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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 Dan July 28, 2011 at 12:23 am

I’ve read everything in this discussion posted between March 23, 2011 and today, July 27, 2011. To me it looks like the majority of the people posting here are in one of two camps: 1. working people who are currently contributing funds to TIAA-Cref (TC) and are very positive about TC; and 2. the people who are trying to get funds out of TC now that they are retired and are not positive about TC. I used to be in the first camp (and very positive about TC), but now that I’ve retired I’m moved solidly into the second camp (and am extremely frustrated).

I’m just a regular but fairly well educated non-tenure, non-teaching university professor (librarian) who has worked at universities for 37 years. For the past 25 years I’ve been paying into TC and touting their strong commitment to helping the educators of the US. TIAA-Cref made some very big changes during those years including their level of commitment to supporting educators, and for at least a decade their “.org” status is a misnomer. Even so, I continued paying into the TC retirement system. I also, unfortunately, have lived in one of those states where there have been no raises for state university employeesfor the past five years. This means every penny is important to me now that I’ve retired. I retired at the end of spring semester (end of April) and have yet to see one cent from TIAA-Cref. I made my guesses on the options offered to me for payouts — in my opinion they offer very little in writing about the various options and offer little to no guidance one would expect in the form of a personal financial advisor. I filled out (and am *still* filling out) all of the paper work and have returned it in a reasonable time frame, especially considering most of it has to go through HR people on campus for certification and being notarized. It seems that every time I return properly filled out forms, a few weeks later they come across yet another that has to be filled out before they can begin disbursing any funds. From the dates I been given recently, it will be at least mid-August before I have a chance of seeing anything — early June was their first estimate — and the value of my savings will not be set until after *all* the paperwork is in. (This is a concern because as the stock market continues to decline because of the debt limit political crisis the value of my retirement account — and thus my monthly payment — continues to decrease in value.) If they find more forms to be filled out, certified and notarized it will be September, at the earliest, before I see any funds. I’ve followed the rules, gotten things returned correctly filled out and in a timely manner, and now it’s beginning to look like I won’t receive anything for at least the first four months of retirement — not quite the rosy picture that had been painted before retirement.

If anyone is considering electing to use TIAA-Cref as their retirement vehicle, let me suggest they do at two things before making their decision: 1. talk to at least three *retired* TIAA-Cref members to see what their experiences have been, and 2. if they decided to go with TC, start setting aside a *cash* retirement fund, one that is held in a bank or credit union or under the mattress (remember that for each $100.00 you give the bank for a year, they’ll give you a whopping buck and a quarter return at the end of the year), to tide you through the period of early retirement while TC keeps finding additional forms that have to be filled out before you can receive any funds.

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avatar Eve Davis July 28, 2011 at 9:08 am

As I read this, I cannot believe how similar it sounds to my experience; in fact, I eventually contacted the TIAA-CREF Board of Trustees in order to get a withdrawal request honored. In addition, I was never told by the various representatives that I could wait a few months and draw(in one lump sum at the age of 65) the total amount. Instead, I was only told that I had to annutizeover 9 years. I am more fortunate than the situatiion cited above because it took one week shy of two months to get the first amount of a nine year payout. Why not contact the CEO or the Board about this problem?

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avatar Dan November 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm

You have to outsmart these financial wizards. If you have an annuitized over 9 year account. Take the money when you get your check each year and re-deposit it into a new IRA Traditional Account where you are guaranteed 3%. By doing that you get a higher interest rate than anything that’s out there and then you get a decuction when you file your income for that year or the previous year which you can do up and until the April 15 filing dates. So you get higher interest and a nice return on the IRA deduction. There are many ways to skin a cat and outbeat the so called experts at TIAA

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avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:09 am

Dan, please don’t give financial or tax advice you are clearly not qualified to give. Distributions from qualified retirement accounts (i.e. the nine year annuitization you reference) cannot be re-contributed to an IRA and deducted (at least not legally).

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avatar haha August 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Actually they can be contributed to an ira if he has earned income for the year. A TPA is still a rollover eligible withdrawal that gets taxed the mandatory 20%. But his logic doesn’t make sense because rolling those funds into an Ira would actually lower the interest rate received. The Retirement Annuity has the highest dividend paying guaranteed account available, so only benefit is its being reinvested into a flexible account. plus the currrent indexed ira’s have a 1% guarantee.

avatar Joel L. Frank July 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Distributions for a period of less than 10 years are eligible for rollover treatment.
Details of one’s personal situation will dictate whether effectuating the rollover is beneficial.

avatar Jon Held October 25, 2012 at 8:55 am

My dealings with TIAA over the last couple months is the worst experience I’ve ever had with a financial institution. Well over a month to get my first distribution, 300 minutes of phone time (that’s 5 hours) was wasted and I pay 10 cents a minute (that’s $30.) Now working on over 2 weeks on the second distribution and they process really is just getting started. I’ve been lied too, their customer service phone system is the worst I’ve ever had to deal with, there is no way to get to the same person twice. Every person you talk to is polite but nothing really gets done. I’ve gotten so mad I’ve been hung up on. I can’t get to upper management to complain even though 3 times I’ve been told I would get an email. The official complaint is probably the way to go.

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avatar Lillian James October 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Eve Davis,

WOW I have never been told by any T-CRAP representative that I can take ALL my annuity at age 65. I am going to look into this. If it is true than I can be dome with T-CRAP in less that two years ! wooohoooo !

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avatar RWA December 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I was never told that I could withdraw mine either and due to unforeseen medical problems and not being able to get a job due to both that and age, I desperately need this money but they refuse to give it to me except in small yearly increments. I begged them to reconsider but they told me they are in the right legally. I am at my wits end. They have a very cavalier attitude when talking to them. They either don’t care or don’t believe me.

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avatar michael Furman November 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Hi Eve/all,
Is there an address for writing to the board of Trustees? While I have a different issue,
TC has refused to even address it- not but telephone or email.
To name a few errant TC employees are:
Norman Liu Nliu@tiaa-cref.org
Ben Alemayehu Balemayehu@tiaa-cref.org
Tracy Green Tgreen@tiaa-cref.org
Acklema Mahabir….

I have submitted applications to open new IRA accounts and they refuse to respond.
If anyone knows of a government watch-dog to address TC issues, please advise.
Michael Furman

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avatar JT Wyatt May 20, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Do you know of any information/document that TC has regarding lump sum payout at 65. Everything I am being told is that it must be over 9 years. Neither a lump sum nor 9 year payout can I find in my contract. I have looked on the TC website and it is useless.

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avatar Cecile Lawrence November 8, 2011 at 8:49 am

I also have moved into the camp of the horror of trying to get my money out of TIAA-CREF. I called to get information on a withdrawal. The woman answering said the form could NOT be sent electronically but had to be via surface mail. After a few days, after the date she assured me by which I would receive the form, I got no form. I called again. The man answering said he could send it to me electronically, which he did, and would walk me through how to fill it out, which he did, while I took notes. I printed out the form, filled it in, put a stamp on it for the oversize, mailed it. After a few days, I checked the status. The man answering said there were errors on it and I needed to fill out a new form. By this time I, ordinarily a calm, polite, controlled person, lost it. Plus he could not send me the form right then as he would fill out most of it electronically but I should get it via email the next day. Right now it’s almost two weeks since I made the first request. Each person I speak to gives me a different answer. I need the money now. This company appears to be in almost total disarray. Get all of your money out ASAP. That’s what I intend to do as soon as I straighten out this instant mess, assuming it will be.
How does one contact the Board and CEO. They seem to hide themselves really well.

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avatar Dan November 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm

You can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau online in about ten minutes (google “better business bureau” and “complaint”). The electronic funds transfer for my withdrawal (after more than a month of failed tries) was initiated the same day they received my complaint from the BBB, which was just a couple of days after I filled out the online complaint form. You should make sure you keep record of the dates you interacted with various representatives, mailed things, etc.
Good luck!

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avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:17 am

Here we go again.

When dealing with a self regulatory financial organization like tiaa-cref the bbb is probably your least effective means of complaining I can think of.

Firstly, I would recommend submitting your complaint to tiaa in writing via email from your secure online account, and mailing a copy of the same correspondence by USPS to them. This will set in motion a fairly solid set of reaction from tiaa to record and reply to your written complaint as specified by regulatory agencies. They will then refer your complaint to a team of of consultants who specifically deal with written complaints to see them through to resolution for you.

If you do not receive resolution through this method, or are just plain upset still, you can contact your state’s insurance department (since tiaa is an insurance company they register and abide by each state’s insurance board) and/or the SEC/NAIC. The institution you worked for and contributed to tiaa through can also leverage weight on your behalf.

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avatar Marcia Godich December 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Your description of what you have been going through sounds appalling! But I would like to speak in favor of TIAA-CREF from my perspective. I retired in June, 2010. I had contacted TIAA-CREF a few months previously, spoke with a rep and was sent information for several options. About a month before retirement, I spoke with another rep who was very helpful (he did have slightly different info than the first – and his info was correct,) and talked me through all the steps. I said I didn’t need my retirement money to begin until the end of August. I received the forms with the correct date in the mail, took the necessary ones to my personnel office (I got them to sign them and mailed them back myself with my own forms.) Presto, my payments were sent directly to my bank account on exactly the date fixed. I don’t know whether the company deteriorated significantly in the year since I retired, or if I was particularly lucky with who I spoke to. But you should have been able to transfer all your funds over to TIAA guaranteed within 24 hours, so that the value didn’t go down – I did that before doing anything else.Of course, if you want to keep some of your funds in variable funds, they will vary. I am ultra conservative in investments, so I just switched everything over. In fact, if not done already, you can go online and do that transfer on your own – just shift everything from CREF to TIAA. If you aren’t sure how, get online to the right page, then call a TIAA rep and they can talk you through it (no signatures, forms, or notaries required!)

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avatar Vince December 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Dear Marcia
Of course they are nice to you if you want to keep their high fees and low returns. Perhaps P.T.Barnum said it best. But try to pry your funds out of their stcky hands and you will get the full horror show.

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avatar Marcia Godich March 5, 2012 at 2:28 am

I have friends with Vanguard, Ing, and Charles Schwab (we all retired the same year, 2010) So far as I can see, I am getting he most for what I had invested, and among the lowest fees. Of course, you may have invested in some higher risk arrangement than a straight annuity and be receiving more at present – but I opted for a lifetime annuity, because I plan to be around for awhile – and I don’t have any faith that the Dow will keep going up.

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avatar Vince March 5, 2012 at 6:12 am

With a TIAA annuity you simply prefer inflation risk to investment risk or longevity risk. I’m not saying that your preference is wrong, but it is incorrect to suggest that it is risk free. Long life to you but the longer you are around the greater the inflation risk. And there should be no fees whatever on an annuity. The lifetime fees for an annuity are part of the purchase price. It’s the only way you can compare the prices.

avatar Marcia Godich March 5, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Vince, you are quite right on both counts – I don’t have ongoing fees – I was referring to the initial costs involved. And, I realize that nothing is risk free (including I might be hit by a bus tomorrow and my heirs will have to deal with the mess:-) )and that inflation, while not a problem at present rates, could someday loom large. But since I don’t have to finance children through college or an expensive lifestyle (as well as saving the max through TIAA-CREF) I was able to leave 20% of my money invested to continue growingso that if the market performs well, I do well there – with enough in that fund to shift to an annuity as years go by to cover the inflation costs unless the market botttoms out again. By all means, for anyone who wants to continue another kind of investment plan in the hopes of better returns, that’s great for them, and I hope they do well – and it’s why Social Security is around, to keep us from the poorhouse if all our other plans (including mine) fail.

avatar Toby MacLennan February 18, 2013 at 10:14 pm

My understanding and experience with TIAA is that if you put your money into TIAA traditional you can only withdraw that same amount over a 10-year period. Please, anyone wanting to put money into TIAA traditional, talk to at least 5 different people at TIAA-CREF and see how you can WITHDRAW the money in the future.

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avatar Annie January 9, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I submitted my request to Tiaa Cref to return all my funds to me….they returned it in 24 hours. They are an excellent firm. I believe the people here on this blog are either being funded by other firms or want to just plainly LIE.

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avatar Sydney January 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Annie, I’m happy for you if what you say is true and that you are not an employee or board member. Sorry, a return in 24 hours cannot be true even if you did everything online and had electronic deposit into a checking or savings acct. I most definitely am not funded by another firm nor am I lying and I have the proof, including a letter of apology from one of TIAA-CREF’s customer satisfaction people. I’m about to withdraw some more to roll over into a CD or IRA for easier access, especially the way things are going in this country. We’ll see how that goes.

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avatar Lily January 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm


We are all high education people being ripped off by this company. You must have had all your funds in a money market to get them that fast. TIAA/CREF has been making mistakes on my account for over 10years. That company is a nightmare. I have tired to get my STUPID University to allow options but they are too self-imbued to give a rats ass about older faculty. Are you being paid to defend TIAA/CREF? You need to educate yourself on the downfall of this company and how it is stealing from academics.

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avatar Jimmy March 5, 2012 at 1:01 am

Whether your complaints are accurate, or not, I can plainly see by your grammar that you are not truly one of the “highly educated” from which TIAA-CREF is “stealing”. I gather from the spelling errors, improper use of the Eglish language, etc. you most likely have no idea how to read a prospectus, manage your accounts, or understand anything about investing.

Side note…TIAA-CREF is definitely not the easiest company to work with, but their investment strategies are pretty sound and it’s going to be hard to find a financially stronger investment and insurance firm.

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avatar Connie Jaquith March 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

I am truly saddened by all of this juvenile “carping.” TIAA-CREF is an incredible gift for all of us in higher education. I have experience with them, while I was working and now that I am retired. I have both retirement and brokerage accounts. I take advantage of their FREE “Wealth Management” services, annual reports on my investments and recommendations for future investing. Free services, advice from staff who are salaried, who do not work on commission. TIAA-CREF has your back. Trust them. Stay engaged with your institution’s advisors. It will not fail you.

avatar Seth Hill May 21, 2013 at 12:42 am

It’s easy to nit-pick someone’s grammar and insult them. It’s easy to find spelling errors such as “Eglish.” However, I try to look for meaning first and look at grammar and spelling second. I found Lily’s comments to be crystal clear, so I didn’t bother searching for minor errors in grammar and spelling. I wonder what bothered you so much about her comment?

avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:21 am

Considering that their standard turnaround time to distribute funds is two working days from the time your request is received in good order and an electronic funds transfer usually takes at the very least another day to process, this seems highly unlikely….

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avatar Ned May 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

That’s not possible. You cannot get your TIAA CREF funds within 24 hours.

