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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 Michael January 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm

I just walked my father through this process with TIAA-CREF. He has worked for the University of Maryland system for over 25 years and had all his retirement with TIAA-CREF. While he still believes his retirement dollars are safe he had questions regarding his plan. He is approaching retirement age and couldn’t get any answers from TIAA-CREF regarding his current investments, or how those investments would be allocated when he does retire. He turned to me since I am a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. He was so frustrated with the customer service he wanted to move the money out of the plan into an individual IRA. He was told he could not take he money out of the plan unless he retired or was terminated, but he still received no answers from TIAA-CREF related to how his plan will be allocated when he retires. I went through his documents and discovered that his plan would be distributed over 10 year after he initiates the payments in retirement. He was unaware of this and decided he would attempt to roll the entire plan into an IRA when he does retire. I hope he doesn’t have the same problems other like you have had. If I can be of any help you can reply here and I can attempt to help you as well.

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avatar BH January 27, 2009 at 2:45 pm

If your father has been contributing to T/C for 25 years, I find it unusual that he would have so little understanding of how his retirement program operates. At my institution T/C representatives held almost annual seminars and individual meetings with faculty to explain all the programs. Also, the personnel departments at most universities usually have someone who specializes in T/C matters.

If your father can get onto his computer while on the phone with a T/C rep, they will walk him through their T/C website (www.tiaa-cref.org) where he can get information about his account and get infomation and/or order publications about T/C programs and investments.

If he has a mid 6 figure account with T/C, he can request having a WMA assigned to him, who would have more knowledge about his particular needs, than the average phone rep he might encounter.

There also are some discussion sites where he can ask questions about T/C in particular and other investment and retirement issues.

The first would be the TIAA-CREF Funds forum at the morningstar site where participants discuss T/C issues. (http://socialize.morningstar.com/NewSocialize/forums/100000044/ShowForum.aspx)

Another valuable site would be that of the Bogleheads at http://www.bogleheads.org. Would especially recommend that he look at their listings of investment and retirement publications.

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avatar Still at TIAA :( January 27, 2009 at 11:09 pm

To BH,

Not all institutions are serviced on an yearly basis. Some are lucky to get a rep every few years.

Also, since when did it become the client’s job to have a deep understand of the inner workings of TIAA-CREF?

People that have been employees for 25+ years at TIAA have been given the run around before when it comes to calling the customer service lines.

And, while you may have the assumption that most institutions have someone that specializes in T/C issues, you’d be suprised as to how many have no clue what they are doing when dealing with T/C.

As far as getting a WMA account, it is really worthless and the WMA is mostly calling once a year to try to sell more products. A lot of people on here have even complained about that system of customer service.

Frankly, I’m an employee and I will NEVER invest with T/C because I’ve watched them screw over little old ladies waiting to pay for medication, the children of T/C holders when their parents have passed, and I’ve seen those “concerned” consultants come out of a meeting with someone in tears just to laugh about how ridiculous their whining 1 on 1 client was.

Sadly, I’m not talking about an isolated incident or just one consultant.

This company is really sad, and over the last few weeks I’ve been having to have a real battle with my conscious over if I should stay here with an over inflated salary to keep quite about everything I’ve seen, or if I should just move on to another industry all together where I don’t have to feel like I’m lying ever time I say, “the check is in the mail.”

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avatar BH January 28, 2009 at 2:49 am

Sorry to hear about the unpleasant situation at T/C. Is this prevalent throughout T/C or just in the customer service areas,,,,, and how long has this climate existed?

Prior to the 90s it was not difficult, nor even necessary, for clients to understand the workings of TIAA-CREF. Participants only had to decide how to allocate their contributions between CREF Stock and the Traditional Account, and, since you could not withdraw any funds, to select an annuity pay-out program upon retirement.

I’m interested in how much of the present problems and costs at T/C could be attributed to the introduction of all these new funds, the establishment of a “cash-out” procedure, etc.

Are there any “old timers” (20+ years) left that could describe the costs and negative impacts on T/C and participants, due to these changes. The old system worked quite well. To paraphrase… the enemy of a good program is the search for a perfect program.

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avatar Michael January 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

People do not want more options for them to ask questions. They want solutions. My father wokred with a WMA, and found that service more frustrating than the call center. He felt the service was established soley to push product to higher net worth individuals and not give him answers to his questions. The fact remains TIAA-CREF takes these employees retirement contributions, provides them a few, poor performing investment options and tops that off with poor customer service. That fact is evident by these client and startling employee postings. TIAA-CREF can get away with this becuase the employee’s TIAA-CREF retirement plan is not portable. There is NO incentive for TIAA-CREF to provide even basic customer service since there is no option to roll the money into an IRA unless the employee retires or is terminated. It was clear from my father experience that his only option will be to roll the entire plan out as soon as he retires. An IRA will provide him more investment options and an easier process to have the assets transfer to beneficaries which seems to be a huge issue based on these postings.

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avatar lizzie January 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Michael, be sure to inquire specifically about any money your father may have in the “TIAA Traditional” guaranteed fund. If more than $2000, it’s very unlikely that he will be able to roll that part into an IRA, except in ten annual installments. Beware. Some phone reps behave as if “everyone knows” that TIAA Traditional is an annuity and not accessible as a lump sum, even after retirement. Others will tell you that you can roll it over in a lump sum when that is not the case. I’d have been totally out of TIAA-CREF years ago if it hadn’t been for that fund.

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avatar LHR74 January 29, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I am a former WM Advisor and I can honestly say that the “brilliant” series of restructuring took a page from wall street. Give the do nothing and know-nothing execs all the money, get rid of the intelligent employees that had a decent pay, and replace them with lower paid less knowledgable (due to lack of T-C experience) employees. In the end, the client gets the shaft . The WM Group was established under the false premise of unbiased advice while it is actually biased to ALWAYS recommend consolidating assets with TIAA-CREF regardless of the best interest of the client. How can any advice be unbiased when the WMAs have a large part of their compensation based upon meeting their goal of bringing in new assets? (which goes up each calendar year) I’m sure that little tidbit is left out when working with clients by pushing the B-S line of “I’m not working on commission”. Their customer service stinks because they got rid of 99% of the employees who know the ins and outs of how to get things done FOR the client. Now the client comes second, or maybe third, depending on which department you are working with. DO NOT move any funds in excess of $2,000 into TIAA Traditional within a RA or GRA contract. The funds can only be removed in TEN installments over ten years, no compromise unless you annuitize or receive interest on the remaining balance. BEWARE! That feature is an asset retention tool in itself.

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avatar Former January 30, 2009 at 6:51 am

Just a little hint for those of you trying to contact someone higher up. Every e-mail at T/C is formatted the same way. The first initial plus the last name @ tiaa-cref.org. So for example John Doe would be JDoe@tiaa-cref.org – There is no DOT in the name like many business addresses.

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avatar Jan January 30, 2009 at 10:35 am

LHR74 mentioned “DO NOT move any funds in excess of $2,000 into TIAA Tradtional within a RA or GRA contract. The funds can only be removed int TEN installments over ten years, no compromise unless you annutize or receive interest on the remaining balance.

I am one of those folks who was told only about the ten year payout. Can you give more information about the “or receive interest on the remaining balance.” I was given no information about that when I talked to several “T/C call center reps.”

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avatar Bob January 30, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I think TC is awful but some people seem clueless too. How can you not have heard of about Interest Only or 10 Year payout, Due you read nothing sent to you by TC? Clueless people deserve what they get.

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avatar ster January 30, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I was a representaive there for about a year in 2006-2007. I could not take it any more. Their systems are the problem. Herb Allison really messed things up.

The phone reps are powerless to actually get anything done. They just put in the request. They can’t actually FIX it for you… although they wish they could.

Lots of stories, but I remember a fellow that moved from Germany back to the US several years before. Even though he changed his address many times and requested money be wired to his back for his annual payments, TIAA had sent checks to his old address (which no longer exists) in Germany. It happened for three years after he was in the US. He and the phone reps did everything right. Perfect. And yet the checks still went to Germany every year.

I’ve had people cry on phone, curse at me, everything. I can understand the frustration.

I couldn’t take it anymore and after a year, I walked out and never went back. The morale was horrible.

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avatar ster January 30, 2009 at 12:21 pm

It is sad that people do not know about the 10-year payment. But there is a reason why it’s locked up. It is guaranteed to NEVER LOSE VALUE.

Currently, it is paying 4.5%and had a 5.25% return for 2008. Name anything else in your portfolio that had a 5.25% return for 2008.

They need to be more clear on the lockup, and clients need to actually read what they are getting into. When I worked there, I really wished that TIAA would warn people about it more. Then again, the word “annuity” should be a red flag. This isn’t a mutual fund!

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avatar ster January 30, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I had one lady that when she initially signed up, she requested her $ be split into several funds, but the totals did not add up. When that happens, it defaults to the money market fund.

This lady never read anything TC sent her over 28 years. So, for 28 years all of her retirement savings was going into a money market.

She had $230,000, but would have had over $800,000 if the initial mistake was not made.

This is the problem with TC. Someone should have called her to let her know at the beginning. They didn’t. She’s out several hundred grand. Then again, she never once looked? Ever?

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avatar LHR74 January 30, 2009 at 8:35 pm

To Jan: The TIAA-CREf term is the Interest Only Option.
Instead of receiving the balance via a ten year payout or an irrevocable option such as a lifetime annuity, you should be able to keep the balance in place and receive the interest generated by your balance on a monthly basis. If my memory serves me, the minimum age to initiate the interest is age 55 and you must have terminated from employment. You must receive interest for at least 12 months before you can change to another option such as the ten year payout or an annuity (i.e. anytime from month 13 onward the conversion can be made). Since the interest payments are eligible to be rolled over to an IRA, a minimum of 20% would have to be withheld for federal income taxes. If you want to withhold less than 20% for federal income taxes, you should have the interest payments rolled into an IRA (open one if you do not already have one) an the have the payment immediately taken out of the IRA. That way, you can determine the amount of taxes, if any, you would like to withhold. This can be a great option to generate income for you without locking you into an irrevocable situation, assuming the interest being generated is sufficient. In addition, the balance is preserved and passed on to your beneficiaries in full if you were to die while receiving interest-only payments. Sorry that my response is long-winded but I hope it helps.

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avatar LHR74 February 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

If the SEC was so lax in their oversight of the Wall Street firms and other crooks, I am sceptical about what enforcement actions they will take against the inept TIAA-CREF. On the other hand, persistence does pay off and with the current scrutiny of the SEC they may take greater action against TIAA-CREF than they had in the past. If you are experiencing service issues you should be sure to document as much as possible- especially if accumulation transfers and/or payments were delayed. This way, investment losses and/or delayed payment interest can be calculated for you.

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avatar Snydeman February 7, 2009 at 8:12 am

Okay, I am three years into a TIAA-CREF account at my new school, and this board – as well as a few other sources – have me concerned. I moved from a public school to a private school and switched from Lincoln Financial to TIAA-CREF, mostly because I hated the high fees at Lincoln. I’m still not sure that was the best move, but as an educator with a two year old daughter there are limits to how much research I can do on a subject I’m only modestly capable of understanding.

Can anyone link me to a site where I can find some good, objective comparisons between companies like TIAA-CREF and Lincoln Financial? I’ve been googling and web-searching for an hour and my mind is numb with all the fiscal language. I think I’d have an easier time speaking the tongue of Mordor. =P


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avatar Aine March 11, 2009 at 11:36 am

And the tongue of mordor wouldn’t lie to you as well as the folks at TIAA Cref. Put your money somewhere else–anywhere else! I’ve never in my life been so poorly treated by a company that professes to be looking out for my welfare. I’ve had better customer service at McDonald’s!

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avatar WillowD March 21, 2009 at 9:20 am

I was in the same position, my choices were between tiaa, vanguard, and AIG or all three (can split my contributions). Well, I didn’t choose AIG :-)

When I came across this blog, I was concerned at first about the folks issues with tiaa but since most people have a problem when it comes to taking money and I am more interested in saving money, I am not too concerned, I have too many years to go b/f I can think of retiring. The information provided here made me look more at that traditional account and my employer money goes into what they call a retirement annuity that will restrict the payment options from tradition to ten years, interest only or lifetime income but my contributions can go into a supplemental account that doesn’t restrict the distribution options but I get a lower interest rate.

I eventually found http://www.bogleheads.org, you can ask a lot of questions and get great responses, it is run by people who are big fans of vanguard but they also have great tips on tiaa investment options and other companies. I choose to split my money b/t tiaa and vanguard. I like tiaa’s real estate and social choice and traditional and vanguards indexed funds. I found the people I spoke with at both vanguard and tiaa to be helpful and courteous especially with how crazy the market has been.

Thanks folks for your cautionary tales – I hope your issues get resolved soon. I don’t know how people lived w/o the internet!

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avatar Hugh February 17, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I requested by FAX a one-time withdrawal from my TIAA Traditional account . This was received by TIAA on 3 Feb 2009. On 4 Feb they sent the wire incorrectly and it was returned on 5 Feb.

The wire was to be sent to Merrill Lynch and forwarded to my account at a Merrill Lynch branch. I have used this route for five years to wire funds. The problem seemed to be that TIAA has never done a two step transfer, so they put all the numbers together in one number, which was rejected by the Merrill Lynch computer.

On 11 February an employee of my bank phoned the supervisor in charge of my transfer and explained to him how to do it properly. As of today, 17 Feb. no wire has been sent. They are still processing the wire transfer. The 32K dollars were taken from my account on 4 Feb and has been “processed” since then.

