the prevailing advice is to get a money market rather than a savings account there, becasue then you can just write yourself a check and have however much you want quickly. I was about to do that- but somehow balked at completing the application and started web searching again to see if its really a good idea- and then this thread popped up. Am surprised to learn getting ones money out here too is hard.

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avatar StatProf April 11, 2016 at 5:09 pm

It took us five months and the intervention of the benefits coordinator to get TIAA CREF to transfer our money WITHIN a company retirement plan to Fidelity and Vanguard. We were given quite the run around, incorrect forms, then they would claim the correct form was not received, then I would call and they would tell me we needed some other form.

We moved out because of the high expense ratios, this used to be the “credit union” of investment companies. No longer.

Our wealth manager tried to tell me that “.42% expense ratio is not that different from .15%”. I did the math, it amounted to over 100,000 over the next 15 years. I showed her the math , either she did not understand or she pretended not to understand.

This makes me sad, we spent decades with them, but no longer.

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avatar Marcella McClure April 19, 2016 at 6:42 pm

I retired two years ago, but started having TIAA/CRAP problems about 12 yrs ago. I was part of the class action lawsuit against them and we won. File complains with anyone you can and start another class action. TIAA/CRAP will try to hold onto your money everyday they can and Universities that do business with them are in cahoots. They get a kick backs from the vendors that they force faculty to invest their retirement savings with. I tried many times to warn the University I retired from and other faculty but they are too lazy to change. But if TIAA/CRAP misplaces 10K of their money, like they did to me, and then rollover twice as much as I had to Vanguard, which was a nightmare to fix tax wise, then and only then will anyone pay attention to the dubious nature of this company.

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avatar Linda April 19, 2016 at 10:27 pm

Last year, EthicsWatch posted, several times, about an investigation, by state attorney generals, into companies like TIAA-CREF. The CBS program, 60 Minutes, explained the wrong doing, in its episode, on Sunday, April 17. TIAA-CREF’s logo appeared among the others, in the video.
TIAA-CREF has the marketplace advantage of no shareholders. It could have remained an honorable company. IMO, the Overseer Board is negligent. TIAA-CREF shouldn’t have consumer account practices, that require negotiations with state lawyers. And, at one time, it didn’t. The failure is the Board of Overseer’s, who selected current management.

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avatar Joel L. Frank April 28, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Respectfully, let’s have a change-of-pace. The state of New Jersey runs its Deferred Compensation Plan via Prudential Retirement. Prudential reps strongly encourage investment in their Goa lMaker Program. I have been told that participants are paying nearly 3 cents on each dollar invested. How can this be verified?

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avatar Robert Reed May 29, 2016 at 11:54 am

Do not transfer your stable assets to TIAA to be “held” by them in managed accounts. Bonds and stocks that you do not plan to sell sit in funds that are charged annual fees even though no one is actively managing them. They may “forget” to tell you that there are no-fee managed accounts available so you have to ask. They DO have a very slick story regarding how they are not-for-profit and they only have your interests at heart.

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avatar Prof. Dan May 30, 2016 at 11:18 pm

My advice, rollover what you can to an advisor outside TIAA and leave them with the TIAA traditional. Take or roll your “allowable” 1/10th annual withdrawl. In 10 years, they’ll be in your rear view mirrow.

I have to wonder if their contractual model will survive the new DOL rules. Locking up a retirees money for 10 years is NOT in the best interest of the client.

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avatar Diane June 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm

I absolutely agree! After the death of my husband, I really need access to these funds but cannot touch them. They tend to brush over this 10 year obligation when advising the participant to place their funds in their traditional account!

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avatar The Wizard June 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Speak fer yerself, sonnyboy.
The modest amount of funds I have in restricted Trad is one of my best safe investments.
The annuity payout rate on old Trad like that is super great…

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avatar Peggy Stewart June 1, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Prof Dan, that is exactly what I am doing. Only a small amount in the traditional/10 year thing so no big deal. I retire in 2 days and have all the T-C forms ready to go. It will be interesting to see if I get my money in a reasonable time or if I like others have to resort to threats of “my attorney will be contacting you.”
IMO, overall, T-C is fantastic while building your nest egg. Reasonable investment choices that are limited by your employer (acting as a fiduciary) not by T-C. However when you retire, T-C is the pits. They do everything to get you into annuities and insurance. T-C is NOT being a fiduciary there. They just want to hold on to your money and earn as much for themselves while giving you a small amount monthly.

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avatar Peggy S June 1, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Also Prof Dan
I recently got a mailing from T-C that explained how WMAs and all the others get paid. They each get a base salary and then collect points toward a bonus. They do not get commission on any individual sale/contract. That was NEVER disclosed to me before (maybe one of their moles figured out who I am and suggested sending this info). Anyway, I don’t care if it is commission on an annuity contract or if it is points towards a bonus. It all adds up to the same thing in my mind. So NO Tiaa-Cref will NOT survive the new DOL regs. in their current form. But you can be sure that T-C has lobbyists working Congress to try to stop the regs.

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avatar Alex C. July 7, 2016 at 11:59 am

My wife has a 401K with TIAA Cref through her work. We’ve been unable to change allocation of contributions and investments. TIAA rep said that one of the enrollment forms is missing. We asked him to mail or e-mail it to us to fill out. He was not helpful at all and said that it’s the job of the HR Department at her work and we should contact them. The HR department, in turn, said that we need to go back to TIAA Cref to fix it. Unprofessional! Very disappointed!

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avatar Peggy July 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Alex, welcome to the good old blame the other person game that T-C is famous for. I had 2 accounts with T-C – one employer contributions and the other was my voluntary contributions. Once I registered online with the T-C site, I could change contribution allocations whenever I wanted. Don’t know if that is available to you or not. But if you haven’t tried it do.
As for the “missing enrollment form” HOG WASH. T-C accepts all the $ coming in, right? So this again is a bunch of BS.

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