You have to call and request the paperwork. They have to send the paperwork. You have to fill out the paperwork. You have to send back the paperwork. They have to process the paperwork. They have to mail you the check.

There is no way this can be done in 24 hours.

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avatar haha August 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Not true, they have straight through the phone processing which depends on the type of plan they have. IRA’s can initiate a payment as long as it is setup to be electronically transferred the day the request is made. the 3-5 day turnaround is placed to reflect the bank uploading payment information but depending on the circumstances it is definitely possible.

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avatar RWA November 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

I found myself in a situation similar to Bob’s, plus not being employed and having been hit with physical problems that prevented me from working. They will not, under any circumstances, release my money, they can, but have legality on their side and won’t. I spoke to several people, plus an AARP attorney who told me they have a reputation for behaving in this manner and it would be very costly to fight them. I was, and am, in very difficult financial straits and they simply do not care, more than that, the last woman I spoke with behaved in a smugly autocratic manner. She was strongly inhumane.

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avatar RWA November 7, 2012 at 11:55 am

Actually you can, and I have done it more than once when I had money that wasn’t annuitized. You do it online, not by mail. The direct deposit your money into your bank account.

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avatar RW July 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I’ve had terrible problems with TIAA CREF and for you to call us liars simply because you haven’t shows a truly low moral character.

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avatar Jon Held October 25, 2012 at 8:41 am

It took me well over a month to get my first distribution, I wasted over 300 minutes of phone time (that’s 5 hours) and now we are working on over 2 weeks on the second distribution. I have asked 3 times over a the course of a month and been assured each time of getting an email or contact with upper management to complain and that request still has not been granted. As for misspellings by retired faculty members, some lose the ability to type or care about grammar when they get so pissed off and mad about not having access to their own money. Don’t let something like that alter your impressions about the validity of the comments here. Why would someone bother to waste the time and complain about something if they where being treated fairly. After reading this site, I think the official complaint is the way to go. KSU has also complicated the system with another layer of red tape called Plan With Ease, I am heading up to the office today to question why we need that. If I could I would take every penny out of TIAA today. PS: I took the time to run this comment through a spell checker and found 4 mistakes, even though I taught Physics and Engineering for 30 years, I could care less out my lack of ability to spell rarely used words. Tools like spell checker are great.

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avatar zkeith October 25, 2012 at 10:43 am

Jon, I strongly endorse the use of T/C’s e-mail feature rather than using the phone to contact T/C. You will get a response within 48 hours (excluding weekend days). I find the e-mail responders to be very knowledgeable and helpful, and, of course, you have a paper trail (in electronic format). You can access the e-mail function under the “Contact Us” tab on T/C’s Web site. Best wishes for getting your issues resolved.

avatar RWA November 7, 2012 at 11:57 am
avatar Toby MacLennan February 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm

I find this comment to be so unprofessional its embarrassing. Retirement is a very important time in a persons life and financing that retirement may be one of the most crucial matters they ever face. Everyone here has a right to express their concerns and to be listened to. We should be supporting our colleagues rather than accuse them of lying or are being funded by other firms.

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avatar Christopher Benninger December 8, 2012 at 7:47 am

My experience with TIA-CREF was as others who noted wonderful during the “paying in” time. I started at Harvard’s GSD in 1970 and continued as a Ford Foundation Consultant on through 1976 and continued making investments until very recently . However, I was informed six months back that I cannot roll over an IRA from a poorly managed Merrill Lynch Scheme, and neither can I reinvest in TC Mutuals when I start making my mandatory draws in my retirement scheme at aged 70 +6 months. Now hear this! Since I am living and employed in INDIA, TC is hiding behind the Patriot Act and says they can no longer take investments from their decades old customers who bet their retirement lives on TC! Since I do not require my retirement income now and I want to re-invest in TC Mutuals, I have been told by operators/ mail BPOs that I just can’t do that. Somehow that strikes me as “breach of contract,” as I was not given any choice when I worked at Harvard or the Ford Foundation. Even if the Patriot Act strikes out against Americans serving abroad, it seems the duty of the TC legal division to challenge that in the US courts, to protect their investors ! TC will not let me get past the answering system (probably located right here in Pune where I live)! I have written and asked for the contact information of the person who handles members’s rights and there is no reply. TC is simply not interested in the fate of their life long investors. I can only say beware! Fortunately, I have never relied upon TC, or my Merrill Lynch investments, and most of my investments from mid-2006 were in-cashed and shifted to India where investments are more than reliable. But TC will not take any interest in members living abroad. So much for the resurgence of the US economy internationally, when the Government and organisations like TC are saying either resettle in the US and drop your international interests, or, “Get lost!” Germans and Japanese living in Pune, India where I live get lots of support for their efforts in establishing businesses abroad. Not so the USA.

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avatar William Weinmann January 24, 2013 at 7:57 am

I couldn’t agree with you more. The customer service department in Charlotte is awful. They are very helpful when you are contributing funds. When you are trying to make withdrawals they are completely non-responsive and do everything possible to drag their feet. I would rather have a root canal than try to get funds out of my Tiaa-Creff account.

I would recommend Fidelity, ING or any other retirement vehicle. Avoid Tiaa-Creff like the plague. They are that bad.

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avatar Christopher Hanks January 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

Hmmm. Unlike your experience, Mr. Weinmann, my experience doing withdrawals from TIAA-CREF has been excellent. I am fully retired. When I need to make a withdrawal from one of the five TIAA-CREF contracts I entered into over my working years (1980 to 2006), I log on to the password-protected website where all my account information is; I go to the “Manage my Portfolio tab; I select the “Request a Withdrawal” link, and then select which contract I want to make the withdrawal from. Because I am married I am subject to ERISA rules requiring notarized spousal signature for any withdrawal from my retirement accounts, so I print a copy of the withdrawal form ( specifying the amount to be withdrawn and deposited into my checking account electronically, and how much state taxes to withhold – federal withholding is a mionimum of 20%) and take that form to a notary public who witnesses my wife’s signature. . From the time I mail the notarized withdrawal form with both my and my wife’s signatures to the specified TIAA-CREF address in Charlotte, it takes about 7 days for the withdrawn funds to show up in my account. It’s all pretty straightforward, and I have never had a problem. I am a US resident. I cannot speak to what’s required if you live overseas and are trying to do withdrawals.

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avatar Zkeith January 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

I did my first MDO on 5 contracts in 2012. It was a flawless process–and just as easy as doing the RMD with Fidelity and Merrill-Lynch.
I always use the e-mail function rather than phone to contact T/C, and I’ve always had terrific service.

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avatar TIAAcritic April 6, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I’ve had the same experience with “customer disservice” at Charlotte: I’ve tried for more than a year to get specific information from TIAA-CREF by snail mail and e-mail, and consistently have run into a brick wall: They refuse to answer my request for information relating to their past history of TIAA Traditional payouts to retirees. I simply (“simply”?) want to know whether and when they have ever reverted to their so-called minimal guaranteed contractual rate (which right my 3+ decade-old contract doesn’t provide for, incidentally).

You would not believe the run-around I’ve been given! One representative, in a series of e-mails over a month’s time, told me I would receive this information, but nothing ever came. When I expressed dissatisfaction — courteously, mind you — he referred me to a “Customer Resolution Manager,” who apparently didn’t want to put anything in writing, and has attempted to phone despite my request not to phone. (Yes, I’d like the information in written form.) I’ve written to him a number of times: No answer.

The obvious conclusion I’ve drawn is that TC *needs* to hide the facts about their history of payouts to retirees. Why would they need to do this?

As a result, I’m thinking seriously of moving my TC savings elsewhere even though this will require 9 years plus a day with their self-serving TPA rules. I haven’t begun annuitizing yet because of this concern.

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avatar Marcia Godich April 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I took most of my TIAA_CREF investment in a fixed rate annuity in 2010. My boyfriend took his in 2009. Both of us were told what the minimum guaranteed was and meant. I was also told that, in the 12 years my rep had worked for TIAA, the rates had sometims stayed the same, sometimes gone up (as they did this year) but had never gone down at all, let alone to the minimum guaranteed. However, he did point out that, as always, past experience was no guarantee.:-) My boyfriend was told essentially the same thing – in his case, the rep said that it was his understanding that the annuity had never been reduced to the minimum. So, while I can’t guarantee my info is correct, at least I can say that two reps said essentially the same thing to two retirees at different times.

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avatar TIAAcritic April 7, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Marcia – Thanks for your posting and the encouraging information. I do also hope it’s right.

Since I posted here, there’s been another discussion at http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=114307&p=1662596&e=1662596 which you might be interested in reading.

It’s been very frustrating that T-C stubbornly refuses to give out information about their payout history — especially if their history is reassuring. Hard to understand. Maybe they just don’t want to give people false hopes about the future, but then no mutual fund company worries about this — they capitalize on their good news!

I’d certainly like to know whether T-C’s payouts have never been reduced as your friend was told. Has anyone else heard this? T-C has been in existence since the early 1900s, so their payout record through the Great Depression would be interesting.

avatar Dan July 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

I worked at an institution that contributed to a cref account on my behalf for two years. I have moved elsewhere, and I have another retirement account (roth IRa). I am currently trying to withdraw (after an initial failure and the complexity of rolling over to a roth IRA). I sent in forms that were declined by TIAA-Cref because the signatures were over 90 days old (I had to get a notarized signature from my wife who was out of state at the time, a signature from a past employer in another state, neither more wife or I had easy access to fax, so we used the mail, and my wife and I have other jobs to do!). I received a call and was told I could sort it over the phone when I could get to the internet. When I was able to get to my computer and call, this was not the case. Rather, I was told I had to complete hard copies of the same forms over again along with a tax form, but I wouldn’t have to redo signatures other than my own. Apparently I didn’t need my wife’s signature, because the amount was small enough, but the form should say that, because getting a notarized signature can be a pain for people that work in the middle of nowhere for large chunks of the year! I was told by the rep that he would send me a pre-filled form electronically that I would simply have to print, sign and mail. When that didn’t happen, I called again, and I was told that I did have to get a signature from my former employer (the previous rep had told me I didn’t have to). I just want my money.

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avatar Dan August 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Update: To my horror, after my case was referred to a specific representative last Wednesday, after business on Friday, my withrawal status once again reas as “Your request could not be processed”. However, and I wonder if this is more than coincidence, Tiaa-Cref received my complaint from the Better Business Bureau this morning, and now my withrawal status reads “Your request has been submitted for payment”. Hopefully I’ll see a credit to my bank account by this time tomorrow.

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avatar Jim August 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm

My father worked in academic medicine and, as a result, had 403B retirement accounts with TIAA-CREF for over 50 years. He passed away in December 2008. We immediately established an IRA at TIAA-CREF for my mother, the named beneficiary, to receive the 403B account funds, which were (according to TIAA-CREF’s online account access system) successfully moved to her IRA in 2009.

In December 2010, as we attempted to arrange a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from my mother’s IRA, TIAA-CREF informed us that the distributions in 2009 were not completed properly and everything needed to be reversed to enable TIAA-CREF to start the process from the beginning. Of course, with the online system completely at odds with this news, I involved my mother’s accountants. With only a few days left in the tax year, TIAA-CREF moved all funds back to my father’s name (he had then been deceased for 2 years), paid an RMD from his accounts (twice as much as would have been paid from my mother’s IRA), and then distributed the funds to my mother’s IRA. TIAA-CREF acknowledged its errors and promised to reimburse my mother’s additonal costs.

Now, 8 months later, TIAA-CREF is refusing to reimburse my mother’s out-of-pocket costs, which are about $25,000 ($18,000 in additional 2010 income taxes plus legal and accounting fees). I have filed complaints with the SEC, the state Office of Financial Regulation, two state senators, and my father’s two prior employers, and I have an attorney poised to sue.

It is remarkable to me that a large institution like TIAA-CREF is actually attempting to get away with this type of abuse. I suppose that the company believes the legal fees for my mother to litigate would be too high for $25,000 in controversy. We’ll see. I am one who believes in doing the right thing, even if it costs to see justice prevail.

Suffice it to say that, anyone doing business with TIAA-CREF does so at his or her own financial peril. The company is unscrupulous in its business relationships with retirees and their beneficiaries. A totally despicable organization in my experience.

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avatar Harvey September 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm

You may want to check with filing a complaint with the Department of Labor as well has they also have jurisdiction over ERISA plans. I am having problems with my wife’s TIAACREF plan as well.

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avatar JORGE NAVARRO September 2, 2011 at 8:05 am

After 3 months I was finally able to get the 403b funds rolled over. I also contacted the Department of Labor which was of asstance in getting the situation resolved.

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avatar Tom August 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm

My TIAA-CREFF funds have been miss-assigned / miss-delegated to the wrong colleges.. so that a college I worked decades at has a small amount of my funds, while one I worked at for one tear for a “pittance” has tens of thousands of dollars in it.

The responses I have received have typically said my investments must have done well in the 21 years
since a few hundred dollars, if that, were deposited in that one academic year at that college. No surmise is given as to why the college I worked at for 20 years has assigned to it a tiny fraction of the amount assigned/designated to the one-year gig.

No one returns my calls. I’m told its being looked into. No email has been sent, let alone with a code number saying anything at all-silence.

My last call said its being turned over to a dispute resolution person– as if there was anything to dispute in the face of the bare readable facts.

I’m turning this over to an attorney.

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avatar Marcia Godich December 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Doesn’t your (second) college have a record of the funds they invested for you? Every paycheck I got (I have kept all 24 years worth) included funds paid into TIAA CREF, and the school’s annual statement gave me a summary – so I could check it with TIAA. I also periodically checked TIAA online to realign investments, and each time made sure the amounts matched. But whatever, you really ought to have your school’s records on your side. They were seriously remiss if they didn’t keep records, and you should be able to get redress from THEM! I know sometimes it gets confusing. For some reason, my school changed over their system, so that the first few years had a different account number than afterwards. But it was the school not TIAA, that made the change, and after retirement, the funds were all there, though in two accounts – which still show up as separate on TIAA’s statements.

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avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:35 am

This is a standard coached finger pointing response I have heard many times from tiaa employees to direct participants to their employers. Both tiaa and your former employer should be able to provide a contribution by contribution history to you. If the records do not match up, you can ask your employer to contact their support team at tiaa directly on your behalf to resolve.

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avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:32 am

Unless you worked for multiple employers that were part of the same “system,” your funds may have been mis-allocated during the transition from an old system to a new one several years ago that caused a number of issues for tiaa. If you worked for multiple employers within a system, many employers have been unable to provide historical info to positively identify which employer within their system funds came from.