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avatar Barton McCollough February 20, 2009 at 3:23 pm

When I was let go by my employer under very shady circumstances I tried to withdraw my investments from TIAA CREFF. I found I had to jump through so many hurdles including having to communicate with my employer over issues like the date I was fired etc. Finally after several months of contact (5 months) I finally was able to collect my investment except for the TIAA Traditional. I tried to collect that one too, but after they sent me seven pages of forms that needed to be filled out that also required to deal with my former employer who dragged their feet almost as bad as CREFF I gave up and figured I’d never see that money again. I admit I should have complained to some government agency but that’s too much fun for me, now after four years of calling I’m trying again. I’ll let you know how this goes. Be aware that if you need your money out of them be ready to jump through hoops of fire…..Oh by the way you cannot speak to the actual person that handles your account you must speak to an advisor that each time has to be brought up to speed……ridiculous.

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avatar LHR74 March 11, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Barton- once you have received the paperwork for withdrawal/rollover, complete all of the personal and withdrawal info. You can send it back without employer verification of termination date because the processing area normally will handle that once they get your forms and that section is left blank. While you were probably not told that by a rep at TIAA-CREF, that is what happens behind the scene in the processing areas. Good luck.

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee February 20, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I’m not a big fan of the current management at TIAA-CREF but it is important to state that they have done pretty well on the investment side, particularly with regard to the TIAA investments. One reason is that much of the money invested by the institutions and customers is “locked up” for a minimum of 10 years. Over the years, this has provided a significant advantage, providing better returns from more stable investments. The institutions know this. The fact that the money can’t be withdrawn in a lump sum is on the applications signed by the customers and is spelled out clearly in enrollment material. Many employers offer alternative investments…like CREF…that can be cashed out. This has always been controversial as the funds contributed by employers are meant to provide retirement income.
That said, there is no excuse for the poor service that many people seem to be receiving. Unfortunately, I am one of them. Even former employees are not immune. It is very disheartening. Let’s hope that the new CEO who replaced Allison will foster change.

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avatar Bob March 13, 2009 at 4:40 pm

When I check out annuities at various web sites, the payouts are higher than TIAA. If I take a 20 year gaurantee the payout is 6.99% vs only 6.29 per TIAA. Am I missing something? The
” commercial” offerings are better than TIAA. I hope I am missing something. Is there an TIAA enployee or exemployee who can explain this?

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avatar Aine March 11, 2009 at 11:33 am

It has taken me more than THREE YEARS to dissolve my retirement at TIAA Cref. Over that span of time they have made a bundle of money from my account and I have now lost a bundle. As of today I have submitted the same forms to the same people six times since January 2009, have been told different information–seriously different information–by every single person at TIAA Cref every time I have called them, and finally have had to threaten them with a lawsuit and an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education to get some resolution. These people are shameless, they are liars, and they are stealing our money. I still don’t have my funds but I’ve given them 48 hours and then I turn a large contingent of Irish solicitors lose on them and I start writing editorials.

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avatar LHR74 March 25, 2009 at 9:24 am

For those of you still entertaining the so-called unbiased advice from the TIAA-CREF Wealth Management Group, keep in mind that the INDIVIDUAL asset growth goals for each wealth management advisor in 2009 is $50 million of new assets. Beware of the advice being presented by the TIAA-CREF software and keep in mind that the goal is lingering over each WMAs head. The overall compensation of a WMA is tied significantly to meeting and/or exceeding that goal so the line about being non-commissioned is true but doesn’t give the whole picture.

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avatar BH March 25, 2009 at 6:08 pm

You say that “the INDIVIDUAL asset growth goals for each wealth management advisor in 2009 is $50 million of new assets”.

It is confusing to me just how a WMA can go about obtaining this goal. Could you give some examples?

My impression is that a WMA only comes into contact with a participant who already has a substantial investment in TIAA, and that although the WMA might be able to talk a participant out of transferring funds out of TIAA, how often would there be an opportunity to get someone to add additional funds to TIAA?

Would you also expand a little on how the “overall compensation of a WMA is tied significantly to meeting and/or exceeding that goal”. Is it a large percentage of the WMA’s salary, and are there any penalties associated with not meeting these goals?

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avatar LHR74 March 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Each WMA is responsible for bringing in new assets to TIAA-CREf in the amount of $50 million. Clients who work with WMAs do indeed have substantial assets at TIAA-CREF but part of the portfolio review process provided by TIAA-CREF is to uncover assets outside of TIAA-CREF that can be brought in from other investment companies. When a client goes forward with a the portfolio review he/she provides information such as account statements regarding outside assets. Once the portfolio review is prepared by TIAA-CREF, over 95% of the time the recommendation is to consolidate outside assets with TIAA-CREF. These assets are not restricted to retirement funds but include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, after-tax annuities, and other financial products.

As far as compensation goes, each WMA does receive a salary and is not paid a commission. If the WMA meets or exceeds the asset growth goal, then the bonus would be anywhere from 25%-50% of their base salary (on average). The environment created by management is that jobs are held over your head. There is an atmosphere of “what have you done for me lately” between the management and the WMAs. Not meeting goals in two consecutive years results in termination of employment, regardless of how pleased the clients are with working with that particular WMA. Unlike TIAA-CREF 10 years ago, it is all about the bottom line and less about outstanding service and looking out for the client.

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avatar frank March 26, 2009 at 9:47 am

Thanks, LHR74, for the invaluable info you’ve been providing. I’m considering moving money out of my SRA into an after-tax account (probably with Vanguard). How would this affect my WMA? Is he penalized by having the withdrawal netted against the “new money” he’s bringing in?

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avatar LHR74 March 26, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Each WMA has to account for assets brought in and assets rolled elsewhere. There is only so much he/she can do to convince a client to keep the funds with TIAA-CREF. Vanguard is great but aren’t your SRA funds are pre-tax in nature? As a result, wouldn’t you roll those funds into another pre-tax account otherwise pay income taxes on the funds?

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avatar frank March 26, 2009 at 9:20 pm

LHR74: Thanks again. Your point about taxes is a good one, but in my own case, since I’m retired and since I strongly suspect that tax rate increases and/or means- testing of Social Security and Medicare are looming on the horizon, I figure it might be better to take the tax hit now and have less reportable income in the future.

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avatar BH March 27, 2009 at 3:23 am

Just in case you are not aware, by paying the tax, believe you should be able to convert your SRA to IRA and then a Roth. Check out the site http://www.fairmark .com for Roth info.

avatar BH March 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

As you say TIAAA-CREF is unlike that of 10 years ago, and is even more unlike that of 20 or 30 years ago. Then we only had to decide how to allocate between Traditional and CREF Stock (a much easier and more productive situation in my view).

WMAs and all the other expensive programs that have been created were not necessary. The primary interaction needed with TIAA-CREF was how to best annuitize your (large) account.

Do appreciate your comments, and have another question.
My understanding is that a portfolio review prepared by TIAA-CREF is first sent out to an “independent” agency for analysis and recommendations. Are these recommendations then sent directly to the client, or Is there any group of “portfolio advisors”, other than the WMAs, who can challenge the views of this outside agent?

Or does TIAA-CREF simply show how particular investment instruments of TIAA-CREF can best satisfy the “independent” outside recommendations?

As you may have surmised by the quotes, I am concerned about how independent the advisor is, and of course how competent they are.

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avatar LHR74 March 26, 2009 at 7:23 pm

There is no ouside third party that reviews these plans. The technology used to provide the portfolio summary and any recommmendation is supposed to be unbiased. The asset allocation recommendations normally were unbiased regarding the location of the assets and concentrated on asset class (i.e. stocks, bonds, cash, real estate etc). This financial picture is accurate and useful for the client. The plans are produced in-house using non-proprietary software purchased by TIAA-CREF. While the asset allocation recommendation is indeed helpful to the clients, it is my first hand opinion that the plans are provided to the client so the WMAs can uncover outside assets that can be consolidated with TIAA-CREF. Make no mistake, the advisor is not a broker with many financial affiliations but rather a salaried employee of TIAA-CREF. There are few competent WMAs remaining but none are independent nor can they be if they receive all of their salary and additional compensation (bonus) from TIAA-CREF based upon the amount of assets brought to TIAA-CREF from outside sources.

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avatar Still with TIAA March 27, 2009 at 5:29 pm


You are mistaken, the plans are not produced in-house. It’s MY job to send out the client information to a 3rd party vendor. This is why WMAs will not make an appointment one week after the first appointment where they gather the financial information of the client. If they ask for a “rush” on the plan, they are dinged down on points because the 3rd party vendor needs time to put it together.

The plans get put together, printed and mailed back to the office where the WMA looks over the plan for about 15 min.

The WMAs are OVERLOADED with work. I work with WMAs in 8 different states. They rarely get the time to even look over the information in the plan, so you can just forget about them challenging any recomendations.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but to say they are produced in-house is the biggest lie ever.

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avatar LHR74 March 27, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Still with TIAA: I stand corrected regarding the current processing of the plans but I know first hand that they were previously prepared in-house whether you want to believe it or not because I was at TIAA-CREF for over 10 years and I was a WMA. Of course the current WMAs are overloaded with work, they have to bring in $50 million or they’ll get the boot!
By the way, you conveniently left out any mention of the so-called unbiased nature of the plan or the real reason for providing such a plan to the clients. As I previously mentioned, the asset allocation advice is helpful but the real goal is to have client consolidate his/her assets with TIAA-CREF and you know it.

avatar frank March 27, 2009 at 11:58 am

To: BH, Thanks for the tip.

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avatar Bob March 27, 2009 at 10:10 pm

I’m still trying to understand why TIAA annuities pay out so much less than others I find online including NYLife and many others through Fidelity. Anyone have an idea about that. Are their expenses or losses so bad that they are reducing the basic annuty?

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avatar BH March 27, 2009 at 11:29 pm

It is a little difficult to make comparisons, as there are different annuity programs. For example, there is a graded method where payments start low but increase over time to try to offset inflation issues. Even the payments in the standard method vary based upon the returns of the funds that you annuitize.

Suggest you give them a call to get some of the publications that describe these various options.

Don’t believe online calculations can tell the whole story.

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avatar LHR74 March 30, 2009 at 8:27 pm

There could be many different reasons none of which I believe are bad. In general, check the mortality tables used by each company. As of recent, TIAA-CREF did use a 2 year set back from the standard mortality tables because historically, clients with TIAA-CREF have a greater life span. This would create a lower payment than another company not using a set back. As mentioned by others, the TIAA Traditional can be paid from the standard or graded methods and that too will make a big difference in the payment. Standard pays the full amount right away while the graded method holds some back for reinvestment creating an increasing payment over time but the graded starts out lower. I frequently discussed these methods with clients and the rule of thumb was that it will take 9 years for the graded payment amount to reach the payment level of the standard and an additional 9 years for the total payout of the graded to exceed the standard payout total. Lastly, annuity payments from the variable accounts assume a return of 4% in the first year to be conservative. If the account performs higher than that, the payment will go up reflecting the difference between the actual payment and the 4% payout. Subsequent payment reflect the full actual performance of the respective variable account. I hope this helps somewhat.

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avatar PCH April 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

As an added note, you may recall that the setback for CREF is different than for TIAA. I was among those laid off in Aug, 2008 and cannot recall the exact difference but it is different. Details were in the training manuals (if they’re still around)…or possibly in the Knowledge Base info if that’s been accurately documented.

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avatar Robert May 1, 2009 at 2:43 pm

My understanding is that mortality statistics for professors versus the general population indicate appreciably longer lifespans for faculty, hence lower annuity payments.

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avatar KJ April 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Can someone explain why TIAA Traditional Interest Only Payments interest rates on funds applied prior to 1994 were dropped from 5.5% to 3.75%, while funds applied this January remained at 4.5%? I have been contributing to TIAA since 1970 with higher rates being applied during the 1970′s, 1980′s and 1990′s while finds applied recently in a low interest environment are getting higher rates.

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avatar formerTIAAclient April 15, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Many thanks to LHR74 for your unique insights.
Our University dropped TIAA/CREF as an investment option today which is why I sought out this site. I am sure this site will eventually learn the name of our institution, but I’d rather not do it just yet. We are waiting for a clear explanation from our pension committee as to the reason. They mentioned only vague concerns.
I stopped investing in TIAA/CREF many years ago when their investment stategies seemed a little too foggy compared to Vanguard. And I am not a fan of annuities. Not a mortal sin, but I prefer seeing exactly what’s going on. Still, I have noticed over the years that TIAA/CREF has been a strong advocate for shareholders rights and sound corporate governance. I don’t think they are the “bad” guys. So I wish them well, but I’ll invest with V.

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee April 18, 2009 at 7:46 am

The former TIAA-CREF CEO who is largely responsible for the decline in service and loss of quality staff is now in charge of the TARP program. How depressing!

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avatar ACS Employee April 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm

I just found this site in despair after been given the run around by Tiaa Cref trying to rollover my 403b. Each month its a different document they need, even to the extent of now having someone from the non profit I worked at 24 years ago sign that I no longer work there. It looks like at this stage I will need to get a lawyer involved to get my own money out. Does anyone know an independent body I can turn to for help?

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avatar TIAA-CREF Problem Solver May 14, 2009 at 10:32 am

Hi all, sorry I’m late to the TIAA-CREF problems party. The reason for my apologie is because I would have loved to help many of you here looking for hands-on guidance for fixing these typical T-C problems.