I would recommend speaking with tiaa to review the employer’s rules for each of your plans in order to ensure the error is not reducing the options available to you. If they are not, the impact to you is likely negligible, but if they are you may wish to put your concerns in writing to tiaa in order to solicit a written complaint procedure response.

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avatar Jorge Navarro August 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I have been trying to rollover an account to another institution and all I get from TIAA-CREF is a run around. Everytime that I sent the paperwork they request something different, and when you provide it, they ask for something else. They obviously do not want to part with any money even if it is not theirs. Their reps apparently try to help but in general they are useless and do not seem to know what they are doing. Very frustrating. I will research the agencies that regulate them and file a complaint.

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avatar Terry September 22, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Well my story starts with my trying to withdraw all of my funds from both of my accounts with TIAA-CREF. The First attempt was made in July 2011 and was denied, why? Online sight just says “Your request could not be completed. You may verify your eligibility and request a new payment or call us.” So I call and I’m told funds couldn’t be paid because I was under the age of 55 and the plan I was under required I be 55 before requesting a withdraw. I asked why wasn’t I informed of this when I called and requested the paperwork to make a the withdraw, and was told “yeah the person should have told you that”. OK I turned 55 in September 2011. I request the paper work and receive a paket with a ton of paper work. I fill out the paperwork the best i could. On one of the forms that I needed my wife to sign the place she needed to sign and the part for the notary were on different pages so I went online to there site and printed up a form. My Wife lives out of state so had to do the fax thing mentioned above. Faxed all the paperwork in on September 20,2011 and called later that day to make sure that the fax was recieved and was told that they did recieve all the paperwork but the fact that I used to different forms (some from there web sight and some from what they mailed to me) and the fact that the form that stated how much did I want the State to take out in taxes was wrong. Misunderstanding what it asked I put 100% thinking that it asked how much of the money was taxable. OK so the person tells me this paper work is no good and you will have to resubmitt your paperwork. So September 22,2011 I resend the paper work. I call to confurm they recieved the fax. The rep i spoke with says yes we received all the paperwork and all looks good. So I ask well when can I exspect to se the funds in my account and he says well it takes about two days to processe the paper work and then six days to deposit into my bank via electronic transfer and seven days to mail you a check. So I ask why it took so long to wire the money to my account and he says well let me have a look at your account. He pulls it up my account after my anwsering Four security questions(my social, date of birth, address, and phone number) wow what great security. Then he informs me that I have NO moneys in my account. I of course say you must be mistaken and he puts me on hold for about thirty min. and comes back and says your entire retirement fund was donated to the IRS! I say you are kidding me and he says no. He go’s on to say well it’s not ower fault that you put to deduct 100% of your money to taxes. I went on to tell him of the conversation I had with the person whom informed me of the error I made on the tax form and that my paperwork was NO good. He put me on hold again and came back and said we will try to get your money back so call back in two days and we will let you know something. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. What should I do? Wait the two days hire a lawer or what? Please Help Me. These people are the pitts when it comes to customer service. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone us this place.

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avatar Marcella A McClure September 24, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I have had problems with TIAA/CREF for over 10yrs. This is one CRAP load of a company. It is really too bad that the academic machine MAKES YOU INVEST WITH THESE NUTBALLS. Now the latest just shows what idiots work at this place. I have my SRA rolled over each month to Vanguard. This has been going on for five years. Each summer I have no salary and so each fall this process is started again. The last two years have been insane. Today I received a check-minus takes for the monthly funds that are to go to Vanguard. When will someone hut this farce down and give us our funds ?

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avatar Darrrell September 29, 2011 at 10:49 am

Glad to know you feel this to be minor.

Others report stonewalling over years on mis-allocations; mistakes running years: no mistake about their legendary incompetencies.

How about endless c calls that go nowhere and deliberately calling their mistakes “dispute/resolutions”..: misdirecting your accumulations into the wrong universities one taught at.

Worse, these mis-attributed sub-totals, dramatically changing– wrongly–changing each year, for consecutive years!! The scariest place to place your retirement funds, is TIAA-CREF

And, the person trying to transfer funds to Vanguard? One can only wonder how many others in that so-called program have been living in torment. He isn’t the first case reported on complaint platforms.

Many of us could write a 500 page book?

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avatar Dan September 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I got stonewalled until the day they received my complaint from BBB…then I got my money.

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avatar James B. Colvert October 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm


For more than thirty years I paid confidently into a TIAA-CREF retirement plan with no glimmer of expectation of the trouble I’d have with the company’s payout policies and methods at retirement time. About two months before my 90th birthday TIAA-CREF advised me that on that date I would be required to choose one of several options regarding the amount and frequency of my retirement payments. These options were listed and described briefly in a letter covering a hefty bundle of application forms and instructions.

I regretted the change of status required by these payout options for two reason: first, I have no immediate need for them, having, luckily, income from other sources; and second (and more important), I felt that the annuitization of my accounts, required by all the proffered options, increased the possibility that TIAA-CREF could very soon after converting to annuities become the principal beneficiary of my life savings. I am 90, my beneficiary is 86. The odds would strongly favor the probability that most of this money would soon be free to be rolled into its own accounts.

I mentioned these concerns to my local financial advisor and was happy to be reminded that it was entirely unnecessary to accept any one of TIAA-CREF’s disadvantageous payout options. I could simply roll over my accounts to another financial institution, one with a rule that would extend my income date, say, to age 95, providing an additional five years of tax-sheltered savings. I requested TIAA-CREF to roll over to accounts I opened at another finanacial institution.

This is where my troubles began. In nearly two months of confusion and uncertainty (and considerable anxiety) TIAA-CREF seemed to reveal that it had somehow lost its ability to manage rollover procedures. At times I wondered if the problems that arose were not deliberately designed to delay or confuse the rollover effort. I was told, for example, that only TIAA-CREF’s own form was acceptable for some rollover transactions, that the form could not be downloaded from TIAA-CREF’s online site, that it could be sent only to me personally by U.S. mail. I requested it and waited for more than three weeks for it to arrive. When I questioned the company about it, I was told that TIAA-CREF had no record of my request for the form. When I last acquired and submitted it, after a review for correctness of execution by financial experts, I discovered in my next call to TIAA-CREF that it had inexplicably rolled over only part of the full amount in the account, leaving about $17,000 in the account undisturbed. Additional papers had to be submitted to reverse this error.

I ordered rollovers for two other accounts, and once again TIAA-CREF surprised me. I received two personal checks, identified as two monthly annuity payments. When I called TIAA-CREF its spokesperson explained that although I had been sent two checks, I should have received only one, that the second had been erroneously issued a month early. The agent confirmed that TIAA-CREF had annuitized my accounts and that the checks were monthly annuity payments. The company had processed them as though I had after all selected one of its options, despite my meticulously prepared form requesting rollovers. After discussions with my local advisor, who by this time was kindly intervening in my behalf, TIAA-CREF agreed to reverse the annuitizing process and eventually rolled them over to my accounts with the new financial institution.

I’m glad I’m able to say that the ordeal resulted in no loss of funds and that they are now deployed correctly at my new finanacial institution. They are tax-sheltered for another five years. I frankly can’t imagine an explanation for the mix-ups that occurred with what I presume should have been routine financial transactions. The supposition that the troubles were deliberately generated in attempts to discourage my choice of an option TIAA-CREF had not sanctioned (or even mentioned) makes no sense. Nothing TIAA-CREF did or did not do could possibly have influenced my decision to move my accounts to an institution offering a better haven for my retirement funds. More likely, my troubles grew out of a serious disordes in procedures, inadequate policies, and poor communications in the business offices of TIAA-CREF. Until the company takes positive steps to remedy its ills, whatever they may be, the prospective investor should bear in mind the unhappy, even frightening, experiences of hundreds of its clients and former clients.

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avatar Elisha Williams November 1, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I’m not surprised that clients who have their retirement funds with TIAA-CREF. This was once a superb organization with a client focused dedication, until they hired Herb Allison, a former Merrill Lynch executive in 2002 ( he left in 2008). The people that I and my university use to interact with to resolve problems are no longer working there. Problems take months to get resolved and mistakes have quadrupled to the point where employees are investing elswhere.

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avatar Paul Hofman December 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm

As a former employee I am looking to take money out of the system and haven’t gotten a response to my questions. I was there before Herb Allison. The participants were clearly the number one priority at that time.
It seems they have lowered themselves to the standards of other financial organizations.

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avatar Ex-T/C December 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I am also a former T/C employee (pre-Herb Allison). Herb killed the customer-focused spirit of the company. I don’t even recognize it anymore.

We have been trying to roll out my wife’s IRA and they continue to gum up the process. They clearly have enacted a complicated set of rules/paperwork to frustrate those who want to leave. From a customer service standpoint, T/C has become a disingenuous joke of a company that no longer desreves to be compared with it competitors like Fidelity or Vanguard (or others). My advice to all is to dump participation with this company and try (your best) to remove any funds that they are clinging on to.

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avatar Edicito November 12, 2011 at 7:46 am

Wow, what a lot of horror stories out there. My TC rollover of 1/3 total funds to Vanguard eventually went though with comparatively little difficulty.

A question: have others found it possible to take the MRD from a PREFERRED TC account? If taken from the traditional account, is one further able to transfer the 10% per year to another account?

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avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:43 am

You may want to call and talk to tiaa about your options. At last I knew, tiaa will not split payments from the tiaa traditional account being made over the nine year and one day transfer payout annuity. Instead they will likely recommend that you rollover each payment to a tiaa Ira, take your rmd from that Ira, and then rollover the remainder to wherever you wish.

Rolling over the entirety of each payment to your vanguard account and then taking rmd could achieve the same end result. Either way, make sure you are confident ipin the amount you need to withdraw to satisfy your rmd and do not rely on either institution for it.

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avatar Alex D. Christensen December 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I have been working on closing my account with TIAA-Cref. I started in Apr. 28 2011. when the first packet arrived….many months later , after countless phone tag sessions with my former employers HR director..( separation date approval) i was notified my forms are incomplete ..i would have to begin again ! The 2nd packet , never arrived.. I just spoke with a service rep and cleared up whatever need to be and should receive my new forms in about a week ! i look forward to starting this all over , with another direct deposit and voided check , dont forget to sign and date everywhere ! mabey after all is said and done . i may have a few hundred dollars for the holiday season after loosing several thousand dollars threw TIAA-Cref.

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avatar Dan December 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

TIAA Cref can verify your separation date themselves…they just don’t like to bother. If you make an honest effort to do that, things fall through, and TIAA Cref fails on their end, contact the better business bureau, and I bet the electronic transfer will initiate the same day they receive the complaint from the BBB. It worked for me.

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avatar Stephen December 4, 2011 at 1:07 am

These negative comments about TIAA-CREF are all very disturbing.. I am glad Dan seems to find help with the BBB. Here in Cookevile, TN, I have been very unhappy with the BBB on other issues..

Is there any difference for any of you regarding your experience with TIAA as opposed to your experience with CREF?


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avatar jefferson December 5, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I initiated an EFT over two weeks ago and was mis-handled by someone who was a trainee. After 35 minutes of being kept on hold for much of the transaction, I requested that I speak to a supervisor. He took over but did not seem to be much more adept than the trainee.
I learned that my requested transfer was returned to Tiaa-Cref because the bank account I used for the EFT had been closed and i had failed to notify them of the new routing number and checking account number(My mistake). However i was told that I would be mailed a check for the requested amount within two business days. When i called again, I was told that it had been mailed (three business days later, Dec.01). I also gave the rep new routing #’, checking acct. #, etc. for future transactions.
My check did not arrive today, Dec. 05. I called again. This time I was told that the check was mailed today( not Dec. 01 as i was originally told!!! I asked the rep to give me the new bank info I had provided four days earlier and he said it was not on record!!! I gave it to him again and was told the processor was being “slow”!! He called me back fifteen minutes later and asked for the same bank info I had already given him since he would try a new procedure!!!
Meanwhile it looks like I may be biting the bullet for bills that are to be paid electronically and I am still waiting for my check in the mail.

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avatar Vince December 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm

My experience with withdrawing funds from Cref was so awful that I actually took pleasure this evening in telling a CREF survey person that a ZERO was far too high a score for their service and negative numbers should have been on offer. It is simply the worst firm I have ever dealt with except Merrill Lynch. I am a law professor and I chaired the statewide faculty pension group. Other posters have told similar stories in graphic detail. They will take your money electronically but they must have the largest group of mentally challenged “form creators” in the world. I think they cut down a new tree and make the paper by hand for each form they are supposed to send out. They are also easily confused by married couples with different last names.
If you are stuck with them while you are working, the moment you retire roll all the money you can into an IRA and get away from them.

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avatar Steve - Near retirement January 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm

There is a penalty, as I understand it from TIAA-CREF, to take your entire amount out at the moment you retire. Is that what others among you have encountered? Was it worth it? Is there no way one can cancel the relationship before retirement, moving to a vendor of one’s personal choice? I suppose not when it’s a plan the employer drives to which it contributes.

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avatar Me February 8, 2012 at 12:48 am

Unless you own a GRA account with TIAA Traditional in it, they do not charge you a penalty for withdrawing funds (2.5%) in the scenario above, but the IRS may do so if you are younger than 59 1/2 or are separating from the employer you contributed to your account from before age 55

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avatar Vince December 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm

And for those who are enamored of CREF as an investment vehicle
As of dec 1 the 10 year rate of return for Cref is 3.68%
For Vanguard’s total stock market index Admiral shares 3.94%

That is a huge difference on an index fund.

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avatar Bob December 26, 2011 at 5:38 pm

We’re moving to Vanguard. Our CREF funds have a not-too-expensive (by industry standards) of about 0.44%. The Vanguard Admiral index funds that we use have a very low cost of 0.11. Doesn’t sound like much, but it is 1/4 of the CREF cost. And it adds up, big time, with a substantial account and enough time.

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avatar joe December 27, 2011 at 4:48 pm

“Vince December 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm
And for those who are enamored of CREF as an investment vehicle
As of dec 1 the 10 year rate of return for Cref is 3.68%
For Vanguard’s total stock market index Admiral shares 3.94%
That is a huge difference on an index fund.”

The performance difference is due largely to the lower expense charge on the VG Admiral fund (0.07% vs 0.44%). There is very little difference in the fund’s performance. Smile, if you were in VALIC-AIG the expense charge would be > 1.00%.

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avatar Vince December 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Of course there is no difference in the nominal fund performance since they are both index funds.
Index fund Fees are the same as the markup at a car dealership. You get the same car, you can just pay more for it.

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avatar Gary January 22, 2012 at 11:52 pm


Please see my recent post regarding ROI.