FWIW, since 2001 I have been making a living off of T-C’s shortcomings. Essentially this is what I do every day, and truth be told, its rather easy (once you completely understand the inner workings of the T-C monster).

I classify T-C participants/account holders into two distinctive groups:

Type A: The blind-eyed everything-will-be-ok-with-my-money TIAA-CREF lovers, therefore I’m committed to them for life.

Type B: It’s obvious that TIAA-CREF can care less about me and my financial future because if they did they would have contacted me at least once in the last [fill in the blank] number of years (from 1 year to 40+ years with no guided intervention… I’ve seen it all).

Finding type B’s that need and want help is how I make a living. Unfortunately I come across type A’s that have spent a lifetime with T-C that suddenly have an epiphany that, in fact, everything isn’t “ok” and now they need help badly because they want to retire but what they really need to retire comfortably just isn’t there. Sadly enough in those cases all that I can do for them is apply a tourniquet and figure out what they need to do to be able to retire as soon as possible without running the risk of outliving their money, and doing so without annuitizing the vast majority of their retirement account. Many of you may know this, but on a side note, annuitization guarantees income for a set amount of time or a lifetime, however it ALSO guarantees loss of control of one’s money. Oh, and it’s irrevocable.

If anyone’s wondering, I represent a very large company who is approved as an “alternate carrier” in many of our country’s higher-ed, defined contribution and supplemental 403(b) retirement plans. Basically, back in the mid 80′s there was a movement by some of the more powerful teachers unions in the country who wanted to break up the monopolization that T-C had in higher-ed. Long story short, after years of legal battling these unions won and the pensions were opened up to approved alternate funding vehicles which allowed T-C participants to move their retirement assets to an approved company of their choice.

Since then, T-C has been bleeding assets every year as more and more institution either fire T-C outright or ad other companies to the game. It’s quite interesting if you ever look at the inception date of the core retirement investment options at T-C you will see that T-C began adding new variable investment options to the RA and SRA portfolio ONLY AFTER THEY started to see their assets move away from them in the late 80′s and early 90′s! Guilty as charged! Before the unions took legal action against T-C, all that T-C offered was TIAA Traditional and CREF Stock. Then all of a sudden there was CREF Money Market, then CREF Bond, then CREF Social Choice, and on and on. Unfair to those who started with T-C in the 60′s, 70′s, & 80′s IMO and many others.

I can go on for hours but I need to get back to my work. If anyone currently needs help with T-C, by all means, post it up and I’ll drop back in later to see what I can do. Remember, you don’t always have to take legal action to get what you need done when it comes to T-C and their inherent problems, it just takes the right financial advisor who knows T-C inside and out to represent you. Many people know they’re a joke of a company, just don’t let them win.


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avatar Wondering May 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

This comment is too funny – an attempt to sell something!

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avatar Ernest Davis April 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm

TIAA-CREFproblem solver,

I would very much appreciate any advise as to how to withdraw my funds from TIAA-CREF. How can I contact you to discuss the particulars of my situation?

Ernest Davis

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avatar Question Mark May 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

“TIAA-CREF” Problem Solver I am sure you just want to help and I am sure you are going to offer that help for free. Am I right? No managed accounts to annuitize your book, no 12B-1 fees to pay your office expenses. Tell us more about your contact information so you can save us.

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avatar WhatSheSaid June 11, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Former TIAA-CREF Employee:

As a former employee, you SHOULD know that a client’s money is NOT “tied up”for at least 10 years.” The information you incorrectly disseminated pertains to TIAA Traditional monies invested in two specific contracts usually utilized for investing employer dollars. One contract requires that a client who does not desire to take a settlement option to take their money out in the form of 10 payments over 9 years. The other contract has the same provision while the client is still employed, but allows for a 5 year pay out post-termination. This second contract does allow for a lump sum within 120 days of separation of service with a 2.5% surrender charge. There is NO reqirement for any money to be held for at least 10 years in any of these contracts. A “former employee SHOULD know that.

With regards to interest credits on interest only payouts, think of it this way. That account has a significant portion of it’s underlying holdings in LTB. When those bonds were purchased many years ago, they were paying higher rates that new issues. When those bonds mature and that money needs to be reinvested, it gets reinvested in bonds paying less interest. When your bond holding experience that kind of turnover, you can’t possibly continue to pay higher rates on old vintages when the money you’re making off of your investments can’t support those credits.

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avatar Ray Sporleder April 18, 2010 at 6:54 am

I retired from IU 1 Jun 2007 after 37 years in TC. Being conservative, I had about 1/3 in CREF, 2/3′s in TIAA. Regretablly, when I wanted to transfer all the T/C money to Fidelity, I was told the TIAA money was only available by the TPA. I was told I would receive 10 essentially equal payouts , the first transfer to my new Fidelity IRA in Nov/Dec time frame of 2007. True to word, the 1st two TPAs were the same amount. However, the Nov. 2009 TPA was 14% less even though bonds were the place to be last year. I am getting higher interest on my bank CDs than what is stated on this quarters TIAA payout. I called TIAA and requested expected future TPA amounts, what happened to equal amounts? The flyer sent did not give any hints. Simple math on their present returns looks intolerable. Please suggest any recourse I may follow. By the way, the 1/3 amount I rolled plus 3 TPAs to Fidelity is approaching what remains at TIAA.


Ray e-mail: sporleder@netzero.net

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee June 12, 2009 at 8:02 am

Read my comment more carefully. Note that I did not say that all money invested in TIAA is locked up. As a current employee, you should know that SOME is. I was responding to earlier comments from customers who were upset that they could not withdraw all of their TIAA funds resulting from employer contributions in a lump sum. Also note that I was pointing out the historical investment advantage of that being the case.

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avatar WhatSheSaid June 12, 2009 at 9:09 am

There is NO provision on ANY contract that holds money for AT LEAST 10 years. None. Zero. Zip. Nada.

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avatar LHR74 June 12, 2009 at 10:11 am

Really? Perhaps you’d like to enlighten the readers here about how long it takes to remove (transfer or cash-out) the TIAA Traditional accumulations of a Retirement Annuity (RA) contract that has a balance in excess of $2,000. If you’d like to enlighten yourself see this information copied from the TIAA-CREF website……nice try at disinformation:
*If you have a Retirement Annuity (RA) contract, the TIAA annuity contract does not allow lump-sum cash withdrawals from the TIAA Traditional Annuity and transfers must be spread over a ten-year period. “

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee June 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm

You are an employee. If you have elected to have your employer’s (TIAA-CREF) contributions go to a TIAA contract, can you remove the accumulated value in one lump sum?

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avatar WhatSheSaid June 12, 2009 at 11:44 pm

Balances in excess of $2,000 in the TIAA Traditional account in an RA contract will be paid out via the Transfer Payout Annuity (TPA) OVER 10 years. That’s not the same as having your money “locked up for at least 10 years,” is it? When someone tells me my money “is locked up for at least 10 years” I have visions of not being able to touch a dime of it for at least 10 years. Once again, that’s not the same, is it?

From TAA-CREF’s website:

“*If you have a Retirement Annuity (RA) contract, the TIAA annuity contract does not allow lump-sum cash withdrawals from the TIAA Traditional Annuity and transfers must be spread over a ten-year period. If you have a Group Retirement Annuity (GRA) contract, lump-sum withdrawals are available from the TIAA Traditional Annuity only within 120 days after termination of employment and are subject to a surrender charge. All other withdrawals and transfers to the Real Estate Account or to CREF must be spread over a ten-year period (five years for withdrawals after termination of employment).”

Notice how the quote refers to money being spread out OVER 10 years? Locking up someone’s money is just that, locking it up. Meaning you can’t get to it. ANY of it. Please consult a Webster’s dictionary.

Furthermore, I tend to be one who believes that it’s each investor’s responsibility to know what they’re getting themselves into before they do it. Advisors at TIAA-CREF have ZERO incentive to suggest TIAA Traditional as an investment alternative. It’s not as if there is some conspiracy to hide the liquidity restriction becaue their advisors get some fat commission when clients put money in there. TIAA-CREF advisors discuss this restriction when talking to clients about the account. Additionally, TAA-CREF takes painful steps to ensure that clients are aware that there is a restriction on TIAA Traditional in RA and GRA contracts when someone calls into their phone centers and requestes money to be transfered into that acccount. I have witnessed this first hand.

I don’t think you are intentionally trying to mislead people (at least I hope not), but understand that when you use words/terms like “locked up” and “at least 10 years” you may be conveying a message you don’t intend.

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avatar Luke Landes June 12, 2009 at 11:58 pm

It’s legitimate to say that if you cannot withdraw your *full* investment at any time for almost any reason, your money certainly is “locked.” In this case, it’s just the nature of the product. Now, a customer should know the terms of the agreement before entering within, but this aspect of the contract is often intentionally buried and not advertised. Annuity products are often marketed like mutual funds without much consideration for the differences.

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avatar Ray Sporleder April 18, 2010 at 7:08 am

In Jun 2007, after 37 years in T/C, I was informed of the 10 year TPA and was told to expect 10 essentially equal payments. The first two were the same amount, Nov/2009 was bout 14% less. This quarters interest stated is below what I am getting at my local banks CDs. My ATT, Lilly, etc. stock dividends are about 2.5% more than TIAA’s latest earnings promised. I called TIAA and asked for what I could expect on the remaining TPA’s. The brochure sent does not give any hint.

What’s up?

Sporleder@netzero.net Phone: 812-334-0991

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee June 12, 2009 at 11:52 pm

I think that you are playing with words. Most customers would agree that not being able to take the money in a lump sum is tantamount to it being “locked up”. Try to think like a customer. You will be better serving them and your employer.

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee June 13, 2009 at 7:49 am

I want to clarify that my post #258 was in response to #256 by WhatSheSaid, not the recent post by Flexo. Flexo, you are not the one playing with words here.
Note also that WhatSheSiad’s comments were in response to my post #224 where I used the term “locked up”. In that post, I also pointed out that the TIAA investment returns have generally been quite good, perhaps owing to the fact that they can realize higher rates of return due to the stability of the assets. The fact that money invested in some of the employer sponsored traditional plans may be restricted is pointed out on applications as well as in other enrollment material. Moreover, the institutions themselves should ensure that their employees understand the provisions of the plans including and employer restrictions. Do all customers read the material? No, but they should as with any product.
To WhatSheSaid: You owe it to yourself, TIAA-CREF and TIAA-CREF’s customers to understand that the customers are not as fully versed in the contractual and institutional policies as you are. Help them in words that they understand and recognize that you have an obligation to do so. That can be very gratifying.

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avatar Interested Bystander June 16, 2009 at 11:22 pm

According to TIAA-CREF’s own literature (the Winter 2009 TIAA Traditional Annuity white paper, which can be found on T/C’s site), TIAA Traditional Annuity held total assets of $176 billion as of 12/31/08 across all retirement plans and accounts. $176 BILLION. It’s the largest fixed annuity in the country. No incentive to put customers there—then offer a non-proprietary option to your customers in this asset class that is liquid. This is a spread product–there is no disclosed expense ratio. None of that money can be moved to a new provider at the plan sponsor’s discretion–it all has to be moved participant by participant. There may not be incentive for the T/C reps, but there is definitely incentive. The majority of it would take 9 years and 1 day to move. Virtually every other leading provider in the field offers stable value products (which this is) that are tremendously more liquid with better rates, some which can be liquidated in 1 day at the participant level and moved to another provider or another investment product. In some cases, a surrender fee may apply, but in many cases, where there are no competing options, there is no charge to the participant. Furthermore, there are also stable value products that offer a plan sponsor a 12 month put or a market value adjustment in the event they want to exercise their fiduciary duty and make a vendor change–which many are.

For the greater good…..really, who’s? It’s ridiculous that it takes that long for a participant to liquidate their position. All the positioning about dis-intermediation and affecting the remaining shareholders is garbage. That’s what equity washes are for. TIAA-CREF’s financial solvency is tied to the 10 year out, and now they are crediting interest rates at historical lows, very close to the minimum rate. There are better products & better providers, and TIAA-CREF’s clients need to wake up and find them. If TIAA-CREF is so concerned about their participants, then disclose the spread on the product so participants can make informed choices.

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avatar Tim August 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

It’s important to remember that there are two classes of TIAA Traditional: RA’s and all the rest, such as GSRAs. The RA’s have the highest interest rates, and (currently, the ratio is not fixed…) the others have a rate that’s 0.75% to 1.25% less. Strangely enough (irony), the higher interest rate accounts have the 9-years and a day withdrawal rule. GSRAs and IRAs have NO trading prohibitions at all on their TIAA Traditional. Obviously, in the majority of interest rate situations, longer term instruments pay more. So if you want the higher rate, you have to accept the restriction on what are, after all, your long-term retirement savings.

Younger participants may not know that before 1989, there was no way to get one dollar out of a TIAA Traditional account except as an annuity. So to me (started my retirement savings in 1975), the current withdrawal rules are very lax! You also must be careful not to mush together TIAA-CREF’s rules with the rules selected by paternalistic schools and universities that chose harsher withdrawal and transfer rules when they signed up to offer TIAA-CREF. The “10-Year” rule is TIAA-CREF’s. Some other rules alluded to in this discussion come from the schools’ choices.