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avatar Bob December 12, 2011 at 8:16 pm

My wife retired in July and we’ve been trying to move her money from TIAA-CREF to another company. It has been hell to do so. TIAA-CREF has obstacles along the way that could only have been planned by bureaucrats in Russia. We’ve spent a couple of months now doing this and are about 3/4 the way through. If you have worked at more than one institution and have multiple plans, the situation is even worse. My advice for others is to get your money out as fast as you can once your employment has ended. If you wait until death, be prepared for a very arduous and painful experience.

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avatar Rooney December 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm

My wife is a current employee at TIAA-CREF. It is apparently and incredibly stressful place of employment. I can understand everyone having difficulty getting your dollars out of the organization. The internal workings of the Financials seems to be a mess. Not the dollars necessarily but the complexity and the high employee turnover and no back ups and poor to non functioning management make it a really messed up joint. I would recommend your orgainization move to a different retirement plan vendor all together because this place is MESSED UP.

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avatar Jimmy April 13, 2012 at 12:00 am

Wow!!! Your livelihood is to some extent supported by horrible TIAA-CREF and you are recommending those to do business elsewhere. I think some people just like to hear themselves complain…as shown through this entire board.

For every one person complaining, there are 100 people completely fine. The crazy and constantly unhappy and complaining individuals that always seem to find there way to boards like these are the same people normal people don’t like to hang out with.

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avatar Call me abnormal May 25, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Wow, Jimmy, count me as another abnormal person who has found TIAA-CREF to be totally incompetent and irresponsible. To anyone else reading this: If you have any choice at all, avoid TIAA-CREF like the plague!

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avatar Flee the T January 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Jimmy, Do you get paid to be stupid? You actually believe that people complain about TIAA-CRAP just for the sheer pleasure of it? Or that all those recounting their horror stories with TIAA-CRAP are lying? This is as corrupt and dysfunctional organization as you can find in the private sector, and get away with it partly because they can count on apologists like you.

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avatar Christopher Hanks December 19, 2011 at 11:38 pm

I’m a TIAA-CREF retiree who is “self-managing” his TIAA-CREF retirement account. (I do that using internal transfers among and between my CREF equity & bond accounts and my CREF money market account (where I keep a balance), so that as the market goes through its regular big fluctuations, I can take cash, if I need it, from the money market account and not be forced to sell CREF stock when the market is down.
Having daily access (with a 15-minute delay) to the Russell 3000 performance on the TIAA-CREF website under Market News was very helpful for someone like me who is self-managing his TIAA-CREF nest egg, because the Russell 3000 index valuetracks so closely with the CREF Stock Fund unit value (just divide the daily change in the Russell 3000 change by three if you want a good estimate of what the CREF Stock Fund unit-value change will be.)
So what does TIAA-CREF do today? It changes the format of Market News and stops including the Russell 3000 performance .
In the spirit of several other comments on this website – this change in the website is another example of TIAA-CREF’s tendency to pay very little attention to its customers who are taking money OUT (namely retirees) as opposed to its customers who are still working and paying in.

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avatar Chris December 21, 2011 at 10:33 am

I was employed at a university up north, and enrolled in TIAA Cref, as it seemed like a good investment. Five years later, I moved down to Florida, where I began working at a YMCA, which had its own retirement plan. While I could have left my money in TC, I opted to roll it over to the Y’s account. I contacted TC, and they sent me the necessary forms to fill out for both my TIAA Traditional and my Cref accounts. I completed both forms and mailed them back in. I received confirmation that the Cref account was transferred, but never heard anything about the TIAA Traditional. I contacted them again, a few months later, and was told that they can’t rollover the entire amount at once. It has to be done over 10 years. I said that’s fine, but I haven’t had any confirmation that this process had begun, and I recently received another statement from TC, which had all the funds still in the TIAA Traditional. They sent me another series of forms to fill out, which I did. A few months later, I got the forms back, saying that the HR director that I had sign the form was not the correct person. I sent the form in again, having the same HR person sign the form, and I got it back again. This time, the problem wasn’t with the HR director’s signature, it was with the Notary. I assumed it was because the Notary was also the HR director, so I had it notarized by someone else. Sent the forms back in. A few months later, I got them back. This time, I was told that they could not accept the signature of the HR director at my previous job, as it was a fax copy. I live 1,000 miles away from my previous job, so it’s not like I can just hop in the car, drive over and get a signature. A faxed copy seems perfectly reasonable to me. It has now been almost 3 years since I started this process. Yes, the delay was, in part, my fault, as I had a baby and didn’t always have the time to deal with all the paperwork as soon as it was returned to me. But this is getting a bit ridiculous. I just want to be able to transfer my money. It shouldn’t be this difficult.

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avatar jefferson December 28, 2011 at 11:15 am

Tiaa-Cref continues its dysfunction. Several weeks ago after I sent an e-mail complaint re: their services to their secured message site, I received a telephone call requesting that I call an 800 number to resolve my issues with TIAA-CREF.
I called, left my telephone number———only to never receive a call back!!!!!
Yesterday i called to see if TIAA Cref had received my request (sent two weeks earlier) for a new EFT site. I had been told by them to send specific items (voided check,etc.) which I did. However , not until i called yesterday was i informed that I also had to enclose a TIAA=Cref form, with the previously submitted material, requesting aEFT withdrawal in order for my new EFT to be activated. I was never informed of this latest necessity until yesterday. Communication???????
So what are WE going to do with this once prestigious institution that seems clearly to be unraveling?

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avatar Vince December 28, 2011 at 11:39 am

“Something lingering with boiling oil in it . . . something humorous but lingering–with either boiling oil or melted lead”

They still have over 100k of my wife’s retirement. Prying anything out of their greedy little fingers takes vast effort

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avatar Olive December 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm

For more than three years, TIAA/CREF has miss-applied, miss-designated, miss-attributed ( what is the term?) my contributions. prior to bungling my bundle, my contributions were assigned to the correct institution. There are three.

Since the entrenched continuing error, over three years, the wrong dollar amounts have been assigned to the three universities I taught at.

Outcome no correction has been made and its not possible to reach upper-level management. Stone walling is breathtaking, but I’ve recorded all of my periodic calls to them.

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avatar Kem January 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

After spending 32 minutes on the phone with “customer no service” they were still unable to change my address. It is amazing to me how I can receive statements at one address for 4 years but yet they tell me that the only address they have on file is a house that I sold 4 years ago. How could I receive statements from them for the last 4 years???? I am looking at a statement with the correct address but yet they cannot find it in the computer. This does not instill confidence in a company and does not make me comfortable with them having my money. Run not walk away.

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avatar Edicito January 11, 2012 at 4:40 am

I have had both good and unpleasant experiences, but I suspect there is some piling on in a few comments by non-members. However, there are enough genuine problems shared among all of us for TC to take some serious action and soon.

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avatar Christopher Hanks January 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

The large number of baby boomers that have been working at all the educational institutions and other non- profits that TIAA-CREF was created to serve are now starting to retire, which means relatively larger numbers of people than TIAA-CREF is used to will be looking to TIAA-CREF to help them manage their retirement nest eggs with money coming OUT, as opposed to money going IN. My sense, based only on my own experience, is that I don’t think TIAA-CREF has fully adjusted yet to accommodate that change that’s coming in what they have to do to fulfill their mission, which is to help people in the academic and non-profit world (none of whom have become “wealthy” given the careers they chose) to have secure retirements. My overall experience with TIAA-CREF is that it is a decent, honest organization that has, commendably, remained focused on its original mission; they just need to realize that over the next 20 years they are going to have to pay more attention to their noisy old customers born between 1946 and 1964.

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avatar Marcella McClure February 2, 2012 at 2:57 am

You must be joking ! T-CRAP problems began with a new software platform and proceeded into bad management over the last 8 years. There have been thousands of complaints filed about lack of access to funds and errors in funds transfers. Yes TIAA-CREF was once a company for non-profits that many Universities FORCE us to invest in, but once they opened to anyone for investment they lost their investment mission for non-profits.

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avatar Marcia Godich January 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm


Your comment sounds like a well-reasoned one. I was one of the lucky retirees perhaps because, although I am by no means an accountant or stock watcher (I was a teacher of rhetoric, not math,) I did take time to keep records of my contributions over the years follow TIAA CREF’s WEB site for information on what to expect when I retired. I must admit, I have trouble recognizing that many of my colleagues seem to have just glided along, expecting that TIAA CREF would take care of everything when they hit retirement. So, for example, my closest friend was shocked to learn, not only that his annuity amounts consisted of a much lower guaranteed amount and a variable dividend, but also that it was only the second representative he dealt with who thought to explain that to him. It would be nice if we could rely on TIAA CREF to have sufficient numbers of reps, all fully trained to communicate with people who, though educated are often annuity/retirement funds illiterates. Unfortunately, we have to face reality and learn how to share the responsibility for navigating the shoals of retirement. Perhaps that is even a good thing, because it will help us keep our minds active and more capable of facing the economic and technical changes in the century ahead. At least, that is better than whining about our problems like teenagers reluctant to become adults.

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avatar Vince January 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Since you taught Rhetoric , I’ll assume you understand many will take personal offense at your snide comment “At least, that is better than whining about our problems like teenagers reluctant to become adults.”. I’m an attorney and my experience in prying my retirement money out of TIAA was AWFUL. And no, all the careful watching of TIAA over the years in no way shape or form could have prepared anyone for just how terrible and time wasting the experience was. I do take the time to warn all the others out there that as long as you put up with their poor returns and high fees everything will be warm and cozy but the moment you look at the reality and try to go elsewhere with your money you will get the TIAA CREF stonewall.

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avatar zkeith January 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I’ve found that when I use the message service provided by TIAA-CREF rather than the phone service, I get much better results. When sending a message, I receive a reply that I will have a response within 2 business days, and I’ve never been let down. The nice thing is that if I have additional questions, I can can send those directly to the same person who responded to my earlier message.

To defend TIAA-CREF, I recently requested the paperwork to exercise the Minimum Distribution Option because I turn 70 this year. (I made this request of the person I had been communicating with via e-mail). The forms arrived within days, and quite a bit of the information had been pre-entered (name, address, account numbers, etc.) I only had to add a few things, such as how I wanted my distribution, how often I wanted the distribution, when I want my first check, etc. It could not have been easier. I can even look on the TIAA-CREF Web site to see that my form was received. The person I have been e-mailing about the MDO process volunteered to let me know when the forms were received and that they were complete as I submitted them. Contrast this with another financial firm where I have a Keogh account, and I have to submit an extensive amount of paperwork each time I want to take a RMD. Not only that, I have to get my wife’s signature notarized that she is giving me permission to forego her half of each distribution. The only way I can avoid needing her notarized signature is to set up an annuity to remove the money from the Keogh account.

I do take the time to change my positions in TIAA-CREF periodically, which is probably good because my TIAA-CREF accounts suffered less freefall than my Fidelity, American Funds, and Merrill-Lynch retirement accounts did. The T/C accounts have also recovered at a higher rate than any of the others.

I did not try to remove any T/C funds until MDO “kicked in.” Had I, perhaps I would have a totally different impression of T/C. My next big challenge is where to invest the RMD I have to take this year to maximize my return. I will likely focus on Vanguard initially.

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avatar Vince February 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm

An MDO means THEY keep your money as long as possible. Of course they Love you and will do anything to keep their hands on your money. And you have to compare returns on equivalent assets showing equivalent risks. their returns on index funds are below Vanguard because their fees are higher.

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avatar haha August 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

mdo means they calculate the rmd for you and pay it out automatically… you can take withdrawals on top of them whenever you want… Learn your facts before you post… It actually makes you smarter, not make you look smarter for spouting nonsense.

avatar BH August 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

“mdo means they calculate the rmd for you and pay it out automatically… you can take withdrawals on top of them whenever you want…”

I believe any additional withdrawals, on top of a rmd from a RA, could be limited by the 9 year and 1 day period of a TPA.

avatar Marcella McClure February 2, 2012 at 2:50 am

You are very insulting. I am an adult who managed their University FORCED INVESTMENT in T-CRAP for 15 years. Before they changed to a very bad software platform, before they hired bad CEOs. Hey lady this company so bad that the first time I attempted to transfer funds to another company it took MONTHS and they transferred 2x what I actually had in the account. Try explaining this ERROR to the IRS. I am an adult. You need to get real. When did you retire? 20 years ago?

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avatar Chris February 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

I have kept every statement TC has ever issued me. I have monitored my contributions, and been well-advised on how my money would be allocated. This knowledge has done nothing to help me transfer my money out of TC to a new retirement account. Every time I submit the necessary forms, I am told that there is additional information needed, or that the information I supplied is incorrect.

I am not “whining” like a “teenager”. I merely want the money I invested, MY MONEY, to be transferred to where I would like it. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, and yet, I seem to be stonewalled at every pass. It gets frustrating, and you feel your hands are tied, as there is really no course of action to take, other than to complain about it on this forum.

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avatar Dan February 9, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Sure, those of us who expected to get money within a reasonable amount of time when following TIAA-CREF’s instruction are childish. C’mon.

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avatar Call me abnormal May 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Your comment sounds like a poorly reasoned one. I am one of the unlucky people who have had to put up for years with TIAA-CREF’s ignorant phone reps, officers who assume that your money is theirs and spend their days sending letters explaining why you can’t do what you want to do with your money (like get it free from their grubby hands). Recognizing incompetent and irresponsible behavior and warning others does not strike me as “whining about our problems like teenagers reluctant to become adults.” I am taking responsibility for myself and my family by doing everything humanly possible to get MY money away from TIAA-CREF.

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avatar Gary January 22, 2012 at 11:46 pm

Just wanted to see if anyone else has questioned the returns that CREF reports. It appears to me that the returns that CREF report as Average Annual Total Returns, are what I believe to be just that: average returns, which I believe means that if a $100 investment looses 20% one year (resulting in $80 left) then rises 25% (resulting in $100), their AATR is 2.5% (-20+25)/2. Now I say that is rediculous and want you to chime in. I say the AATR should be the return which kept constant would yield the present value of the investment. 0% in the case illustrated for two years. Volitility is a good thing according to the way I figure CREF reports numbers. So be ware that figures don’t lie but . . .


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avatar Terry L January 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm

This company is horrible. To begin with, the CEO Roger Ferguson is committed to outsourcing every job he can to India. By the way, any document you have submitted to TIAA can now be seen by a person in India. All you’re banking information, social security numbers, beneficiary information, street addresses, anything. Ferguson couldn’t care less about saving American jobs and he doesn’t care who is viewing and processing your requests. What’s sad is India often does a horrible job and is only concerned with meeting numbers set by management. So that means if anything is in question with a request, they pass it on for someone else to deal with so they can process straight forward cases and look good. If it delays a payment so be it. Now, with jobs being sent to India, management is threatening American employees. It’s not uncommon to hear, “you need to work harder or maybe your job will go to India”, or “if you don’t like it here send out your resume.” Employees are actually warned they are not to say anything negative about Indian employees or they will be “reprimanded.” Nothing is ever fast enough. Everyday all employee performance numbers are put on a board, with your name, for everyone to see. Every hour is scurtinized by management on why a person didn’t perform better, or why one person is doing better than another. These are actual comments by management made to their employees, ” if you don’t like it here send out a resume”, “everyone is taking to many bathroom breaks, you need to cut down on this, at my last company if we were away from our desks, during an un allotted time, we would be written up”, “ if you spend five minutes a day talking to someone you’re wasting 30 minutes a week, which adds to up almost a lost day in production in one year”. People are constantly written up for ridiculous company rules, for example someone’s relative died and they left during work day. They were written up, since this was not a ‘preapproved’ day off. Another, person called from the emergency room and said they would not be in and they were written up, again because it was not a “preapproved” day off. The computer system brought in by previous CEO Herb Allison is horrible. It was already ten years out of date before it was even installed. For example, just to do an address change can take four days. As people quit or are fired management doesn’t replace them. Rather, they just pass on the work to the remaining employees to make up. They couldn’t care less if they burn out they staff. This company is going down fast. It’s sad that management has such little concern about customers and their employees. It seems that all that matters is management keeping their jobs, getting bonuses, and taking this company for everthing they can get before it collapses. This company could be an excellent company but with the likes of Ferguson and his management team the writing in on all the way. By Ferguson’s own admission it’s only a matter of time before TIAA goes under, and with him at the helm there’s no doubt of that.

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avatar BH January 30, 2012 at 2:55 am

“CEO Roger Ferguson is committed to outsourcing every job he can to India”. Could you give some idea of the type and amount of jobs that are going to India?

“By Ferguson’s own admission it’s only a matter of time before TIAA goes under.” From what source did you get this information? Is this your interpretation of some comments he has made?

There seems to be a lot of management movement recently. Have you recognized any pattern for this? Also there appear to be a lot of “partnerships” (subsidiaries) being formed. Any pattern for this?

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avatar haha August 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm

lol…. Funny Guy.. Must not like black people?

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avatar Lev and Valentina Vidokle January 24, 2012 at 10:18 am

My wife 75 and I 80 both invested our savings in the TIAA Cref. We both are amazed and
outraged how irresponsibly the TIAA consultants-representatives were handling our
Example: consultant Paddy Parson exceeded distribution I requested by more than $4,500
in 2010. After my complaint, this excess was allocated to the year 2011.
In December 2011, same Paddy Parson exceeded requested by my wife distribution by more
than $6,500. We asked Paddy to correct her mistake, but she preferred to football us to
representative Erik Negron who promised to allocate the $6,500 to the year 2012 but
didn’t do anything and disappeared not sending us promised confirmation via e-mail.

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avatar Kit Steinaway January 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm

We have been fighting with TIAA-CREF for more than a year to get the retirement money my brother-in-law invested in order to take care of him since he has become disabled. We have hit one road block after another with many representatives giving is conflicting information. The bottom line is that he will have to forfeit much of HIS money to TIAA-CREF in order for them to dole out a dribble of cash to keep him in a nursing home. BEWARE, if you are thinking of investing with these people and you become disabled, you will not be able to access your money! You will be giving it to them to keep.

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avatar sunshine February 1, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Recently this naif thought he would convert $4000 from CREF to a Roth IRA for 2011 tax purposes, only to discover TC’s less than transparent procedures. Fortunately I have big money invested with Vanguard, so they’re willing to help me extract my medium-sized money from TC. A phone call with one of their rollover specialists happens tomorrow, and I’ll report the results here.

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avatar Marcella A McClure February 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I have 3X the funds in Vanguard than I have trapped at T-CRAP. My university forces me to invest with this failing company. I have filed many complaints with my state but they fall on deaf ears. After the FIRST time T-CRAP screwed up a transfer to Vanguard, about 8yrs ago, Vanguard stepped in to help me and they have been a consistent company for all my assets. If T-CRAP is going to go under what is going to happen to our retirement funds? IF you have one of those stupid 10%/10yrs withdrawal annuities with T-CRAP and you are still working start rolling it out into their Money Market fund NOW. By the time you retire you will have a MUCH easier time of getting you cash out of them. I will retire in just a few years and will have over 1/2 of my annuity in their money market so I can easily get it. The day I retire all funds that will not suffer a severe T-CRAP fee for early withdrawal will be transferred to Vanguard.

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avatar Jean Chambers February 5, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I have a general question. What is the difference between TIAA and CREF? I have heard that TIAA accounts disappear when you die, while CREF equities go to your designated beneficiary. However, I have also heard that TIAA accounts go to your beneficiary. I don’t know where to look to get an answer to this question.
Thanks for any guidance.

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avatar Christopher Hanks February 6, 2012 at 10:31 am

TIAA-CREF offers different ways to withdraw funds from TIAA accounts and CREF accounts, so there is no short answer to your question. Here’s what I’m doing, though: when I retired three years ago, I annuitized all the funds that had accumulated in my TIAA account, with an annuity structured as follows: payments for the rest of my life and my wife’s life, plus with a guaranteed payout period of 10 years from when the annuity started, even if both my wife and I were to die. So, in my case, annuity payments will continue until both my wife and i are dead and for at least the next seven years into our estate for our kids, in case both of us die sometime during the next seven years.. The TIAA-CREF website gives you access to short booklets that explain all the different ways to start getting money out of TIAA-CREF accounts when you retire. They will also explain the differences between TIAA accounts and CREF accounts in that regard. You can also talk to advisors on the phone (for free) – but I suggest you try reading the booklets first so that you have some basic knowledge of how TIAA-CREF withdrawals work in hand first, before you talk to an advisor .

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avatar Diane February 8, 2012 at 10:37 am

I have been trying to get money from TIAA CREF since December and it has been impossible!! Turnaround time for any email is minimum 48 hours. Complaints:
1. EFT forms must be submitted via snail mail with a cancelled check and can only be submitted with a withdrawel request. How arcane. I haven’t had to submit a cancelled check for EFT for 10 years. Plus it must come with the withdrawel request, not before, because they can’t be responsible and it will get lost! True, I have it in writing!
2. Due to the US Patriot Act they require that I submit via mail hard copy proof that I live at my address. I have asked 3 time for another option, but I keep getting the answer that I must submit a copy of a recent utility bill, cable or landline telephone bill showing my name and address. Well, I rent and all that is included. If offerred a copy of my lease, but they keep replying with the same request, “a recent utility bill, cable or landline telephone bill showing my name and address.” I am talking to a wall.
3. The educational institute that I worked for has been defunct for over 5 years, yet before they can approve my request, they need a termination date given by my previous employer. I have told them that they won’t be able to get that because the contact person was the administrator etc etc. I keep getting a reply that they must follow procedure. They won’t answer my direct question concerning what if they can’t get hold of my previous employer, what are the options. Instead it is delay, delay, delay, no answer, no action.
Help! This borders on criminal or fraud? I have asked for this to be escalated to a manager, and now they want to talk to me via phone. I don’t trust them anymore……I need it in writing.

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avatar dupreesparadise May 1, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Hi Diane,

I found your comment while doing a google search about this new USA Patriot Act / TIAA-CREF / residential street address requirement. I currently only have a PO Box and a business address associated with my name, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can about this so that I can decide how to handle it best.

You say that they are requesting utility bills or similar, but the pre-paid return postage letter I received from them is only requesting that I fill out an address and mail it back. It is not asking for any supporting documentation. How is it that you are in a situation where they are asking for more?

I am starting to consider pulling out all of the money as soon as I can and transferring it into a different type of account, because I fear some fine print in some ridiculous law that will deny me my hard-earned money.

Please explain how you got to the point you are at with them. What was the first request you were sent? I read somewhere else that currently there is no penalty for not replying to this request but they may contact people again.


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avatar Stephanie February 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I need help w/ a ‘simple’ matter. Been employed w current tiaa cref contributing employer for almost 7 years. 2 years ago part of my job was eliminated-leaving me w/ 16 hours per week. They told me I could no longer get TIAACref contributions. I kept looking for where this is stated. Finally asked for summary plan document a month ago-December 2011. I wanted to see exactly where it said, employees with less than 20 hours per week do not qualify.

So of course it isn;t in there. Employer says they will make good on all the contributions. Not only for me but for 5 other ‘part time’ employees. So I ask about missed opportunity-like if I had had the money earning 3% for 2 years…employer says there is no such rule as that, and that they owe me nothing more than contributions. HOWEVER< they mistakenly with held contributions for 2.5 years…

If I am crazy I'll drop it. If I'm correct, can anyone find the term and how I would go about getting TIAA-Cref to initiate w/ my employer?

many thanks and w/ gratitude

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avatar Vince February 9, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Now you know why management and the GOP hates unions. In any civilized country your union rep or the government labor relations office would protect you. In the dog eat dog USA you are essentially on your own. I saved my paperwork for 26 years to force my employer to credit me with a year of service.
If you are covered by erisa you might read

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avatar Connie Jaquith February 11, 2012 at 8:29 am

TIAA-CREF was ranked in 2011 as one of the ten best investment companies in the country. They always rank very highly. I am now retired three years, have both retirement and brokerage accounts, have been VERY pleased with both. I started well ahead in filing my forms for retirement, had no problem. It is the government regulations that require the various forms, hard copies, etc. I consider myself blessed to be a participant, to have the long-standing experience of TIAA-CREF behind me. Trust me, they have your back, as they are a not-for-profit organization.

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avatar Vince February 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

OFGS with their massive economies of scale and their forced customer base they should be far and away the best and cheapest investment company. In my experience no other company has ever been so awful to deal with in extracting money from them. And its not government regulations when it comes to extractions.

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avatar Marcella McClure February 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm

TIAA/CREF is NOT a nonprofit and has not been for a very long time, Congress took that right away back in the late 1990s. It “considers” itself nonprofit but it is not and there is nothing legally that holds them in a nonprofit model.

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avatar Dianne Sleek February 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm

In 2010 I was notified by TIAA-CREF that I was required to take an annual RMD from TIAA-CREF. Necessary forms were filled out and I received a payment of $2,766. in Dec. of 2010. The reasonable person would assume that unless the company received a death certificate that such a notice would come each year. None of us gets younger. As my husband and I were preparing our 2011 taxes we realized that I received no check or 1099 in Dec. of 2011. We heard nothing from TIAA-CREF. I called and was told that I had to call them every year to make that deduction. They finally agreed to send me a form to fill out authorizing the withdrawal automatically and yearly. However, in Feb. when we were doing our taxes it was too late to avoid the penalty for 2011. My husband was a registered representative for a number of years and dealt with many fund companies. He never knew of another one that had that rule. When we were setting up the withdrawal schedule we were never asked about a perpetuity option. Common sense says the only option is for every year. Needless to say, I am extremely upset about the penalty I have to pay this year.

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avatar Bob February 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm

It would be nice if 1099-R info could be accessed via the internet from this company. They DO offer that under TIAA-CREF Brokerage Services, but not as part of the usual retirement plans. Once I got my wife’s funds mostly transferred to Vanguard, I had to enter seven 1099-R forms into my tax software. That took over a half hour. And, since some of their retirement plans require periodic (5 or 10 years or however long) distributions (even as a rollover), I’ll be doing two 1099-Rs for the next five years, and one 1099-R per year for the five years after that. In this day and age, a huge company like TIAA should already have taken care of that stuff. But as we know…they only love you when you are giving them your money. Not so much when you want it back.

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avatar Marcia Godich February 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Bob, I’m not sure how our situations are different, but I retired 2 years ago, took most of my money in a standard, fixed income, TIAA-CREF annuity (which I think is a “regular retirement plan,” and left some of it to ride till I need it. I accessed the 1099-R from my account within the TIAA-CREF website both last year and this year (they appear in my messagesthere, and TIAA-CREF notifies me by my regular email when they are available) so I am not sure why you can’t. I know I did, at some point in the past, elect email instead of mail as my primary access. So, maybe you are right and you can’t get the electronic form – and maybe you have checked out the situation thoroughly with a TIAA-CREF rep. But it’s probably worth checking again. I found that you do get different answers sometimes from different reps – so my advice would be first to email them iwth the specifics of your wife’s account, then do a follow-up call. I don’t want to sound patronizing, and realise you may well have already done this – in which case, you have my sympathy! But I’d feel sorry to think I might have been of help if only I’d replied. Good luck with your retirement plans, Marci

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avatar cmalloy March 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

I am also having problems with lost documents and inconsistent information. The BBB is okay but you can also file a complaint on the federal trade commission website.

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avatar Nadge March 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I wanted to rollover my 403(B) with TIAA-CREF into an IRA. Like others before me, my first call to TIAA-CREF was with a young man who said no problem and he helped with the 7 page form. My benifits administrator varified that I was seperated from the university where I worked. I called T-C again and like others before me, the stupid nightmare began with incomprehensible nonesense about more stupid forms and hurdles. I just stopped with them. Gathered myself together and filed a complaint with the Peidmont area Better Business Bureau. Bingo, in a few days my local stockbroker got a check for the full amount in the mail. All it should take for a rollover is where the money is going and a verification of seperation. Do NOT listen to their nonesense. Advance token to the BBB and file your complaint. For how long this will work until T-C figures a way to beat it, I cannot say. My guess and only a guess is that the BBB uses T-C for their own employee’s retirement program and T-C doesn’t want to blow off a big customer.

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avatar steve April 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Ever heard of another probable beneficiary of the bailout, while consumers were getting screwed and losing (unlost) money? Like “LifeTimes”??? Like everything else, it’s gotta be a mass groundswell and/or class action to get the money (and maybe get the thieves uncomfortably hung by their gems)!!

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avatar Hilda April 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I do not see anything above that relates to my problem w/ TIAA….
I am very frustrated with them …in fact, I absolutely hate them! I was employed for 20 years with the same company, using TIAA-Cref. It wasn’t until I left 22 months ago that I realized they have me in a TIAA Traditional account…which means I cannot get MY money except once a year over 10 years time. This is not something I was aware of…who would do this except someone who knows they won’t need the money at some point. Yes, I should’ve investigated the situation more thoroughly, but in one-on-one meetings, it was never presented to me that way) I am now unemployed, unemployment benefits end in 2 months,
and they will not even let me take the yearly distribution early unless I send a letter saying I am going to be evicted ( and then they will CONSIDER it)…there has to be a way around this ridiculous way of holding my money hostage. Has anyone experienced this? I am frantic about what I’ll do if I can’t get this money rolled over….