I don’t agree with the statement about higher Stable-Value fund rates at competitors. I used to have a union annuity at Mass Mutual, where the stable value fund always paid less than TIAA Traditional. And if you keep up with the news, there were considerable worries about Stable-Value funds in general (I don’t mean Mass Mutual specifically ….) in the current Great Recession. But TIAA’s highest-possible A.M. Best rating has never varied.

TIAA-CREF has lots of problems, but you don’t get something for nothing in the financial markets.

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avatar Donald Myers July 6, 2009 at 12:04 am

Over the past three-four years I have experienced a a lot of problems with TIAA-CREF, some of which are still not resolved. They continue to make mistakes on Quarterly Reviews and have to be be pressed hard and continually to get them to even consider examining the problem. The “consultants” at the 800 number can handle very routine items but they can not handle serious errors and it is very difficult to reach someone who can, even then they will deny the obvious or procastinate.

If you have the option to move to another provider it is probably a good choice, CREF’s investment record is not good even compared to the market in general.

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avatar Luke Landes July 9, 2009 at 6:51 pm

If you are still having problems with TIAA-Cref, read this. An author who has been following TIAA-Cref’s activities as a socially responsible company over the past twenty-five years, is looking to speak up for consumers at the company’s annual meeting later this month. Please leave comments here with the latest updates about your customer service issues.

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avatar elp July 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm

For three years now, I have asked TIAA-CREF to provide me of an accounting of how they have arrived at the amount I was to be paid from my Ten Year Payout. I have not received anything that explains how they have arrived at the monthly payout. As recently as June 1, 1009, I request, yet again the same information and have received nothing. Since repeated attempts have failed, can someone please provide me with the name of a lawyer who handles matters with TIAA-CREF.

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avatar Ex-T/C August 12, 2009 at 5:27 pm


The Transfer Payout Annuity (TPA) is essentially a nine year fixed period annuity. The payments are determined the same way as a mortgage payment or car loan payment. Each year you get a combination of principal and interest. The payment could change slightly year over year if interest rates change, but they should be fairly consistent. Your case is probably sitting on someone’s desk who doesn’t understand the product!

Your best bet for action is to write a letter of complaint. Over the last six+ years, TC’s focus has transitioned from providing excellent service to proving quick responses to the tsunami of complaints they receive. I worked there for almost 14 years and still can’t believe the awful transformation I witnessed the company go through. By filing a complaint (use the word “complaint” in the letter), it will be handled differently and you should get a written response from a more experienced consultant.

Hope that helps.

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avatar Ray Sporleder April 18, 2010 at 7:42 am

If you were recommened a lawyer or other recourse, please let me know. My first two TPAs were the same amount, the latest 14% less. I get a higher interest rate on my local banks CDs I bought last winter that the rate TIAA declares on this latest quarter, Jan-March 2010. UGH!

sporleder@netzero.net 812-334-0991

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avatar Neil Wollman July 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm

If any CREF participants makling complaints here would like to share your (horror) storiy at the CREF annual meeting, next week, great. Other folks there will be speaking on various issues of social and corporate responsibility. Though you can certainly just show up with your photo ID (and maybe need to have your CREF contract number), they hope you can call in ahead of time to reserve a spot. Here is what they say, with the meeting at 3 PM, Monday July 20, at their HQ at 730 Third Ave. in Manhattan (i believe between 45th and 46th streets, but check):

“If you plan to attend, please call 1 877 535-3910, ext. 222440 to obtain an admission pass. Government-issued picture identification is required to enter the CREF annual meeting. Please note that no laptop computers, recording equipment or cameras will be permitted in the meeting hall. . There will be no provisions for checking bags and packages; therefore, please refrain from carrying oversized items as they will not be permitted into the meeting space.”


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avatar Bait and Switch August 24, 2009 at 4:42 am

I planned to retire within the year, so a few months ago I wrote and asked for a retirement illustration on a single life annuity conversion. Luckily ( I thought) I had moved all my assets to Guaranteed TIAA funds from CREF right before the stock market collapsed.
Last week I asked for a final estimate on my planned annuity and the estimate is now over a $1000 less than the illustration from a few months ago. I talked to several “advisors” who seem to agree that that much of a change didn’t seem right- especially when they compared the payout with other Triple A rated companies like Fidelity- and thought the illustration had not taken into account the various “vintages” of my accumulations .
Finally, the last advisor said the in January 2009 the Board of Directors reduced the payout interest rate drastically. While I understand interest rates fluctuate – but where is the Guaranteed in “Guaranteed- TIAA” except that TC now has a guaranteed to hold onto my assets for up to ten years Transfer annuity Payout –so I can’t even get the readily available higher payout from other carriers.
And at the new TIAA payout rate I will have to delay my retirement – but the accumulation rate is so low that it will take years to get back where I was. It’s a bait and switch con.
I was told that my complaint is being sent to a Resolution Specialist.
Can anyone tell me what recourse I have. What can I expect from the Resolution Specialist or should I just go to SEC – and or get a lawyer

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avatar Tim August 24, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Look, I don’t work for TIAA-CREF, but your – understandable – complaints are not on as firm a foundation as your degree of anger suggests. I do agree that TIAA-CREF has never made it clear enough that the annuitization payout rate varies. Despite all of their literature and the plain-English contract you have in a drawer somewhere, it was news to me. I only found out because they suddenly started providing the payout rate when you looked at the interest rates for TIAA Traditional on their web site.

But suppose that you went into a bank and asked for a quote on a home equity loan. Then you came back in nine months and tried to take out the loan. Whoa, they say, interest rates have changed, and you can’t have the old rate anymore. Or to put it the other way around, suppose you agreed to lend your brother-in-law $5,000, and then you lost your job and had to take a lower-paying job. You probably couldn’t keep your promise. That corresponds to the decrease in earnings of the General Account of TIAA, where the money for your annuity comes from.

Nobody at TIAA-CREF ever told you that you were “guaranteed” to get the estimated payout. I’ll bet there was even a disclaimer below your quote. What they guaranteed (subject to the claims-paying ability of TIAA …) was that your principal would not go down, and you would never earn less than 3% during the accumulation phase and 2 1/2% during the payout phase. There is no case I know of where that guarantee has not been honored.

(I’m sure you’re not interested in 90 years ago, but they originally promised more than they could earn, because it was such a new idea in 1918. They had to borrow money to make good on those promises, but they did. And they eventually lowered the “guarantee” to 3% for new accounts. But they kept their promises to existing accounts.)

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avatar Bait and Switch August 25, 2009 at 10:16 am


I understand that TC cannot guaranteed at the exact estimated payment amount. However, I requested my estimate within a year of retirement as they suggest, and the year to year variations have been relativley stable. I think most people would have reasonably relied that the estimate would be close to the final payout amount.

A few month later when I checked the estimate on the TC website and was shocked at the drop. I contacted TC, I was told by the advisor that it must be a mistake. Two month later after I submitted my retirement request I was informed that it was not a mistake, but that my entire TIAA account collapsed based on a Board of Directors decison to drastically reduce the rate. So I expereinced a 15 – 25% drop in my monthly payout estimate , without any notice or warning from TC about an unprecedented event.

A reduction that TC did not publicize and thier “advisors” were not aware of. Many of my colleagues are equally affected and angry. We will be filing a SEC complaint. Meanwhile, we are reaching out to other colleague and looking for an attorney to take on a class action lawsuit. Contact me if you simialrly situated.

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avatar fergrimes August 27, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Your title of bait and switch attracted me because I have been baited and switched regarding an inherited IRA that I was encouraged to put in the TIAA fund at 5% and then after I had agreed told that I could not but should put it in managed allocation which I was told was a balanced fund. It was not. Their adviser never provided me with the promised prospectus after I had signed transfer forms (he told me that they were in his car and he would give it to me on his way out, it never happened and I was trusting.I have filed an SEC complaint but they only mediate or pass your complaint back to TIAA. They cannot get you your money back. Additionally if you are dealing with pension rather than their so-called wealth management program , brokers, mutual funds and the like, your complaint has to go to the labor department not the SEC. The SEC does do not seem to be able to force justice or regulation upon these companies. In my case TIAA did not even respond to an order from them to respond to me. Beware any information you or advice you get from TIAA-CREF retirement or “wealth advisors. In our case they misled us, misrepresented their products and selves to us and delayed us until a large part of our retirement was gone.
I have not posted to site before but I have several colleagues who have left TIAA-CREF entirely because they were not happy with them upon retirement.

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avatar Ray Sporleder April 18, 2010 at 7:52 am

Stay tuned for more surprises, err… disappointments. My 1st 2 TPAs were the same amount, the third about 14% less. Where was the guarantee of “essentially equal TPAs?
The interest rate on my local bank’s CDs purchased five months ago is a full percent higher than Jan-March TIAA rate.

If you become aware of legal action, SEC filings, please let me join.


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avatar Jim September 1, 2009 at 1:57 pm

TIAA is plagued with politics. I know many key people in their business group mainly in the Wealth Management and they have a common story that their IT is incapable and even though they are spending millions of dollars on their system and stability, they are not getting much out of it. The problem is that their outflows are going to be a lot more because their client base who is ready to retire is increasing as they have very old clientele, while inflows are declining. So this company is going for a spin!! watchout..

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avatar Andy S. September 1, 2009 at 5:09 pm

I understand that TIAA has spent millions and millions on two IT centers. One duplicates the other. the cost of these on their annual budget must be taxing on their expenses. Its state of the art. But the cost of having these is questionable.

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avatar BH September 3, 2009 at 1:31 am

Jim, you said “TIAA is plagued with politics”. Could you expand on this a little? Who’s involved and what are the issues and conflicts?
Would also appreciate it if you could get those key people in the business group to give a little history abut what went wrong with the IT system. Who built the thing and why did they make the transition when it obviously was not ready?

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avatar Skinner September 12, 2009 at 6:45 am

elp wrote on July 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm
“Since repeated attempts have failed, can someone please provide me with the name of a lawyer who handles matters with TIAA-CREF.”

Try: http://www.stockbrokerfraudblog.com/2008/08/2nd_circuit_reinstates_tiaacre_1.html

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avatar LB September 23, 2009 at 7:21 pm

I’ve lost confidence in TIAA-Cref ‘s integrity. Their administrative fees actually caused my 401k Money Market account it to LOSE value over the last quarter – money I moved from Growth Funds to keep from losing big when the Market began to tank. OMG ! So, they ate up any interest earned, and then dipped into my principal. I’m getting away from TIAA-Cref ASAP, and looking into more sensible options. It’s really a shame because I’ve had the account since the early ’90′s and no longer have confidence in their practices regarding OUR money which they are (mis)managing.

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avatar Marcella McClure September 28, 2009 at 11:05 pm

Hi All,

The last time I wrote on this site was 2006 and I can see that things are not better. My University just starting allowing other companies besides TIAA/CREF for our mandatory retirement. What is a good site to check these other options out? Fidelity is one of them.
I have finally managed after 3 months of mess to move ALL of my allowed funds out of TIAA/CREF and now have my monthly SRA rolled over to Vanguard. At first I was told by several associates I could not do this but I am 60 and they were unaware of their own rules. I like Vanguard, they have been very helpful to me but my University does not allow our mandatory retirement to go there.

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avatar JohnQPublic October 10, 2009 at 6:41 pm

I have been with TIAA/CREF since 1997 and up until this past year, I have had no complaints.
Two things happened this past year that have caused me serious concern. FIrst, I called them back in the beginning of October 2008 when the market was in a free fall and requested them to move all available funds from my SRA to TIAA Traditional. When I checked my quarterly statement at the end of 2008, I learned that this had not been done.

Second, it was my understanding that the funds transferred into TIAA Traditional would be earning 4%, which was the rate of return guaranteed at that time. This has not been the case. They are only paying a 3% return. Do I need to contact the SEC?

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avatar BH October 10, 2009 at 11:55 pm

All vintage rates are adjusted every year on March 1. Any funds deposited in October 2008 are now earning 3.5%. All funds deposited after October 2008 are now earning 3.0%. The guarantee is that 3.0% is the minimum rate that you will ever receive. Not too bad in the present environment for a fixed income investment.

If you can show that you requested the transfer in October 2008, you may be able to get them to move your funds into the October vintage. Give them a call.

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avatar Kathy October 12, 2009 at 9:17 pm

My husband died in June 2008 at 43 yrs old. When i got around to checking into the account it had lost a signiicant amount of money. I asked why I wasn’t sent any statements. I was told I could not access the account,as the beneficiary, because I had not sent in a death certificate. In the meantime my husbands employer notified them imediately of his death with a death certificate. How else would they have known he was deceased? They have caused me more anguish and I have yet to get up the courage to deal with them.
I have had people say everyone is in the same boat with losing money. Not true. If you are still here and contributing you are not in my boat.
If anyone has any words of encouragement, I welcome them.

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avatar Chris January 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

See my post below and shoot me an email, I can help you. I have clients who dealt with the same thing you are going through. Too bad I just came across your post as I would have liked to help you sooner.

Chris in NY

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avatar Marlene A. Peasley December 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I am having a big problem with TIAA-CREF and the fact they will not release MY MONEY to me. You say you can help. Please reply. Would love to hear from you. Has anyone knowleldge of a class action law suit against them for all of the illegal things they have done and contintue to do?

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avatar Dan February 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I have a retired friend who would like to move his TIAA(2) accounts to a higher yielding investment? These were set up under his 401a plan, and he has left the University over 7 years ago. His Plan Summary says he may move/Rollover to an IRA-but it looks like the final decision comes from TIAA! Are you aware of anyway he can move his money in a timely way-not having to wait 10 years?

Thanks, in advance.

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avatar Brian October 29, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I started a new 403(b) account with TIAA-CREF earlier this year after starting with a new employer simply because my old employer used TIAA-CREF. Within three months, I realized things were very wrong (for many of the same reasons noted by others here–missing contributions, misallocated funds, incredibly incompetent customer service) and opened a new 403b with Vanguard. It took me three more months to get my money wrested from TIAA-CREF's grubby fingers and into my Vanguard account. but I am out of there.

Looking at this blog, it is clear that the problems are systemic. For more evidence, check out the below recent article, and get out if you can.


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avatar Kemp Settle January 5, 2010 at 8:10 am

In August I took over financial control of my 82 year old mothers finances. I went online to the TIAA-CREFF website to change the bank for all of her monthly fixed payment life annuities. I did not realize at the time that 1 of the 5 accounts was not showing up on the website at all. That accounts check was being deposited to the old account but I wanted it in the new account with the other 4. After numerous calls the 5th account finally showed up online and I was told in December that all was fixed.

If is now the 5th of the month and to date, she has received no checks this month at all. I was told yesterday that somebody had changed all the account numbers and made a single numberal error so the deposits were rejected and that it was all fixed now and the deposits were resend yesterday.

As of this AM I checked online and no funds are pending. My mother now has no income to date for the month.

Are they incompetent or are there other issues. Are they in trouble finacially and hiding it?

On top of all that, their website has been down for over 48 hours so you can’t check anything online. My next call will be to the SEC and CNBC to find out if there are others who are not getting paid.

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avatar Chris January 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

As an financial services rep with one of the largest, private financial institutions in North America (one that didn’t need/take any TARP funds) I will say that the sooner yours and your mother’s relationship with TIAA-CREF come to a close the better off both of you will be.
I’ve made a career by absorbing tens of millions of dollars that were once ‘managed’ by TIAA-CREF and taken over those accounts through my company. And that is the only time when these types of games that you are speaking of will cease for you.

Type into Google the following: TIAA-CREF and see what the most commonly searched words are that follow the name TIAA-CREF. The 4th most commonly searched phrase is “TIAA-CREF problem.” You are one of thousands of people who have dealt with and will continue to deal with mind-numbing issues related to money and this company’s lack of administratively knowing how to handle it.

My clients all agree that there’s a reason why TIAA-CREF has some of the lowest investment fees in the investment world, and that’s because you really do get what you pay for when it comes to TIAA-CREF.

I wish you the best of luck dealing with them.
-Chris in NY

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avatar Zane Quible January 5, 2010 at 10:40 am

One would think that TIAA-CREF could hire staff and/or add additional computer capability so that the system is not overwhelmed by its clients trying to access their online accounts. The system was down all night on January 4, supposedly because of high volume, it was back up around 3:30 a.m. CST the morning of January 5, and then it was back down when I checked around 6:15 a.m. CST the morning of January 5. The standard message indicates TIAA-CREF is working on the situation.

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avatar Ex-T/C January 7, 2010 at 7:24 pm

As a former T/C employee (14 years), I can tell you a little about what is troubling them.

Financially, they are strong in that they did not invest substantially in “toxic” assets. This was the problem that affected so many financial companies, but not T/C. However, the low revenue streams they get from their products, made worse by the severe market decreases last year, have caused major belt-tightening to occur. Also, the loss of client assets to competitors (much of it due to all the servicing problems described above) compounds the problem. As a result, T/C has laid off a lot of “experienced” (i.e., higher paid) staff. When I left T/C in 2008, over 50% of the company staff had been there for less than three years. This all began in 2003 when Herb Allison (now running Fannie Mae) took over as CEO. Herb is a cost-cutting kinda guy, and he laid off 500+ employees, many of them experienced IT pros, while at the same time trying to ram through a new, very complex IT record-keeping system. Great idea, but horribly executed. This has been the primary cause of all the servicing problems we have seen over there over the last six years. An extremely complex new system, full of bugs, and no one over there knows how to use it. I am not kidding when I tell you they have IT staff who have told me they could not figure out how to fix the problem when clients experienced missed or incorrect payments, or plan information went missing. They just tried different random solutions until one finally worked. That is why so many of the issues mentioned by so many of these posts claim that the same problem kept happening over and over again. And then you call in to complain, and you end up dealing with someone who is very polite, but who doesn’t understand the system either. They will probably try to sell you something though, since the new CEO (Roger) has said plainly that he wants to implement a “sales culture” there, so now all the phone reps are under intense pressure to bring in new assets. Welcome to the new TIAA-CREF.

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avatar Marlene A. Peasley December 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Ferguson sits on the Obama Economic Advisory Board. Boy are we in trouble.

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avatar Elizabeth Wilkinson January 18, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Over two years ago I attempted to transfer my holdings in the TIAA-CREF Real Estate Fund into another fund. TIAA-CREF had made this option unavailable online. Prior to this time all funds could be accessed and managed online. I then attempted to transfer my holdings on the phone (TIAA-CREF’s website stated that the Real Estate Fund could not be managed online.) I was put on hold and could not reach a consultant. Since that time my accounts lost approximately 1/3 of their value due in large part to losses in the Real Estate Fund. TIAA-CREF’s change in policy is directly responsible for my loss.

If TIAA-CREF is going to change their policy to not allow online management (which I object to as it was not the policy when I decided to invest in the Real Estate Fund in 2005) it behooves them to have consultants available to handle phone requests. TIAA-CREF’s phone availability has always been poor and it continues to deteriorate to the point where it is almost impossible to get someone without waiting nearly an hour, and even if you can get a consultant, they are usually pretty clueless and unhelpful.

I am outraged that I was not able to make the transfer that would have preserved most of my retirement account. TIAA-CREF is responsible for this loss and should be held accountable. Furthermore, the policy that led to my loss should be changed to allow customers to fully manage their funds online as phone consultants are seldom available.

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avatar Marina Morilla February 22, 2011 at 7:25 pm

So have you seen a lawyer about this problem? I’m asking because I’m very unhappy with (a) they never really explained to me that I could not pull my retirement money out when I needed it, and that instead I could only pull out 1/10th each year during a 10-year term, (b) they never explained to me that the interest rate that I was getting would not go up if interest rates in general went up, so down the road when I retire, if the going rate is 9% I will still only get my 3% rate, (c) their website is crappy and is very restricting, (d) their telephone people are courteous “if” you can reach them (I sometimes wait over 40 minutes to talk to a T/C rep), and I can’t ever reach the same person twice for a follow-up conversation, (e) there is a local T/C office and I tried going there for assistance a few years ago and the receptionist made it clear that I should take my questions elsewhere, and (f) they respond to a transfer request by taking their sweet time to process it, and by mailing it via snail mail so that it can get lost. I am just livid with this company and they have really harmed me financially by not explaining on these withdrawal restrictions, which means that I won’t be able to retire for many years down the road. I would like to sue them and want to find an attorney that is experienced and able to take this large firm on….

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avatar mrp January 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Not correct that TIAA hasn’t had problems with bad investments, they have had significant losses from mortgage backed securities, and A.M. Best has downgraded their credit rating outlook to negative. The losses recognized so far (through 9/30/09) are $7.2 billion, with very possibly more to come. Their financial strength is still highly rated, but in order to repair their balance sheet there may be some impact on interest/dividend rates paid.

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avatar John T. January 22, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I just read a post where TIAA had some downgrading in their credit rating and has had some significant amount of loss.
I’ have heard that TIAA gives large bonus money out, just like Wallstreet and the banks that were bailed out.
Is this still the practice there? Are they still spending large amounts of money in IT with several data centers as backups while not providing 24 hour web availability?

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avatar EB January 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Don’t trust this company- and do not give them your money.

I know that seems like a broad, and unsupported statement. -After being seriously burned by this company- I must advise anyone who wishes to invest their money to carefully review all of their options- check up on who you are doing business with.
They have had continual IT problems that have led to devastating problems for their customers- it also seems that these problems are self perpetuating- basically they keep happening, and the company avoids taking responsibility for them-

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avatar Susan January 30, 2010 at 11:15 am

I have had difficulties with TIAA CREF for years. They reported in error to the IRS and it took three years to sort it out and still is not fixed. One can never get a person dedicated to the problem, even tho TIAA CREF admitted they had made mistakes. The IRS is still on my case. I took the bulk of my retirement savings and put them in another fund family.

Now I read that TIAA CREF will outsource 1500 jobs in Denver to India. I will pull out the remainder of what I have at TIAA CREF. This is a company that presents itself as investing for the higher good. Job loss in the US in no way can be construed as a higher good.

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avatar neil jay wollman January 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Susan, can you tell me where you heard about such outsourcing to India–where I can verify that. I have been involved for 25 years with/against TC on issues of social respsonsibility. Recently the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution relevant to TC on labor issues. And if this is true, I need to know for my effotrts. Thanks, and sorry about your personal situation. Neil

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avatar Dan January 31, 2010 at 7:02 am

I saw a couple of articles in online newspapers out of Denver. One, I think, was the Denver Business Journal. However, I think the figure was lower than 1500. They also said that the jobs would be moved by attrition.

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avatar BH January 31, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Here is another link to an article concerning the outsourcing. The Denver office has about 1,400 employees, and apparently this would affect about 70 positions.

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avatar JQPUBLICX February 2, 2010 at 8:00 am

The CEO is on the presidents economic recovery advisory team. The CEO has been outsourcing jobs to India for a couple of years. This is a fact. The primary investors in this company traditionally have been educators. These dedicated professionals are preparing and educating our youth to enter a job market where their retirement savings manager is outsourcing those very jobs to a foreign country,

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avatar LHR74 February 2, 2010 at 9:18 am

This is the very same TIAA-CREF that relocated employees to Charlotte after they sold their homes in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT) and brought their families to NC only to get laid-off 6-12 months later. This company didn’t know 6 months in advance that they would be having a mass layoff? I find that very hard to believe so the only conclusion remaining is that they did know and let those poor people sell their home and relocate their lives anyway.There are very few redeeming qualities about this company that remain. There are a handful of people who actually know what they’re doing but they are far outnumbered by the incompetent upper management.

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avatar neil jay wollman February 2, 2010 at 5:51 pm

JQPUBLICX, Thanks for the info. Can you verify that in some way or where I can get info showing that they have been outsourcing to India for years–and its effects on employees? thanks, neil

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avatar J B Ratliff February 11, 2010 at 5:51 pm

When I retired, I elected to have funds from my TIAA transferred to another investment. That is done over ten years time, which I did not know. For the third year in a row now, my annual checks have been made out incorrectly. Each year my investment advisor has to return the checks and I have to fax TIAA and request a reissue, with the correct information. I have no assurance that the process will be done correctly next year. What is wrong with this company that a simple computer correction cannot be entered! I conclude that they want to hang on to my money as long as they can get away with.

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avatar Annuitized February 13, 2010 at 11:47 am

Last year I decided to start taking payments from TIAA and requested forms to get this moving. At no point did anyone call me to discuss they just sent the forms. I filled out everything for the ‘Lifetime Annuity’ and nowhere on the form was a statement or warning that by signing I was relinquishing my right to access my contract balance forever. So now I’m a year into taking disbursements and want to cancel one of my Annuity Contracts (I have three and I want to cancel the one that was created from my 401k account not my TIAA account). I assume that I am now permanently screwed and can never gain access to the remaining funds in any of these three contracts? Any way around this? Has anyone ever successfully been able to cancel a Lifetime Annuity?

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avatar Ex-T/C February 25, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Undoing a lifetime annuity contract is very unlikely to happen. I worked for years in an area of the company that handles those kinds of requests and I can’t remember it ever happening. Unless you can prove some kind of deception or misinformation occurred, they will say to you “you signed a contract”. If you didn’t sit down directly with a consultant and simply requested forms via the mail, and then filled them out and sent them in, you are probably stuck with your lifetime annuity contract. Hate to be the bearer of bad news…

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avatar Marlene A. Peasley December 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I had the same things happen 4 years ago when I started drawing my retirement. I now need MY MONEY and am told no way. I was told “don’t take it personally we had a woman with terminal cancer who was given 3 months to live request the same thing and we didn’t give her her money either”. How SICK SICK SICK I’m still fighting for my rights. Does anyone know if there is a class action suit against TC for their actions?

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avatar Marina Morilla February 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

We need to hire a law firm to represent us! Does anyone know of a good law firm that would take this on?

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avatar Eric February 26, 2010 at 3:06 pm

DO NOT TRUST ANYONE AT TIAA-CREF. Get everything you are told by phone in writing. They are only concerned with keeping as many of your assets as possible and charging you fees and interest when they can.

My story is simple, I needed all my assets liquidated due to financial hardship and called several times to discuss my options. I have a loan against some of my assets and was told that my loan would be paid off from my assets and I would receive the rest of my funds minus the 20% held for taxes. I received the paperwork and filled out all the paperwork that was sent to me. I received an amount but later discovered that they were still deducting loan payments from my checking account.

I called and discovered that the loan is still in effect and they were still holding 110% of the original loan balance. I was told that they never received the proper loan termination documentation. They agreed that it was never sent to me, but claimed it was my responsibility to ask for the correct documentation. I asked for the transcripts of conversations to be reviewed and they said that “management” determined that I did not ask for the loan termination forms in the final liquidation conversation we had. I asked for the transcripts and they said I had to hire a lawyer and send a “legal letter” to get the transcripts.