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avatar Working It All Out April 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

It is really disheartening to hear about all of the trouble so many people have had with TIAA-CREF especially in the area of removing their monies or attempting to roll them over to other companies. Many of the complaints seem to be around the TIAA Fixed account which has a 10% a year withdrawal requirement when the funds are in an employer sponsored 403B. This account when in an IRA or GSRA at TC do not have the same requirement. You can move them at any time. What is most surprising to me is to find out that some institutions deposit the money into this fixed account and that the participant cannot change the allocation to another TIAA Investment. I had thought that once the funds were in the possession of TC that it was completely up to the participant to choose the investment that they wished the funds to be allocated to. I had thought that by law the individual had the right to make that choice. Is it possible that those who are so upset about the 10% withdrawal restriction are not aware that they could have re-allocated those funds?

A final comment on this type of TIAA Investment. During those dreadful years that the markets declined, many of my friends whose monies were in other investments at other brokerages lost all or most of their retirement savings. Mine remained intact and earned a good return in the TIAA fixed account while guaranteeing principal for which I am very grateful. For an account like this to work for those who want and need guaranteed principal and a good return, withdrawals have to be restricted to reduce volatility.

Unfortunately many reps at TC are not too helpful in making clear to us the benefits and limitations of the different investments. If ever the need to be proactive all along the way in asking questions and reading the small print in the prospectus that defines in details how the investment works it is here in one’s retirement portfolio. No one should find at thepoint of retirement or rollover that they have an restricted investment that they may have been able to re-allocate if they didn’t want to face the restriction later on.

As to MDO’s it is sad to hear that TC is messing up here. I guess we have been lucky. they got it right the first time and continue on with our initital instructions unless we call to make a change. Paper work has been filled out once and no mistakes as described in the above posts were experienced. So it seems that our experiences with TC do vary.

I do take heed from the warnings about difficulty in getting monies out of TC and I appreciate and give thanks to all of you who were willing to share those problems so that the rest of us can be alert to the potential problems and plan well ahea. Many thanks.

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avatar Stephanie April 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I am 57 and hope to start withdrawing $ from TIAA-Cref at 59 and a half. Thank all of you so much for your comments, complaints, praises, problems because I am getting very serious right now in learning about distributions.

The point of the baby boomers moving through TIAA-Cref withdrawals etc. makes sense that the place will become inundadted.

Appreciate ALL the comments!

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avatar Carolyn Macklem April 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I was shocked to see all of these comments. I have been trying to get my money out of TC since last November and rolled into Edward Jones. I have filled out many forms and continue to fill out forms trying to get my money back. They rolled over one account into an annuity that they are keeping their hands on with a payout over 5 years. They did that to another of my accounts with a payout of NINE years. Now I stilll have two accounts and can’t get them either. They want to put one into another NINE year payout, and the other they “said” they could release to me via Edward Jones. While I was on the phone, yes–screaming finally–I brought up these comments from disgruntled people like me. My employers put little to nothing into my accounts but I put my hard earned cash in, and cannot get my money rolled into Edward Jones. We decided to move our money from too many accounts to someone we trust. Thank goodness my husband who worked at a University was not given a TC option or we wouldn’t be eating right now. BEWARE–I hope no one else falls into this TIAA Cref mud puddle that is never clear, concise, and honest? They are not the friend of those of us who worked for little at nonprofitsl.

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avatar Amie June 25, 2012 at 3:59 am

My husband has retired and we too wanted to get to the TIAA money so that we could put it somewhere else. Where just told that we would have to take it in ten year payouts. Is there no way around this? How can this be possible? Can we go anywhere for help?

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avatar zkeith June 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Amie, TIAA/CREF has a number of brochures that discuss the payout options. As far as I know, 10-year payouts is the least amount of time that TIAA funds can be distributed because TIAA invests your contributions long term so it can provide return guarantees.. There is an upside to TIAA, however. And that is your balance keeps increasing even when other investments, such as equities, decrease in value. If you watched your balances from 2007-2009, you probably noticed the increase in TIAA and a decrease in your CREF accounts.

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avatar Elizabeth Ewbank May 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Having been diagnosed with an incurable terminal illness, is there any option for someone such as I would might wish to withdraw all of the TIAA ‘tradtional’ in one distribution? Or, is the schedule of 9 payouts impossible to alter?

Thanks to anyone who might offer a response.

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avatar Elizabeth Ewbank May 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Apologies, but I mean to say ‘for someone such as I who might wish to withdraw…’

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avatar Kit May 1, 2012 at 6:38 pm

We were unable to get TC to budge from the 10 year payout for my brother-in-law, even after hiring a lawyer. They tried very hard to get us to switch to another type of account (Retirement Transition Benefit) which in essence would have given him a small monthly stipend and upon death the remainder would be forfeited to TC. The agent even gave us incorrect information about this option (through ignorance or on purpose we don’t know) and we had to have him removed from our case and go up the chain to someone else. The bottom line is that TC does not want to set a precedent for terminally ill customers and will do nothing to allow someone to alter their account (unless, of course it is into an account that will net TC money, then they are more than willing to switch you). If you will need to apply for Medicaid beware, Medicaid will consider this an asset, even though you cannot access the funds. You are caught in a real-life Catch 22. I do not have a solution for you, as my brother-in-law passed away before we could fight our way through this jungle. In the end he won out over TC, which was our little consolation for all the hell they put us through.

My recommendation is to get everything in writing from them, even though they will fight this. They abhor a paper trail. After phone calls I would always recap in an email (email addresses are another thing they don’t want to give you) and insist that they sign off on the information.

They are very slippery, so be persistent. Good luck to you.

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avatar Elizabeth Wilhelmsen May 1, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Thank you so much, Kit, for your response. I am very sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law, and also for the added trials your family endured with tiaa-cref.

One would think that, if a person can prove s/he has an incurable or terminal illness, that person ought to have a right to claim the full amount of their funds deposted with any investment firm.

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avatar Mike May 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I plan to retire in a few years and would like to hear how others have chosen to withdraw funds from TIAA and CREF accounts. For me the investing in TC during my income generating years was the easy part, but choosing how best to receive retirement income has me stumped! Thanks!

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avatar Zane May 27, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I’m using RMD, which kicked in at age 70.

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avatar Pondurenga May 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

These folks are not just useless, they are dangerous. After a year of struggling to roll over my Berkeley School retirement, I finally got it into a guaranteed IRA that permitted withdrawals as requested. 5/22/12 I requested $1000 transfer to my bank. I got a letter on May 29 that my entire retirement had been transferred. When I called, they said oops we made a mistake – “somebody pushed the wrong button.” Honest to God, “somebody pushed the wrong button,” was their excuse. That was a taxable transfer and would have been very costly.
When I asked Vanguard about transferring my retirement to them, their rep told me: Forget it. TIAA-CREF will charge you 10% if you try to escape.

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avatar Toney June 13, 2012 at 2:37 am

TIAA-CREF had been outsourced most of their operations department to TCS (India). No wonder most of your accounts were so screwed up. Please take your money and invest elsewhere.

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avatar BH June 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm

To all those who are disturbed by realizing that they cannot just withdraw funds from their Traditional Accounts at will, let me give a little history. TIAA was founded almost 100 years ago as a non profit to provide retirement pensions for educators. Both employee and employer contributed to the pot, and it was used to provide pension income when the employee retired. There was no withdrawing of lump sums upon retirement.

About 20 years later, Social Security was formed (perhaps patterned after TIAA) and, as we all know, you also cannot withdraw your contributions upon retirement, but must take them as pension payments. Whatever your views are about paternalism, this requirement probably has saved a lot of people from abject poverty. (I know, I too could list many problems with social security, but more societal problems without it).

About 30 years ago, TIAA was pressured into relaxing this “pension only” policy, and began to allow people to “cash in” their contributions over a 10 year period (now some contracts allow this withdrawal over only 7 or 5 years). This still allowed TIAA to make some more productive long term investments, without the fear of “forced selling” to satisfy withdrawal needs… a benefit for those who plan to annuitize their accounts.

I don’t wish to be rude, but the fact that some participants were not aware of the withdrawal restrictions of their TIAA retirement accounts adds to the arguments for a return to the old more paternalist TIAA. Most of the problems experienced by people on this board would not exist if TIAA had been able to follow their original KISS policy….. invest in either CREF Stock or Traditional and take an annuity upon retirement.

P.S. I am not a TIAA employee, but am a satisfied retiree.

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avatar Christopher Hanks June 25, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Over the period from October 2007 to February 2009, when the oldest boomers were all reaching the age of 62 and beginning to retire in droves, the unit value of the CREF stock account (which had reached its all-time high of $273 in October 2007) lost more than half its value in the Great Decline, wiping out ten years’ worth of growth. The CREF Stock account has recovered significantly since then (it’s at about $240 today, just over three years later in June 2012), but it still has never gotten all the way back to the high it reached in October 2007.

Given that history, and the daunting number of retired/semi-retired boomers out there now aged 62- 66 who have leaned how to use the interweb:

1) It is no wonder that this site is filled with comments from people who are frustrated and scared about managing their TIAA-CREF retirement nest eggs; and

2) Thank goodness TIAA-CREF broadened its withdrawal options, so we didn’t have to start relying on CREF annuities beginning in 2008.

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avatar BH June 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm

First, you didn’t have to rely on a CREF annuity, there was Traditional. (Actually, when CREF was first started in the 50′s, there was a restriction on what percentage of your account could be in CREF). And, as you noted, CREF Stock is recovering and so would have the annuity payments.

Second, why would you want to withdraw funds? The financial climate was the same outside of TIAA as inside.

If you were going to withdraw at that time to invest in a different variable annuity, the conditions would have been about the same an those offered by CREF. (As an aside, TIAA was the first to offer variable annuities).

If you were going to withdraw in order to purchase another annuity, such as a SPIA, it is highly unlikely that the terms would be any better that those offered by TIAA.

If you were in a situation where you had to (or wanted to) withdraw in order to obtain spendable cash, or to make a “better” investment, then here is where the former paternalism of TIAA would come in and say “you can’t do that. We are like social security… you can’t cash out your social security account no matter how great you need the money”. If you want it for alternative investing, TIAA-CREF could say that they can make better investments in the CREF stock account than about 80% of individuals investors can do on their own. (Quested at that challengeable percentage based on the number of managed mutual funds that do worse than an index fund).

For “people who are frustrated and scared about managing their TIAA-CREF retirement nest eggs”, I would suggest that the problems are not with TIAA-CREF programs and policies, but with the economy in general. I would also suggest that a simple answer to the problem would be to let TIAA do the managing. Select an allocation between Traditional and CREF Stock (perhaps your age for the percentage of Traditional) and sleep well at night. That’s what many of the old timers did (had to), and it worked quite well.

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avatar Christopher Hanks June 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm

@BH: I did, in fact, start a TIAA annuity in 2008 on that portion of my TIAA-CREF nest egg that was in TIAA. The rest was in the CREF stock and bond funds, and I didn’t want to annuitize those in a declining market. Instead I started Social Security at 62 and have been taking CREF withdrawals only when necessary to supplement the TIAA annuity and Social Security checks. (And when I do withdrawals, I do it from the Money Market fund, which I keep topped up for that purpose, using occasional transfers from the stock and bond funds when they reach relative highs compared to past performance.)

That’s why I like the TIAA-CREF withdrawal flexibilities — because I’m more comfortable “managing” my CREF nest egg myself as described above rather than relying on a CREF variable annuity that could easily get VERY ‘variable’ again in today’s markets, no matter how good the CREF investment managers are.

I should also mention: my wife and I are lucky enough to have a small, defined-benefit pension that she earned while working, and that, combined with my TIAA annuity and our two Social Security checks are enough to keep beer in the fridge, hot water in the boiler, and gas in the car , which is what makes it possible for us to do CREF withdrawals only when we decide (or are forced) to do so.

For what it ‘s worth, when I have talked occasionally to a TIAA-CREF advisor, they’ve told me (because I asked) that the self-management approach I’m following (as opposed to annuitizing everything) is fairly widespread among the TIAA-CREF retirees they talk to.

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avatar Rick June 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm


I don’t wish to be rude, but your condescension sticks out like a fright wig.

TIAA-CRAP will not allow me to touch my money until I am no longer working at my job — and based on my experience, it will be a struggle even then. Why? Because back in 1979 they conned some idiot at my employer into signing that kind of agreement, which continues in perpetuity.

Thanks to TIAA-CRAP’s yellow dog contract, they keep my money and use it to earn interest that I could be earning. It is not in an annuity but mostly in cash and one of their index funds. I am almost 67 years old, but am treated like a child who is too stupid to know how to invest — a position you seem to endorse with your nostalgia for the “old more paternalist” system, as if it’s not paternalist enough.

If you are a dummy who needs a “simple” program for your self-acknowledged stupidity (i.e. KISS), be my guest. Some of us who are brighter than you would like to use the money we worked hard for to make our own diversified investment choices in asset classes TIAA-CRAP doesn’t offer.

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avatar Leon Berton June 27, 2012 at 8:24 pm

You aren’t being rude at all, Rick. You are only saying, in a more straightforward manner, what many think, including some who have expressed their desires in the context of unforeseen demands placed on them by life.

And as you well state, most of us had no control over the fact that the educational institutions for which we worked gave privileged status to TIAA-CREF. Nor, for that matter, do I recall my initial interview at any institution emphasizing the fact that TIAA could only be withdrawn over a 10 year period when the funds were eventuallly desired.

Of course, such was in the contract, but when your only option (as a new employee) was to balance your funds between the supposedly more secure TIAA and the (disputably) more astutely managed investment fund for higher returns, one hardly has many choices available.

However, I truly find those with life threatening illnesses who are restricted by that stipulation as being ironclad to present the most poignant cases against TIAA-CREF’s inflexibility.

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avatar Stan Urban July 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I’ve been a customer of TIAA/CREF since 1972 and couldn’t be more pleased with the investment results and sevice. However, you must have a moderate level of financial sophistication, other wise the only solution is a paternalistic system like Social Security.

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avatar Bob June 25, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Yes, everybody should be familiar with the payout options when they start contributing!