Bottom line, in every conversation I had with them I told them I needed ALL my funds to be liquidated for financial and tax reasons. TIAA-Cref is an unethical and dishonest enterprise. They hide from written communication and do everything to confound the facts. They are charging me interest on a loan that they have secured with my assets, so I am paying them interest to keep my money at this point.

Any advice on how to proceed with them is appreciated.

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF employee February 26, 2010 at 3:44 pm

TIAA-CREF has had (they will acknowledge this) significant service issues over the last several years. Much has been written on this site about why that is the case so I won’t belabor the point. Apparently those problems persist as do continued layoffs of experienced staff, some of whom are soon hired back as consultants…go figure.
I do take issue with the comment that “TIAA-CREF is an unethical and dishonest enterprise”. That simply is not true. There are still may fine, committed employees who are just as troubled and embarrassed by the problems they have had.
My advice is to go to the top, including the Board. It has always been an organization that responds to the “squeaky wheel”. Go on their website and write or call the highest level customer services individual you can find. If that doesn’t work, call the Chief Compliance officer or General Counsel. Call 212-490-9000 or 800-842-2733.
Good luck!

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avatar Marlene A. Peasley December 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Dec. 2010 Write to the Board. That is a joke. I wrote to every member of the Board (31 individual letters). TC secretary took it upon themselves to send my letters to “Customer Care Team” instead of the inidividual board member to who it was sent. Just try to call legal counsel, they never return their calls and again you are just sent to “Customer Care Team”. As stated earlier “Customer Care Team” is a Joke. There is no CARE in any way shape or form. Is there any class action suits against this company? I would love to join.

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avatar Marina Morilla February 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Yes me too. I want to file a suit against T/C. If Egyptians can gain their country back then why can’t we do the same with Tiaa-Cref. Let’s go to their offices and picket and get some coverage…

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avatar Jane M. February 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

There are some very significant problems inherent in this organization.

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avatar The Professor February 23, 2011 at 11:38 am

There are a number of class action suits in the works against TIAA-CREF. Call David Dessen at Dessen, Moses, and Rossitto. 215-658-1400.

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avatar OldTimer May 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I worked at two different universities from 1990 – 1993. I had sent the “Small Sum Transfer” forms in 1996. They transferred some of my money but not all. I had requested that all money be transferred out of the traditional TIAA and into CREF. That didn’t happen either. I had not received statements after changing addresses with TC several times both in writing and by phone. I have a 4 inch thick folder full of TIAA CREF correspondence. I have finally received statements and the funds I never got are over $2,000 so they claim I have to complete TPA forms and receive the money over 10 years. They’ll be paying me about $800 a year for 10 years. Talk about inefficient. It will cost them more than it’s worth. I also need EXACT termination dates and authorization from the universities involved. I think it’s stone walling. I spoke with both universities and they just groaned. Virginia allows employees to opt for either the state or TC. More employees are opting for the state pension fund. Dumb me.

Whoever said the telephone reps were ignorant, rude, and contradict each other was correct.

I plan to file complaints with all agencies and boards. I spoke with an attorney but the total money isn’t enough for him to benefit. He suggested that I find a class action suit. Anyone know of one that’s active?

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avatar Torrey October 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I was working for a friend who had 8 different TIAA accounts over her tenure working for various universities. Knowing how difficult it was for someone other then the account owner to get permission to speak to a T/C rep, we completed the 3rd party authorization. Trying to consolidate her accounts to one IRA was a struggle. The final set of transfer paperwork was mailed in and we were told that half the forms were missing. They were signed by 3 different parties all over the country and TIAA wanted us to re-mail them. A different phone rep said to fax in all the copies we had kept and it would be processed – we did. A few weeks later, we were told that they wouldn’t accept faxes – we shared the name, date and ext. of the rep who told us otherwise. To “help” Tiaa reviewed our fax and said that not all the pages arrived – how interesting as that was the same excuse on the originals. We made arrangement to only send TIAA a original signature from my friend and they’d process. After a month – that form “was never received” Our file was getting thick. After moving up through various customer service teams we were assigned a single rep who was responsible for our case. I told the rep I wanted her home mailing address to mail new forms to her home. She didn’t provide her home address, but did give me her direct office address. I shipped new paperwork to her directly 2-day air – with tracking number. 5 days later, it still hadn’t arrived to her. When I called, she said she gave me the wrong address! I inquired if she knew where she worked or if she just showed up at some random building with a phone that would ring. Finally, TIAA decided that through the forms they did receive, they did get a complete transfer request and the funds were withdrawn. A year later, I heard 2nd hand from a former TIAA employee who worked in the transfer department that it wasn’t uncommon for transfer people to toss out a form so that the transfer wouldn’t go through – great way to hold onto funds! TIAA is terrible.

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avatar Susan Dodge February 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm

OMG I’m going through this with them now!!!

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avatar Jonathan February 25, 2011 at 11:11 pm

Are you having issues concerning “Required Minimum Distribution” ? If you are don’t think for one minute that they will explain it to you – the customer service people on the telephone have no clue what the IRS RMD regulations are – they will give you incorrect information – for example, they told us we could roll over distributions from 401A and 403B accounts into an IRA and still report the monies as RMD – then, when we got our 1099-Rs we were told that the monies were not RMD monies from the 401A and 404B accounts but RMD monies from the IRA AND because of this, our 2010 RMD was not satisfied.
AND THIS IS THE “LAW”: RMD monies CAN NOT be rolled over into an IRA and they did just that and then represented that “based on their interpretation of the tax law” they could do it. THERE IS NOTHING TO INTERPRET ! It is forbidden to do it.

They misrepresented the regulations, they violated IRS regulation and they sent us explanations that demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge concerning RMD. Their contracts either violated IRS regulations or they violated their contracts with us.

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avatar Anonymous May 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Please do not reveal my name or email address.
Question? (Death Benefits)
Am legally authorized to deal with the financial matters concerning the death of a friend who had a pension through TIAA CREF.
Am having great difficulties getting any communication from this company.
Has anyone else had problems making a claim?
Any solutions to to moving a claim along?
What are your stories regarding claims and death benefits?

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avatar old and slow May 13, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Your most comprehensive and expensive option is to hire an attorney who deals with estates as a primary line of business.

The next most certain way to get a full and complete response is to ask the Judge who is handling the probate of your friend’s estate. TIAA/CREF cannot just ignore a court order. You may have to “work” the judge’s clerk to get this done without an attorney.

best of luck!

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avatar Anonymous May 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Thank you, Old and Slow.
You are one “fiesty” individual !
My usual tendency is to follow protocol and save the “sledge hammer” for drastic situations. However, my patience with this company has been eroding and if other avenues do not take me to a satisfactory conclusion to this intolerable situation soon, there may be no other choice than to use my legal council. I will not hesitate if driven to that point.
Appreciate your comment.

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avatar Reality June 23, 2010 at 11:37 pm

The reason that you are unable to get any information or deal with the accounts is that either 1. You are not really authorized to do so or 2. You have not provided them documentation proving that you are authorized. If you are a listed beneficiary then you would have to submit a death certificate. If you are not a listed beneficiary then you would need to submit a death certificate and a letter of appointment from the court stating you are the executor of the estate. Getting an attorney involved will most likely only cost you and get you no further.

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avatar Former TIAA-CREF Employww May 14, 2010 at 6:49 am

There should be no need to hire an attorney. If you have not gotten satisfaction from the regular Customer Services staff you have a couple of options to pursue on your own. Both involve complaining. The first would be to contact your friend’s employer…the college or university that contributed to the TIAA plan. Contact the HR or Benefits office and let them know. They may have the name of a higher level T-C employee to contact or they may do it themselves.
The other way is to contact T-C’s senior management. Take a look at their website and select a senior exec responsible for customer services. Call either 800-842-2733 or 212-490-9000 and ask for that person. Keep trying until you get someone on the phone. When you do, let them know what your difficulties have been and who you have already contacted. Let them know you will register a complaint with the SEC or NY Insurance department. They tend to respond more quickly to people who really complain loudly and to senior staff.

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avatar Anonymous May 14, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Thanks Former TIAA-CREF Employee.
Actually, I do have legal council but felt that the “normal protocol” should be followed. However, I did not expect to encounter so many “road blocks” to a simple claim.

I have made contact with some colleagues. Everyone is concerned that their loved ones may encounter a similar situation upon their death. The death of a loved one is an emotional ride and becomes more disconcerting when a company entrusted with your money makes it difficult for those left behind.
Makes one wonder if that is the master plan; maybe individuals are so stressed that they may “go away”. Leaves the money in the “kitty”…..or is it just gross incompetence?

There are possibilities. I wonder how they (the company) would respond to personal stories printed in university news letters, etc. Not saying that I would do this but there are other possibilities as you have pointed out.

I will attempt to reach an executive and see what happens.
Thank you for your feedback.

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avatar L.K. Schwink May 14, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Hi Anonymous- Let me know how things work out for you I would be interested. I haven’t had the energy to tackle this, but I will. I have all conversations written down with names and dates. I plan on persuing. I have something else they sent me. I won’t say what it is, but it certainly doesn’t help them.

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avatar Anonymous May 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Thanks for responding L.K. Schwink .

Good work on recording. Found out years ago that it pays to keep comprehensive notes. Would love to know what you have …but will not ask you to give any “good game” away prematurely. Will look forward to finding out some time in the future, I hope.

My legal council was very pleased that I took the route of recording everything in my dealings to date with TIAA. Although we could now go forward with legal; at this point it is a matter of principle that I access this system and have the benefits paid to my friends estate; it is my legal right to do so. I have given myself a timeline keeping my legal options open for plan “B”.

BUILDING AWARENESS ! (Once an educator, always an educator.)
Actually, I hope through posting experiences, thoughts and frustrations that it would encourage dialogue at this level or at some level.
Talk to friends.
-Are the profs., lecturers and teachers “out there” aware of what can happen when their beneficiary (most often a spouse, child or other family member) “has to” access their benefits?
-Are university and school admin. aware of the ramifications of encouraging their staff to enroll in “any” given pension plan that may be “broken” in terms of customer relations, etc., etc. and worse? Who searches out these companies? or Do the companies search out the schools?
-Do educated individuals really not know “how” the companies, entrusted with their future and in some cases the future of their families, administer to their wishes or not?

I searched out this site because I am having difficulties with the lack of acknowledgement and lack of communication from TIAA in my legal pursuit of following my friends last wishes.
…I was looking for encouragement and words of wisdom to assist me on my tenacious journey.
…What I have discovered along the way is that many companies talk a good game when making the “pitch”. Another story when it is time to withdraw funds.
…What I have also discovered, on a personal level, is that some of my colleagues havn’t a clue as to where their money is invested and all the other things they need to know in terms of their “future”.
…What I have discovered is that some of my colleagues, although academcally brilliant, havn’t taken the time to educate themselves on death benefits. They are allowing others to make decisions.
…What I have discovered is that some individuals are waking up due to my experience and I hope they may be scared enough to become active participants in their own future. I am directing them to web sites and they are asking questions. There is dialogue!

L.K. Schwink; yes, I will share this “quest” and hope it has a fast and satisfactory resolution. Am looking forward to hearing your final results.

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avatar Marlene A. Peasley December 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Dec 2010. I was told by a “Customer Care Team” member that writing to university papers was certainly my perrogative and they would have no problem with my doing that. I have already started writing. If only 1 person reads and them investigates and does not get into TC web it is worth it to me. Any active class action suits?

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avatar m. plesset May 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I’m working on an article about a different issue concerning TIAA than customer service, the actual performance of the annuities. There’s more material than can be given here, but here are the basics. I took the amount of my accumulation and got quotes from 11 high rated insurance companies for the same terms (ten year, single life). All 11 had higher payouts than TIAA. Worse yet, the payouts from those companies are guaranteed amounts, where from TIAA only a part is guaranteed. In fairness, TIAA’s payments can go up as well as down, although not necessarily related to the cost of living or inflation rate.

TIAA justifies their lower payouts by a different mortality for their population. There may well be some difference, but the expected longevity for age 74 in the standard U.S. table is about 10.8 years, but 17.1 years in TIAA’s. A difference of 2 years in a mortality table is large, a difference of over 6 years strains credibility.

TIAA gives the strong impression that it’s an altruistic organization, being non-profit, versus those other greedy profit making companies. First, part of the advantage of a non-profit is usually being tax exempt, but TIAA-CREF lost its tax exempt status in 1997. Second, for profit companies have the discipline of being accountable to shareholders, and therefore need to offer competitive products and have some control over costs. As a not for profit with a somewhat captive customer base, and with an evidently passive board, TIAA isn’t really accountable to anybody. Incidentally, one way they’re not different from other companies is that TIAA too has reported significant losses on mortgage backed securities, causing its credit rating to be lowered.

The real negligence is not only at TIAA, but at all the institutions that don’t do their homework on the alternatives, and choose this product by default for their employees.

As I said, I’m writing something on the subject, and comments are of course welcome.

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avatar Bait&Switch May 16, 2010 at 9:01 am

Does your article include refusal on the part of their advisers to even supply you with your annuitizing information unless you supply them with a complete financial dossier? We were steered into their so-called wealth management” program when we went for a meeting to get our annuity options and the advisor’s computer was mysteriously not available to determine annuity information. We never were able to get it, later being told in writing to get it off their web site, Their so-called wealth management adviser misrepresented their products and we believe, himself as a CFP. When complaints to the higher ups, President, Bd. of Trustees, etc. and the SEC, elicited only that the treatment we received was their standard operating procedure we transferred out of CREF but are still stuck in TIAA. We could never get our information and instead opted for the 10 year TPA. They are no longer the organization we signed up with and trusted over 40 years ago. In our opinion they are trying hard to be another “greed is good” Wall Street player.

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avatar LHR74 May 16, 2010 at 10:11 am

I was one of the original WMA cadre who were employed with TIAA-CREF for over 10 years and became part of what we thought would be great way of servicing our long-term high net worth clients. It soon became clear that the sole purpose of the group was to uncover client assets held outside of TIAA-CREF and provide “advice” that would recommend the client consolidate their outside assets with TIAA-CREF. The one-on-one personal service that we had built significant positive reationships around was throw right out the window and we were to concertrate on sales. I recall an incident where I recommended a client keep her $250K after-tax mutual fund with the outside company due to the tax implicationsof consolidating and fee structure that was currently in place. While my long-term client was pleased with the honest recommendation, the upper management didn’t want to hear that. That was the beginning of the end for me. I’d rather work somewhere else and be able to sleep at night than stay with the mutated TIAA-CREF. In case you cannot tell from the pervious posts….Be very aware of so-called advice by so-called non-proprietary sofware. The end result is always to move you money to TIAA-CREF.

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avatar old and slow May 16, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Possible strategy:

1. Open a TIAA-CREF IRA.

2. Roll over your TIAA-CREF accounts to your TIAA-CREF IRA.

3. If you have transfer payout annuities, set them up to roll over into your TIAA-CREF IRA.

4. As desired, open an IRA at one or more other institutions (such as Vanguard, Fidelity, etc.), and direct them to roll over all or part of your TIAA-CREF IRA balance into your new IRA(s) and direct them into new (to you) investment options at your new institution(s).

Do this before you die and your representative has to settle your estate.

In my opinion, IRAs are less complicated than retirement accounts, and give you a way to diversify away from TIAA-CREF if so desired.

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avatar zkeith May 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Actually, doesn’t this approach result in tax implications? Any rollover from TIAA-CREF to an IRA requires the payment of income tax on the rollover. Therefore, the person who does this could be inflicting on himself/herself a real dollar loss, in addition to having to spend dollars to pay the income tax on the amount of the rollover. I say this because at this point, the person has only suffered a paper loss, which is the the current situation with most TIAA-CREF clients. If a person does the rollover, I recommend that he/she runs some figures on his/her data to see how it might take to recoup his/her loss based on what he/she perceives is a reasonable rate of return that Fidelity/Vanguard, etc., is likely to provide.

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avatar old and slow May 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm


No, I have rolled over from 403(a)s, 403(b)s, and 401(k)s to IRAs. The rollovers are not taxable.

From IRS Pub 571 “Tax-Free Rollovers — You can generally roll over tax free all or any part of a distribution from a 403(b) plan to a traditional IRA or a non-Roth eligible retirement plan, except for any nonqualifying distributions, described on this page. . . .”

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avatar EX IT GUY May 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I used to work on the IT Team in the NY TIAA-CREFoffice.

I recently left because the management that took over the IT dept destroyed a really good working system.

I watched how they downsized the company to outsource, and they have been sticking 5 to 10 people in a cubicle so they can lease out upper floors. People have quit left and right (Including me) because the quality of life there is horrible.

The IT staff is badly under – manned. By myself, I was doing holding the workload of 4 techs they let go. They had no intention of hiring new people, and they cut my salary TWICE, but gave me more work.

Luckily I am in a better company now but I still keep in touch with the people there and it has continued to get worse there since.

This is what happens when you let the highly qualified people go, and cut the salaries of the remaining folks by as much as 30%.

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avatar Ken. July 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Why does Tiaa LOWER yields/interest precisely when it should be rising. TIAA lowers the vintages to less than Money MaRKET AND NEVER reinstates them. Traditional you are trapped and cannot get out. This TIAA sucker fund gives you a rate and then lowers it . I have lost a high interest percentage over the years which goes into their pockets when their stocks are low. If they cannot manage bonds at the same rate when their other bonds are soaring what are they doing.?
Traditional never has a good year stock are high-you cannot get into them and when all other bonds are doing well not TIAA> Why do they refuse to give a perspectus on these investments. Aren’t they required to.? Twenty years ago when they do give a perspectus I noticed a1 % taken from profits with not explanation other than it was yours it is now theirs.. This is a Co. they brags about no fee in traditional. There isn’t a fee when they just give themselves part of your gain and do no call it anything.Then just become you silent partner. They don’t want you to see what goes on it their piggy bank..A fund for all TIAA seasons.–stocks low hit the TIAA vintages. When other bonds even theirs are on the increase Traditional isn’t. Stock good why increase the vintages just keep taking advantage of the lower vintaGE. a LITTLE NERVIOUS GIVE THE FOOLS A SMALL INCREASE. . Add a little to draw the new suckers and bleed them later, You NEVER get back the 50 or more percent of you interest they took and never reinstated ,IT HAS NEVER FAILed STOCKS/COMMISSIONS LOW THE TRADITIONAL GOES DOWN SEVERAL TIMES Never recover You now are in a lifetime money market/low. All withdrawls must be made within limits and scheduled over 10 years. Move over derivitates here comes Traditional

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avatar Contractor with TIAA Cref August 6, 2010 at 12:35 am

TIAA-CREF is now going to ship American jobs overseas to India now. At this time when so many Americans have lost their jobs CREF has decided to cut costs by paying cut rates to Indian workers. My company had a contract with them but now they are stalling to re-up for another year.

If you think the service was bad before just wait until you have to depend on people who have no concept of the pension system and 403(b) and 401(k) plans taking care of your money. And hope you don’t have to call them. We have had problems with TIAA CREF and continually have to clean up what they send us.

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avatar BH August 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Could you tell us what type of work you did for CREF, and what kind of problems you had to clean up? Also, how long have you had this contract? Interested in what type, and how much, outsourcing they are doing.

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avatar HWP October 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Please help me clear up some confusion:

The TC rep at my university institution told me that my original contract signed at my initial employment in 1978 has “restrictions” as to “approved carriers” I could alternately send my TC accounts to, namely ING and Valic. He told me that I could not transfer my money to other companies such as Vanguard and Fidelity.

Yet, elsewhere among the many posts here, one contributor said that these restrictions were only in force while you were working under the university employer you originally signed the TC contract with. I left the university ten years ago, and retired four years ago. Therefore, would it be possible to move my funds to Fidelity after all?

A copy of the original TC contract I signed is being sent to me.

I would very much like to get in touch with a person who really knows TC well, and can advise me on how to move all my funds to Fidelity within the next 12 months. Please respond to this post if you can help me. Thank you.

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avatar Ex-T/C October 11, 2010 at 6:18 pm

If your former employer provides for “cashability”, you can move your CREF funds in lump sum to any company you want, and your TIAA funds in nine annual installments (assuming you are in a RA or GRA contract). While you were employed, you were limited as to what companies you could move funds to, but once you leave the employer that limitation no longer exists. SRA and GSRA contracts can be moved out as well, with no liquidity restriction on TIAA. You should call T/C and confirm what the employers rules are. If it’s cashable, request the forms for a direct rollover (and get ready for a “retain the assets” effort).

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avatar HWP October 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Thank you Ex T/C:

You state “if your former employer provides for “cashability”…”

First, after looking at all the contracts and endorsements I have on file, there is no contract in writing specifically stating what the former employer’s restrictions were! And there is no document with my signature that states that I agreed with such restrictions.

Second, how could any restrictions with regard to “cashability” continue to apply since I am no longer employed by the employer, nor do I reside in the state, where such restrictions may have been in effect in 1978?

If you or others at TC can comment on this issue, and whether I am in fact bound by supposed “contract restrictions”, please add your opinions.

Thanks again.

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avatar Independentobjective October 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

If you have a contract with TIAA-CREF created in 1978, it pre-dates cashability or transferability and the contract probably mentions neither. However, it may say in BOLD print on the face page and other pages that it cannot be surrendered for cash nor assigned. When TIAA-CREF bowed to pressure and allowed cash/transfers it needed to go back to each employer and ask them to decide whether or not their plan would allow. You may have a rider on this point. The reasoning: $$ were deposited onstensibly on the basis that it could not be cashed out or transferred. So you may have several employers who contributed and each might have a different policy. Usually, an employer will not allow transfers to another company if that company has not been approved for use in the employer’s plan. That is because the employer has a fiduciary responsibility if it allows you to transfer money to, let’s say, Madoff Securities under the terms of its plan. However, if one or more employer in your case allows a transfer to Fidelity you can transfer the portion attributable to that employer to Fidelity. If a former employer does not allow a transfer to Fidelity but does allow a cash-out you can (through a slightly different process than a transfer) request a cash withdrawal and arrange with Fidelity for them to accept it — as an IRA rollover for example. I cannot think where the state in which you reside is a factor. The plan sponsor acting as a fiduciary is a factor.

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avatar Ex-T/C October 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Employer sponsored plans (i.e., the employer contributes $$ to the plan on your behalf) have the ability to place restrictions on the employee’s ability to withdraw a lump sum amount. Most employers restrict your ability to lump sum withdraw while you are still employed, but then lift the restrictions once you terminate employment. However, I have seen some plans that restrict lump sums even after terminating employment. This is true of my own plan at TIAA-CREF. I worked there for 14 years, but no longer. Still, the only only options I have are to convert to annuity payments or take a Limited Period withdrawal. As of now, I don’t have the ability to roll the $$ over to another company. That could someday change, if the company rewrites the plan. You can call T/C and get your specific plan rules. In all likelihood, you will probably be able to roll the CREF funds over to another company, but that depend on your plan rules.

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avatar Donald Myers January 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I agree that employers have put restrictions into TIAA-CREF plans with respect to lump sum withdrawals but I wonder if you have the option of Required Minimum Distribution or rolling over into an IRA (TIAA-CREF promotes the latter on their website). I have been using RMD for ten years and I consider it better than annuitizing. Since both of these options are setup (at least to some extent) by Federal law and rules it may be they can’t prevent your using them. If you can roll over into an IRA you should be able to move the IRA to another financial institution.

I think it is appalling that TIAA-CREF is a party to various restrictive clauses, they lead you to believe that there is only one plan but in fact there is a different one for each employer. That said my (former) employer has forced TIAA-CREF to make various options available such as a complete transfer to one of two other financial institutions one being Fidelity.Too often TIAA-CREF doesn’t tell you that your plan is better (or worse) than plans at other employers

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avatar Ex-T/C February 2, 2011 at 7:11 pm

From a plan perspective, rollovers to an IRA are considered withdrawals from the plan. So, if the plan doesn’t not allow withdrawals, you cannot do an IRA rollover. Automatic RMD payments are available for participants who are eligible based on age and employment status. I believe if you are still considered “employed” by your plan provider, you can defer RMD payments until age 75. The reason why I put the word employed quotations is because employment status is not always cut and dried in the world of academia.

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avatar Kathy Cozzarelli November 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

We’ve had excellent service from our TIAA rep here in Buffalo, NY: accessibility, advice, and good investment performance.

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avatar Marcella McClure January 31, 2011 at 8:04 pm

The problems with TIAA-CREF will never end. I too believed the lie about all the issues being due
to their new software platform. But that was years ago. Every time I want to transfer funds out of TIAA-CREF there are issues. I have removed all the funds I can from TIAA-CREF. I have send messages to the state managers of our forced-retired plan with TIAA-CREF begging for other options. I am old enough to have my SRA transferred from TIAA-CREF on a monthly basis and after having this done for several years, yep, they managed to screw it up. I still have to use them for my mandatory retirement. I feel sorry for the people who work for a company who apparently hates their clients and wants them to suffer when they retire. No respectable University should force their employees to do business with such a disreputable company. Get your funds out of this bogus company ASAP. I have moved to Vanguard and they have been very helpful and support regarding my issues with TIAA-CREF.

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avatar Hector Willars November 10, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Wow, this organization is truly awful. I signed up for an account and received the paperwork, but can’t log into my account. I’ve tried to call three times and they don’t answer the phones! I am currently on hold (for the third time) and have been waiting 54 minutes. Yeah, I’m really interested in rolling over my other retirement funds to them!?! What a terrible organization!

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avatar Jason December 5, 2010 at 5:34 am

Seriously, what is the greater likelyhood: either you’ve been on hold for 54 minutes or perhaps you don’t know how to use a telephone properly. Perhaps you should take your next free hour and sign up for a remedial course at a local college.

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avatar Marcella McClure January 31, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Very poor attitude. know how to use a phone, computer and write code to do you Jason? TIAA-CREF is a bad company.

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avatar Pete November 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm

RUN AWAY FROM TIAA-CREF!!! They are an evil company. In addition to my 403b plan, I had a money market account where money was drawn from my bank account twice a month. I checked online and a balance was listed. I wanted to close the account so I wrote a check for the balance of my account as listed on the website. The check bounced. Turns out that there is a mysterious ten day “float” where the money disappears from your bank account but is not available to you for ten days even though the balance is shown on the website. So I tried to close the account but they had drafted another investment from my account the day I closed the accopunt. It was only $100 and I was told to call back ten days later. I forgot to call back. Today I get a statement…they took $15 from the $100 because they said it was a small balance. HELLO!!! They wouldn’t let me close the account….evil bastards….