I’ve dealt with the 10 year requirement by having payments made to another provider, as a rollover IRA, avoiding (for now) taxes. It is quite possible to have the annual payout made automatically; you don’t have to request that it be done every year. Just ask the TIAA customer service people to set this up for you. They will, however, suggest you keep your money in TIAA. Yes, it takes 10 years to accomplish, but it does eventually get your money moved. It doesn’t help if, on achieving control over the money, it gets rapidly frittered away, so for many people, it is a good thing to have TIAA as a surrogate parent. Caveat emptor!

I’m happy that I’ve made most of my move away from TIAA/CREF. Lower annual fees (in the case of equities, my costs are 25% of the CREF fund) and much easier customer service. As has been pointed out, though, TIAA has had excellent returns as bonds go. So at least you will be getting good earnings for the next few years while withdrawing.

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avatar TIAA-CREF Is the Enemy December 8, 2012 at 9:23 am


” … for many people, it is a good thing to have TIAA as a surrogate parent.”

Bob, some of us (unlike you apparently) are grown up enough to handle money and do not need a surrogate parent. People like you are one of the reasons TIAA-CRAP gets away with so many outrages.

Go suck on a lollipop.

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avatar Christopher Hanks June 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm

@BH: I did start a TIAA annuity in 2008 on that portion of my TIAA-CREF nest egg that was in TIAA. The rest was in the CREF stock and bond funds, and I didn’t want to annuitize those in a declining market. Instead I started my Social Security at 62 and have been taking CREF withdrawals only when necessary to supplement the TIAA annuity and Social Security checks (and when I do withdrawals, I do it from the Money Market fund, which I keep topped up for that purpose using occasional transfers from the stock and bond funds when they reach what appear to be relative highs compared to past performance).

Bottom line for me personally – and why I like the TIAA-CREF withdrwal flexibilities is that I’m more comfortable personally managing my CREF nest egg as described above rather than shifting to an annuity that could easily get very ‘variable’ again in today’s markets, no matter how good the CREF investment managers are.

I should also mention: my wife and I are lucky enough to have a small, defined-benefit pension that she earned while working, and that, combined with my TIAA annuity and our two Social Security checks are enough to keep beer in the fridge, hot water in the boiler, and gas in the car , which is what makes it possible for me to do CREF withdrawals only when we decide that we have to splurge on something.

When I have talked occasionally to a TIAA-CREF advisor, they’ve told me (in answer to my question) that my approach as described above is fairly widespread among the TIAA-CREF retirees they talk to.

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avatar Lillian James July 11, 2012 at 3:41 am

Ahhh how come no one on this site comments about the ongoing Class Action against CREF? Finally, something is being done about the problems with this thankless company!

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avatar Toby MacLennan September 1, 2012 at 10:39 am

Where could I find out information about this Class Action against CREF?

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avatar Lillian James September 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

For Toby

here are some URLS for the class action https://rink.action-settlement.com/ and RinkVCREFSettlement@bmcgroup.com. I got a notice from them that I was eligible for this action as I am among those who struggled for years to move funds out of CREF.

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avatar Toby MacLennan September 1, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Thank you Lillian, I was looking for announcements or records of Class Actions against TIAA_CREF. The links you sent me seem to be for making claims. I’m just gathering research at the moment about how much trouble TIAA_CREF has caused people.
Many thanks

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avatar Lillian James September 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Find Professor Rink. I think he is in the state of NY. He is the one who initiated the class action. I got a message from his lawyers saying that I am eligible to participate in the RINK class action suit due to the long standing issues I have had getting my money transferred.

TIAA/CREF is ripping us off and academics are to silly to do anything about it but whine ! Dr. Rink decided to take action.

avatar Dart Armstrong September 20, 2012 at 7:43 am

For several years now, TIAA/CREF has attributed hugely wrong dollar amounts in my retirement funds to the universities I worked for.

I have been dodged, stone walled and sent a back room huge pack of I don’t know what. It came with a cover note saying I had requested it. I hadn’t. It said nothing else in rhe cover up they are running on me.

I think this fiasco was a result of a computer system overhaul that went on for years and/or the eternal splitting of my contracts.

Last time I spoke to someone, who kept leaving the phone, I was asked if I wanted an investigation. After about two years of calling and emailing I said I want the problem fixed and I do not care how they do it. No one has contacted me, now weeks later.

Is there an update on where to try to join the class action suit?

avatar zkeith September 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

Dart, although I don’t know anything about a class-action lawsuit, I recommend you contact TIAA-CREF using the e-mail function attached to your account. I’ve never used the phone route, but it seems to me that most of the people posting to this Web site are those who try to resolve issuse by telephoning TIAA-CREF. I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of service I’ve received from TIAA-CREF when my contact is by e-mail. I get a reply within two business days. Also, you have a paper trail if you need it because the e-mails are available until you delete them.

Best wishes getting your problem resolved.

avatar ethicwatch August 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

My state requires retirees to wait until age 60 to receive 401a payments. My birthday was July 19 th. My payments were due Aug 1 is there a problem no payment. Too many retirees? Are initial payments staggered?

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avatar ethicwatch August 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

I believe the time has come for tiaa cref to provide separate websites for employer sponsored plan participants and individual. Very confusing. 401a different from 403a in employer plans than if I purchase investment products as an individual. Employer plan has restrictions and layout milestone targets.

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avatar ethicwatch September 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm

My issue is a void of information about the annuitization process from an employer plan. How Long it takes an explanation of the various payout contract. The difference between a annuitized variable annuity and annuitizing from the tiaa fixed annuity. The existing website is generic it appears to address employer based participants and public/individual annuity purchasers in the same space which might work until the employer based annuitant decides to retire under the employer plan and annuitize accumulations in their 401a and 403b accounts. The process and layout is different based on riders that expand the payout.

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avatar Georgina McCliment September 19, 2012 at 3:59 am

To Whom It May Concern:

I couldn’t believe when in November, 2005 (a couple weeks after I retired), that TIAA Cref told me that I could access any funds to be sent to me ASAP, because their computers were down. # more times I called in the next month with the same ridiculous answer. They told to tell them in advance what I wanted to be sold …. so I did, With Specfic Instructions To NOT Sell Any Of My Growth Fund (since it was on the rise back up since the Stock Market Crash). Sure enough when I finally got my requiested funds, they sold most of my Growth Fund, at approximately $61.00 a share (don’t have the exact documentation any more. Called to complain to a manager, and he only sent me $500 to rectify it. That Cref Growth Stock went up to $74 a share in the next 6 years, which I know I would kept it until I saw it going down right after that ….. since I had 442 shares, I lost at least $6,000 on the difference (minus the $500 they only paid me for this large mistake). Still ticked in Troy, MI.
Georgina M. McCliment

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avatar Georgina McCliment September 19, 2012 at 4:13 am

To Whom It May Concern:
The comment I just submitted has a serious error in the first line: It should have read: I couldn’t believe that I COULD’T get any of my funds from sent to me from TIAA Cref.

Sorry, for the error, …. thank you for your time,
Georgina M. McCliment

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avatar Lillian James September 21, 2012 at 12:31 am

SEE RinkVCREFSettlement@bmcgroup.com for class action on CREF ! I don’t care what others on this site say or do not say. THIS IS REAL !

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avatar Russell Quong September 21, 2012 at 9:40 pm

This lawsuit is mentioned on the second page in the TIAA CREF minutes at http://www.hr.mnscu.edu/retirement/campus_resources/dcr/dcr_minutes/documents/April_26_2012_Minute.pdf . I got this from a google search on “rink lawsuit tiaa cref”.

This lawsuit appears to be limited to those who were trying to transfer money out of TIAA CREF back in 2005-2008. I’m guessing they took a long time to make the transfer. I was told I was affected and the settlement is at least 1% of the proceeds (I don’t know the final number yet, just a lower bound.)

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avatar Richard Parker September 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I can understand unhappy TC participants trying to get help, but to think the Better Busines Bureau is the answer is laughable. The BBB is set up to protect their paying clients. If one of you out there was helped by them, I am really glad, but amazed. TIAA-CREF must not be one of their paying clients of they never would have helped you.

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avatar K5 September 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Lots of woe concerning retirement withdrawals. Does anyone have any feedback with regards to college 529 plans? Thanks

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avatar Marie Kelsey October 2, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I can’t begin to understand what they are doing with my very substantial retirement fund…. they do stuff and then undo it because they did it wrong in the first place. Today was to be my first retirement payment, but things are still messed up. Thirty years of handing them my hard earned dollars and this is how they do things in the end. I am ticked!!

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avatar Little Prof October 2, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Wow! I just finished reading this entire thread and there really is a pattern here. I am 10 years from retirement and have contracts from 3 schools. The state where I lived for 2 of those schools kept rewriting its contracts with TIAA CREF (mostly due to bad performance), leaving me now with 13 sets of forms now that I want to transfer the money to Vanguard. I suffered through errors, phone reps with different stories, forms that took 2 weeks to come in the mail, etc. But the real pattern I noticed was that about mid-process, I got a phone call from a guy with an actual phone number who told me that I had to do the forms over. He gave me a vague answer as to why, so I pressed him item by item and none of his reasons were true for the form he cited. So he backed off.

I agree, even though it takes a day or two, I get better, documented service via the Message email link on the Web site.

I was reading on another blog about TIAA CREF being sanctioned by the SEC for not keeping complaint resolution documentation (!), and this [below] was in the comments from a current TIAA-CREF employee….no BBB!

Write 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 dont 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. If you want to take it one step further and ensure your issue is expedited also contact SEC at http://www.sec.gov/complaint.shtml. They will give you a case number and pass this along to TIAA-CREF.

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.

My IRA Rollover to Vanguard is now going into its second month.

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avatar Gary Stecklein October 4, 2012 at 12:31 am

Has anyone noticed that TIAA-CREF no longer allows us to look at the day to day performance of their products? I have e-mailed them with a complaint and got a resonse back basically saying nothing. I cannot manage my portfolio without being able to look at performance numbers. I cannot believe this website is not HOT over this.

Any comment? Does anyone know of a website specifically looking at TIAA-CREF?


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avatar Christopher Hanks October 4, 2012 at 7:13 am

I had this problem,too, and called TIAA-CREF to complain. They guided me to the following: On the TIAA-CREF web page, click on “Research and Performance” and then “Market Research.” Once there, click the arrow next to the graphs to go to the right to see the graph for the Russell 3000 index as it develops over the day. (The Stock Account correlates most closely with the Russell 3000 index, which is all that was available before they changed the web page. As before, for a good estimator of how the unit-value of the stock account is changing, divide the change in the Russell 3000 index by three.)

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avatar BH October 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm

For a forum on TIAA-CREF go to morningstar.com and click on discuss (upper right of page). TIAA-CREF will be one of the forums listed.

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avatar Little Prof October 4, 2012 at 4:33 pm

ALSO, there have been some columns written along with a Discussion Board section on the Web site of The Chronicle of Higher Education. (Often, your librarian can give you a log in for your school or your network log in will let you have total access.) The writer of the columns has moved her money to Vanguard.

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avatar MAX October 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm

TIAA-CREF is probably the worst offender in the industry. All the way from the treatment of clients requests for withdrawls and liquidations to the compensation of their employees. I would tell you that their executive management is compensated with perks that defy imagination, including bonuses out of line with the industry and the allowance of excessive travel at the expense of the participants. When confronted by concerned employees or clients they simply dismiss the problem or the employee. A very concerning situation. Hopefully FINRA and the SEC will take notice. I can tell you first hand that the complaints mentioned here are not escalated until they reach the written complain status

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avatar Lillian James October 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I had to file with the SEC about 5 or so years ago to 1) make TIAA/CREF accountable for 10,000 missing from my account and 2) failure to transfer the correct amount to Vanguard. Once my state’s benefits auditor and the SEC were involved my 10,000 was found and FINALLY all funds I could remove from TIAA/CREF were removed from them. But then TC actually transferred 2x of what I had! Vanguard notified me of this the moment they received the funds. I did not get off the phone with TIAA/CREF until I had a certified document saying they had corrected this error and they would deal with the IRS fallout. They were able to transfer my SRA funds on a monthly basis to Vanguard until about three years ago. After the first failure to transfer then funds I started threatening to file with the SEC each fall until they start transferring my funds per my WRITTEN instructions ! I also began taking the 10%/yr from my annuity and putting it in the money market. I will retire in about 1.7 yrs and on that day TIAA/CREF will transfer all funds in the MM to Vanguard and start rolling over the annual 10% from the annuity directly to Vanguard each Spring. I strongly advise that anyone with one of these 10%/yr annuity starting rolling into the TIAA/CREF MM so you can get it when you want it. It took me about 9 months to get them to start my annual withdrawals. No University shoudl be forcing us to put our retirements with a company who hates its investors!

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avatar Edicito October 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

I agree that e-mail contact works best with T/C, particularly if member is upset and ends up venting so much that pertinent details are overlooked and complaints are difficult to separate from requests. Nothing wrong with a call to complain, just don’t try to accomplish much more at the same time. My pet peeve is the need to take RMDs separately from each account, which simply adds work while it multiplies opportunities for error either on my or T/C’s part.

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avatar zkeith October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

I will experience my first RMD on December 20. I would think the opportunity for error when taking the RMD percentage (actually based on the appropriate divisor) from each account is nil given the fact that I assume this is done by a computer program rather than by a human. Do you know differently, and have you had an error in the amount to be removed?

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avatar Lillian James October 25, 2012 at 7:33 pm

It saddens me that grammmmmmmor is still an issue on this site. This is petty and stupid. Get real folks our Universities have sold us down the retirement river to T-CRAP. I have written to the state benefits person, to everyone in my University HR, the Faculty Senate and our new Union. While some responsible states have STOPPED forcing faculty to invest with T-CRAP, the state of Montana is too ignorant and arrogant to do anything to protect the retirement of those forced to deal with this bad company. Anyone just starting with T-CRAP is a fool to say those of us who have been invested with them for OVER 30yrs do not know what we are talking about. Just wait you arrogant academics when you try to get you funds and have all the trouble we do. I had someone assigned to make sure my funds were transferred this year as they have been in previous years. I got an email assuring me everything was on schedule. A month later my funds were still not transferred AND the person who sent me the confirming email and her supervisor were no longer available. Two weeks about I threatened ANOTHER SEC complaint and my funds were at Vanguard in two days. Get real and get active if you want to protect your retirement funds !

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avatar Lillian James October 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Does anyone know what type of annuity that Eve is referring to? I talked with a TIAA/CREF representative this evening and she said they are trained to tell EVERYONE that they must do the 10% over 9yrs. I asked if, perhaps, there are different rules for different annuities ? She said that they are trained that all annuities have to be taken over 9years. But the message belong says otherwise. I told the rep that I would ask the Board of Directors about this and she gave me her personal phone number to call her if I find out that she was not trained properly!