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avatar Jason December 5, 2010 at 5:33 am

The company probably did everything wrong and led to your loss of capital. I’m certain that you had absolutely no fault.

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avatar John Greenman December 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

As a retired owner of TIAA-Crefs accounts, I receive monthly payments. I get notified by my Credit Union as to when the funds reach my checking account…there are seven separate deposits each month! About 3-4 days later I receive 7 separate “Payment Information Summaries” (each one costing 35.7 cents in snail mail [plus what paper and computer and processing costs required]).
Is there no way for IC to consolidate these statements???
I have, on several occasions, complained about this inefficiency and have even received a letter from a “board of directors” member, agreeing that this is inefficient, but that they are working on a solution….MONTHS ago!!
TC’s wastefulness cuts into our retirement income!!!

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avatar Jason December 5, 2010 at 5:30 am

So you complained and instead of utilizing a minimum wage employee to discount your request as most companies would do you receive a special personal letter from a “board of directors” member. Despite the fact that board of directors have no oversight or operational authority they are responding to your inquiries.

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avatar michael plesset December 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

The contempt Jason heaps upon several previous writers is a bit strange. Considering TIAA’s pervasive service problems, which have been well documented here and elsewhere, to conclude that the problem must be with the writers, such as not knowing how to operate a telephone, is quite a reach. I personally haven’t experienced service problems, but find the numerous issues others have described quite credible.

However, whatever the percentage of users that have problems with service, I maintain that the greater problem is TIAA’s investment underperformance compared with other annuity companies, which I documented on this site earlier.

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avatar Moti Nissani January 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Micahel: You are right. The best interpretation: Jason is an agent of TC.

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avatar Marlene A. Peasley December 5, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I am trying to get MY MONEY from TC. I was told by a representative “Don’t take it personally, we received the same request from a woman who had terminal cancer and was given 3 months to live and we didn’t give her her money either”. “Customer Care Team” is a joke. There is no CARE in any way shape or form. All they want is YOUR MONEY to KEEP. I am not asking for a BAILOUT only asking for MY MONEY. Why doesn’t our government investigate this company? Or are they too powerful? or too politically influential? Can’t someone somewhere do something so people can get THEIR MONEY? After scouring this forum it is evident there have certainly been enough complaints. Does anyone know any active class action suits?

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avatar Ed, Austin, TX December 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

In my parents’ horrific divorce, my dad kept his TIAA CREF in the agreement. When he changed his beneficiary designation to me, the one taking care of him, TIAA CREF only applied the change to his funds GOING FORWARD. He died shortly thereafter. TIAA CREF and my mother fought tooth and nail to defend TIAA CREF’s actions – and succeeded. Apparently TIAA CREF exists to hold funds, not to represent the interests of the fund holder.

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avatar Dale December 14, 2010 at 6:49 am

I will add my thoughts to this list. A couple of months ago, my wife decided to move her retirement money from TIAA-CREF to Vanguard. We obtained the necessary paperwork and mailed in the forms about six weeks ago or so. Checking online at TIAA-CREF in the meantime, no change to her account has ever been noted. About a week or so ago, I called T-C, waiting a very long time before being connected, and was told that no trace of the application had been received. Although I have had great difficulty with T-C in the past, and have been moving all my retirement funds out of T-C as fast as they will release them (some only over ten years!), I thought that perhaps the forms had been lost in the mail. I ordered additional forms and have filled them out, ready to be mailed again. Before mailing them, I wrote a letter to T-C complaining about their service, and requesting that when they receive the forms that I will be mailing, that they please acknowledge their receipt, rather than have me wait for months without knowing that they have been received. Today, I received an email that they have in fact received the original forms, and they say that they are waiting four or five days for the previous employer to respond to their request for information. What a joke! T-C has had these materials for weeks, but has never learned how to log in and report the receipt of anything, with an in-process memo. Rather, they expect everyone to wait for weeks, months, or even years while T-C bumbles around before sending out any information on our funds! Then, at that point, they backdate everything, and say the problem has been resolved! I am keeping my fingers crossed that my wife will actually get her funds out of T-C this time, and the remaining three years of my waiting will eventually pass and we will both be completely clear of TIAA-CREF!
I am recommending to everyone, start getting your money out of T-C as soon as possible, and move it to a reputable company. I would recommend Vanguard, which is a fantastic company in every way compared to T-C. If it weren’t for too many apparently brain dead faculty, T-C should have gone out of business a long time ago! It really does need to be investigated seriously by the government, or if there is a class action suit, I would sure like to know about it. Their previous ineptitude cost me thousands of dollars in the early 2000′s.

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avatar Nancy Branon December 27, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Since June 2010 I have been with Cref. They do not have sufficient people to answer their phones or assist you with making any changes to your account. The message says that they are aware that it is very frustrating to have such long delays and they are hiring a significant number of people in 2010. Well, it is the last week of the year and they did not even notice that their message no long makes any sense. If there is an emergency, there is no way to reach them.

I am unable to get into my account online or send an email to them because the system will not take my account number. There is a 3 hour wait for someone to call me back. This has gotten worse over the last two weeks. I am getting my money out as quickly as possible, but to do it I need to provide Fidelity with very specific information from my statement. I do not have a recent statement because they have not sent me a statement for the quarter.

Any advice would be welcome.

I am seriously concerned that there is something seriously wrong with their stability as a company.

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avatar Jessica M February 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I work for TIAA-CREF. You’ll need to file a complaint with FINRA for the company to act on your request.

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avatar anne December 28, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I have also been trying to get in touch with them over the past few days and feel that something is seriously wrong. i have had no response. i have not been able to move my funds and that message is sooo annoying. i am leaving and gone to fidelity if i ever get through to them. today io left a message with the phila branch

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avatar Kman December 29, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Tiaa-cref will NOT answer your calls, I was put on hold for over 1 hour and gave up. They are seriously mis-managed. GET YOUR MONEY OUT while you can!

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avatar Ex-T/C January 5, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I check in on this board every once in awhile and am never surprised to see the new and ongoing frustrations experienced by TIAA-CREF participants. This has been something that has been an enormous problem with this company for about 7 years now. However, many of the comments I read end with “something is wrong there” or “they are mis-managed”. That is not entirely true. These issues are really the natural result of the fundemental cultural changes the company initiated and nurtured since the Herb Allison regime. The company used to be extremely service-oriented, placing top priority on timely processing of transactions, handling of problems, and participant service satisfaction. Those days are gone. Most of the employees that were trained in that environment have left or were laid off. The focus now is entirely on sales and keeping the money they have. So, transfers of funds that once were easy to initiate and were quickly processed now languish in a bureaucratic muck the company has created so that maybe you’ll give up trying to move the funds out and just stay inert. Combine this with the fact that the Open Plan Solutions platform (or whatever they’re calling it these days) is extremely complex, and that most of the telephone service reps have been trained within the last five years, and what you end up with is a servicing disaster handled by such customer-friendly lads like “Jason” above. There is nothing mysteriously “wrong” at TIAA-CREF; this is exactly the kind of company they set out to be and were destined to become. My advice: get your $$ out of there and don’t give up when they throw up flak. And if all else fails, write a strong letter of complaint to the CEO, and cc: an appropriate regulatory agency (like FINRA) while you’re at it. P.S., I got all my available funds out, but my wife’s are still there. I’ll be back.

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avatar Dr. Moti Nissani January 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm

1. TC has locked my account for 10 years, without my permission. I was never told about that in advance, nor signed anything, yet they refused to release the funds. I’m now on my sixth year of waiting.

2. Getting the money that they say I can get out has been a veritable nightmare over the past years. One example of many: In Dec. 2009,TC told me I could transfer my annual distribution to another account and then get the money whenever I wanted it by merely calling. That was a lie. By now, I have spent about 20 hours on the phone with them trying to get that money. You always have to wait about half an hour (even though I’m calling from Argentina), yet I could never speak to the same person, and always had to start over again. I sent them the forms they wanted once, I sent them twice, to no avail. They admit they received the forms, if pressed against the wall (it takes about an hour each time to get to this point), and they concede that they are in order. But they always find some incomprehensible excuse for not sending my money. I once managed to talk to a top manager. He apologized, admitted that their conduct is illogical, that many customers are unhappy, yet even he couldn’t resolve this problem. I’m on the verge of initiating a lawsuit–just to get money that they admit is mine. I’ve never, ever, in my life, dealt with such financial horrors. The IRS, I suspect, would be a peace of cake compared to TC. The contrast with my other IRA accounts is incredible. The worst of this is that I believe these manufactured delays are company policy–you multiply such delays by thousands, gain the interest, and end up with a tidy profit for the CEO and his buddies.

Besides the wasted time and emotional energy, such desperate moves lead me to the suspicion that TC is on the verge of insolvency. I strongly recommend, if possible, closing any TC account and transferring money elsewhere.

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avatar Greg January 7, 2011 at 10:45 am

I have a lot of money at T-C and many people I know do as well. I haven’t heard of this many complaints and you are making me nervious. They always were pretty repsonsive to me and I agree there system should work better. Its bad to hear they are abusing staff because I know that eventually plays out negatively for companies.
I am going to forward this blog to my rep and express my concerns, meanwhile I also did not like that “suddenly” I had to withdraw all annunity funds over a 10 year period. I figured I could live with it and start withdrawing at 59 in any case. It felt like a manipulative policy and if your doind a good job people will not want to move there money out. This is why I did not do my Roth IRA with them.

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avatar TIAA employee January 20, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Hello everyone. I am a Customer Resolution Manager for TIAA-CREF so I get to see how the company handles each customer issue on a daily basis. Word of advice, if you want something done through TIAA stop calling the phone center and instead write a letter or send an email to:
c/o Office of the Corporate Secretary
730 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3206
TIAA-CREF if regulated by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and is required to responded to written complaints and if they don’t it cost them money as they are audited frequently.
Trust me, for anyone having problems with the company for any reason the advice above is golden.
I give this information because I truly feel for some of the people who have problems with the company and this is why I choose to work in the issue resolution field. Unfortunately, I have seen firsthand how the company only values clients concerns when the client has a value of $500,000 or is considered what they call a wealth management client.

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avatar tiaa employee January 22, 2011 at 9:58 am

That is very true and very helpful thanks.

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avatar Finance Professor February 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

Over 3 months have past since initiating a transfer from cref to Vanguard. Cref’s actions seem calculated to delay the exit of funds as much as possible, which would be a bad sign for investors if true. First, the form to initiate withdrawal is not available on the web site, which says “call us” (and wait 30 minutes to talk to someone, of course). Then they will not send the form electronically, but only by USPS, and delay several days in sending it. After sending it back, they “discover” it has to be approved by my employer, although there is no place on the form for that approval and the form makes no reference to requiring approval. Then nothing happens for a couple of weeks until I contact them. They say they “tried to contact my employer by phone without success” but without telling me that. Turns out it is the wrong form, so I ask my university HRM exactly what form it should be, which I tell cref. They send another form. Same thing, but yet another form.

I ask HRM if they can block out personal information and send me an example of the right form, which they do. Posted this on the web for the cref wizards to look at, which they refuse to do. I faxed the form to their fax number. They refuse to confirm receipt of the fax. They refuse to escalate this to a supervisor. So, I’m just stuck.

Thanks very much to the tiaa employees above who provided the suggestion for a written approach. I’ll give that a try. In the meantime, this is a useful real-time example for finance students who are looking for signs of a failing institution.

One of the tiaa employee posts makes reference to better treatment for what tiaa considers “wealth management clients”. Well, I qualify for that with Vanguard, and their service is simply spectacular. No waiting to speak with someone when you call. No horsing around with bad advice, and very well informed about tax implications of transactions, such as IRA recharacterizations, deferral of tax. Every question has been answered thoroughly, patiently, and authoritatively.

Also, the expense ratios are much less at Vanguard, so I don’t understand why more people don’t switch their funds there. My university has tiaa as an approved destination for 403(b) withholding, so I have to send the money there first, then transfer it to Vanguard for lower expenses and safety.

Thanks for running this helpful site.

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avatar Dale February 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm

These comments should be listed with a date. Until each comment is listed with a date, this is a severe weakness of the website. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I am used to always seeing a date with comments in all forums, and I do not understand why no dates are listed on this website. I would have written directly to the web host, but saw no way to do that. If he reads this, I hope he modifies the listed complaints to include the date of listing. Thanks!

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avatar The Professor February 23, 2011 at 2:53 pm

2/23/11: I was a participant in TIAA-CREF for over 30 years until I recently retired. Finally, I was free to rollover my 403b to an IRA. My experiences with TIAA-CREF have been nightmarish. From missed contributions to abysmal investment performance, my relationship with this company has beyond belief. I will never understand how they can survive in the Financial Services marketplace. My advice to anyone who is unfortunate enough to be a participant is to run for the exits- and fast!

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avatar Jonathan February 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Do you have TIAA-CREF 401A, 403B, or IRA contracts (accounts)? Are you approaching your 70th birthday or have you reached 70.5 years of age? Do you have an issue satisfying the “Required Minimum Distribution” (RMD) IRS rules with your TIAA-CREF contracts?
Please contact me. They have provided me with false and misleading information for the past 3 months. Not one of the customer service reps I have talked to has the knowledge to even begin to understand the IRS rules concerning RMD requirements – they have provided me with false information that has made it necessary for me to spend DOZENS of hours doing my own research and consulting with the IRS.

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