Does anyone know what the rules are BEFORE I write to the Board?


Eve Davis July 28, 2011 at 9:08 am

As I read this, I cannot believe how similar it sounds to my experience; in fact, I eventually contacted the TIAA-CREF Board of Trustees in order to get a withdrawal request honored. In addition, I was never told by the various representatives that I could wait a few months and draw(in one lump sum at the age of 65) the total amount. Instead, I was only told that I had to annutizeover 9 years. I am more fortunate than the situatiion cited above because it took one week shy of two months to get the first amount of a nine year payout. Why not contact the CEO or the Board about this problem?

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avatar BH October 25, 2012 at 9:19 pm

“Does anyone know what the rules are BEFORE I write to the Board?”

Contracts now vary with institutions. Some have 7 year, some have 5 year, most still have 9 year withdraw periods. Check with your personnel office to see which you have.

The T/C website would be a source for some information about the various programs..

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avatar Lillian James October 25, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I know that I have a 9 yr withdrawal plan. I am trying to figure out what Eva was talking about?


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avatar MAX October 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

The rules differ depending on the plan i.e. the contract with the institution and whether it is a Retirement Annuity contract or a Supplemental Retirement Annuity. You have a lump sum option but there is a penalty. Also if the money is in an IRA then it is completely liquid. hope this helps.. It’s a shame that their own people don’t know the rules. The quality of tiaa-cref is really gone downhill.

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avatar Lillian James October 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm

WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I just got my class action settlement for the 2005-2008 years of TIAA/CREF not handling my funds properly. Thank you Dr. Rink for taking the time to file on our behalf !!!!!

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avatar DAVID WOODS November 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm

TIAA CREF Heartless Money Grubbers
I have a retire annuity with them paying out over a 10 year period. I called them 2 months ago to ask them to send the distributions to me via direct deposit to my checking account. The rep kept me on the phone for 45 minutes taking my bank account information and told me that I was all set. 2 months later Hurricane Sandy hit. I expected my distribution to be in my bank account but found out that the rep had it wrong and I had to fill out all kinds of forms. IN the same conversation I explained that I was living out of a hotel because of the hurricane and asked for an emergency distribution / advance on next years distribution which is allowed under the plan. I spent 1 hour on the phone with the rep and she came back on the phone and said that they will not even look at it until November 28th because they can’t do anything until 1 year after my separation from my employer, which is a bunch of crap. Do not invest with them. When I opted into the annuity they never advised me that my money would be tied up for 10 years. THEY ARE HEARTLESS MONEY GRUBBERS. All my other financial institutions have been great increasing credit lines, waving fees, etc and CREF REFUSED TO EVEN CONSIDER MY REQUEST FOR A LOUSY 3 WEEKS. STAY AWAY FROM THEM.

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avatar Edicito November 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Some of the posts here appear to be T/C members who unwittingly placed their funds in accounts that were known in advance to their university benefits officers to require 10 year withdrawal periods OR they purchased annuities that are cannot be refunded by T/C or any insurance company that sells similar products. Annuities are income insurance, where the full premium is paid up front in exchange for an income flow for a fixed or open period.

In these cases, it is the advice given by employers offering T/C that is the problem. Once an emergency arises that requires immediate cash withdrawal, this cannot be done nor can T/C or any other agent provide a satisfactory solution. The problem arose much earlier but went unnoticed.

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avatar Shannon December 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Hello! I have been trying to pull my money out of TIAA CREF and it has been the worst customer service experience of my life. Everytime I called I was told that there was some problem, then I was told the problem was fixed and my check would be in the mail the next day. I would then call the next day to confirm when there would be a new “issue” Each time I had to fill out new paperwork I would call and make sure that I had the paperwork filled out correctly. I became so frustrated that after several phone calls over many days I was driven to tears. The representatives refused letting me speak with a supervisor. I had to demand repeatedly for over an hour with one represenative to finally get in contact with a supervisor. I sent my orginal request to pull my money on November 19th, and it is now December 5. I wanted to somehow get in touch with upper management to resolve the issue, does anyone have any ideas?

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avatar Lillian James December 5, 2012 at 10:07 pm

File a compliant with the SEC and the state of NY. Find the names of whomever is currently on the boards and send them emails/letters. This problem is not going away, it have been the same since 2004. It is in your best interest to file formal complaints. I did this years ago and was able to enter into the Class Action against TIAA/CREF. A few weeks ago I got several thousand $$$$ from the settlement. If you are already retired GET YOUR FUNDS OUT OF THIS FAILING COMPANY ASAP. I have been rolling my annuity into the money market at 10% a year for the last few years. The day I retire all funds that can leave TIAA/CRAP will be moved to Vanguard. Sure I will have to deal with T-CRAP until I can roll my annuity out, but I have most of my money safe from T-CRAP.

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avatar Zkeith December 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Use email rather than the phone. You will have a written record, and you can keep working with the same person at T/C.

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avatar RWA December 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

Does anyone have experience getting their entire annuity after separating from the their work institution? I’m in desperate need due to injuries and haven’t been able to obtain a job.All with whom I’ve spoken say they will not release it as they legally do not have to. One said they can’t because the money is invested in funds outside of the country. Thanks

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avatar Christopher Benninger December 21, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Friends: I live in India and joined TIAFF-CREF in 1969 when I began teaching at Harvard and continued on when I first came to India as a Ford Foundation Advisor to the Ahmedabad Education Society to found a school of urban planning. I continued investing up until recently while living in India and Bhutan. Now get this! Recently they have told me that because I am an American living in India that under the Patriot Act I am no longer allowed to invest in my retirement fund and can not even roll over IRA funds from Merrill Lynch or re-invest my payouts from Traditional CREF into their Mutuals. It is interesting that they do not even take up this case with the Government who are “stopping terrorism” by not letting professors invest in their retirement funds. One would think that TIAA-CREF would see the “class action” issue here and act on behalf of its members and the teaching profession. But no. Keep in mind that the institution spends funds on awards, vague grants and some cases where the fund’s direct interests are infringed upon. But the interests and rights of members are totally ignored! when I asked a TIAA-CREF operator to give me the name of someone in the organisation who handles members’ rights I met a wall of silence! this organisation will not stand up for its members, nor will it even respond!

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avatar Wizard December 31, 2012 at 10:43 am

It helps to be an informed consumer with regard to the funds you have with T-C.
Are you talking about a GRA, a GSRA, or an IRA? Stuff like that.
And living outside the US and contributing to T-C? That’s simply not allowed.
Whining about T-C here may help you feel good, but it’s obscuring real problems where T-C might actually be at fault…

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avatar Edicito December 31, 2012 at 11:13 am

Wizard nailed it. Some of the complaints seen here would pop up with any fund manager simply because members do not inform themselves of what is or is not allowed. 403bs and similar investment vehicles have all kinds of restrictions that make them totally different than depositing money in a bank. Let’s instead focus on some legitimate problems that crop up ONLY at TC. My candidate is the cumbersome and confusing method of taking MRDs from each individual plan separately. Very different than Vanguard’s simple MRD withdrawal option.

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avatar Wizard December 31, 2012 at 11:27 am

I have multiple “plans” with them as well. After one “separates from service”, one option is to roll all or most plans into a single IRA with T-C. This frees one from limited fund choices an employer may have imposed. And that should make the RMD process simpler.
I’ve been told this rollover would not affect the rate my small Traditional accumulation has, but it’s always possible they were LYING on that point…

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avatar WordSmith47 February 14, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I am so pleased to have found this website. I retired in 2009 and every year taking money out of TC has been a nightmare. When I try to speak to colleagues they act as though something is “wrong” with me because TC is such a wonderful company and staff is so helpful (while you’re employed and they’re taking your money). I’ve written letters to the TC Board, University Human Resources and the Faculty Union. Each withdrawal request is lengthy and time consuming. Thank you all for letting me know that I am NOT alone.

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avatar Lillian James February 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm


You should file a complaint with the SEC. A class action was just won against TIAA/CREF in fall 2011 for this kind of nonsense that has been going on for years. I have had nothing but trouble with TIAA/CREF whenever I rollover funds to Vanguard. I cannot wait until I am finally retired and can remove all my funds from TIAA/CRAP.

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avatar A.E.N. March 2, 2013 at 5:36 am

Former TIAA-CREF employee here. An employee from not too far back when it was a “fair and decent” company, at minimum . There’s somuch I could say right now but for sake of space here’s my points…:
- I was owed 2+ years of back owed wages & overtime, from an audit TIAA-CREF PURSUED ME on (truth be told they were only reaching out to me and my peers in similar positions because they were being audited by the DOL at hte time)

-It didn’t end there, no, then they cut off my benefits, asked me to not come back, and “shuned” me because I was speaking up with a reasonable voice in response to THEIR own audit of “back owed overtime” to non-exempt employees such as my self. The truth is they treated my like true SHIT at the end only because I was responding firmly to their “owed overtime”, speal.

There were dozens of issues since that overtime incident, but today my enormously pressing issue with TIAA CREF (speaking of them as my retirement plan provider, and not my former employer) is:


I was only 32 years old (2 years ago) when they WRONGFULLY advised me of that. TOTAL BREACH OF FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY!

Any Financial Advisor in their right mind knows that;sCRAP and COMPLETELY IRRESPONSIBLE of them as a company (trust me, all emotions removed…they converted my entire account over to shut me up with the separation & overtime wage/labor law suit).
********I WANT MY ORIGINAL AND ENTIRE ACCOUNT BALANCE BACK FROM MY EMPLOYER (TIAA-CREF) SPONSORED REITREMENT ACCT (403B) FROM MY ENTIRE TIME WORKING THER BACK!!!!!!! This isn’t a labor issue now this is a “participant” or customer of TIAA-CREF issue. I sit on your side now and she the muddle upon us.

Many shady things go on there, espeically as of the last few years from what I hear. I was intimately integrated into the TIAA-CREF world and a very dedicated employee…but again, that was before all of the corrupt shadiness that occurs today. GET YOUR $ OUT OF THERE if you have any in there, even if you’ve had $ with them for your entire career GET IT OUT NOW! I know you don’t know me, but there are WAY to many shady things going on at all levels, and your chances of something very wrong, unethical & emotionally damaging happening to you when it comes time you actually *need* access to your retirement…yeah, GOOD LUCK getting it. I say that from someone that’s worked the back and front ends for that unethical ruthless company (today, anwyay).

Wow, it’s easy to get carried away speaking of that rotten organization as it stands today. I have so much more I could share but for now I’M IN ALL THE WAY FOR A CLAS ACTION LAW SUIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT’S ABOUT TIME! :)

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avatar ethicwatch March 2, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Could you address why you are upset with your converted 403b account? Under the TIAA CREF employer plan is it normal practice to annuitize terminated employees retirement accumulations? How long does it take to get lifetime benefits from the old traditional fund. Is there a difference between regular customer service phone people and retirement specialist. It seems the initial phone people know about accumulation and limited info about 401a lifetime income. They seem to want to sell or rollover to accounts outside the original employer plan. Was any of your converted funds from stable value that seems to be replacing the old traditional account. The customer service for participants under employer plans converting to lifetime income needs a serious overhaul. So much incorrect information is disseminated. Do they convert terminated employees to prevent rollovers to other company plans when employees are hired elsewhere?

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avatar ethicwatch March 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm

This is a DOLissue if your contracts belonged to you. Authorization could only come from you the employer can t just decide to convert an employee/participants accumulation without your permission on some signed appropriate document. This is both a DOL and Dept of insurance matter unless you unknowingly signed some document that supported the conversion.

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avatar Igor March 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hi guys,
Wanna tell you about an issue I had (am having) with TIAA.
Recently, I completed all the distribution paperwork for my funds withdrawal and sent them a letter including a voided check necessary for a direct deposit. After waiting for a week and a half, I looked at my bank account and found the money were still not deposited although they claimed that it takes 2 days for them to process the request plus 3 additional days to deposit the money to my bank account. So I wrote them an email asking about the direct deposit. Here is the reply I got for them:

“Our processing area reviewed your distribution paperwork and documented that a voided check (which is required for direct deposit) was not included in your paperwork. Therefore, we were unable to direct deposit the money. Funds were disbursed by check and mailed to the address listed below. It should arrive by the end of this week or early next week.”

So, the guys from TIAA were not careful enough to find the check in the envelope I sent them. I asked them specifically for the direct deposit since I knew I was going to move to another state and didn’t know exactly about my future address.
So now, the problem is I have no idea where my check is going to end up at and when I am going to get it. So, the conclusion is, based on my experience and all the previous comments: never deal with TIAA!

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avatar g15herb March 8, 2013 at 10:08 am

Like any other investment it’s how you manage. I was forced into TIAA/CREF when I worked for a university during the 80′s. My account increased exponentially until I retired but I also had a 401k and IRA’s for me and my wife. I now have to take minimum distributions from my TIAA/CREF ACCOUNT and the account is still growing faster than my withdrawals. Slowly I have changed the percentages from 50/50 to 80/20 with 80% in the tiaa guaranteed account and only 20% in my cref mutual funds. I am quite happy!

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avatar Fluteplayer March 29, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I am dismayed by this many negative comments about a company I have made major contributions to for over 30 years! Relatively recently, TC introduced a new “retirement calculator” on their revamped webpage. One of the problems with the new ‘calculator’ appears to be that it gives the investor far less flexibility in calculating individual returns for separate contracts, and to (re)allocate specific percentages and projections for individual contracts, etc.etc. I filed inquiries, spoke with representatives, and eventually complained. Then, I found out, during one phone call that their own rep’s still have access to the previous projection tool! So they can now do calculations that I can no longer do for myself? WHY do THEY need access that they no longer WANT ME to have? That costs in salary dollars for their reps, but takes away control from the investors! There HAS to be an underlying business reason – or alternatively, the folks redoing their website are truly inexperienced and/or incompetent (perhaps a combination of the two?); I am not paranoid, but as a dear friend of mine likes to say: “Just because I am paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me”…:-)
Anyway, are there others who are as frustrated as I am with the new retirement calculator? This thing requires me to “call a TIAA CREF Rep” at the drop of a hat, whenever I am trying to tweak something – MY problem: I am a few years from retiring; I NEED to tweak stuff constantly – I am in the midst of making all sorts of projections – yet, they changed a perfectly satisfactory tool, that I was perfectly comfortable with, and replaced it with one that is FAR from satisfactory…
Is this coincidental, or deliberate ? I fear it is the latter. Corporate USA rarely makes investments without an underlying business rationale… Well folks: who is the primary source of revenue: You and I are !!!! I am concluding that they are skimming from our hard earned savings and investments, adn don’t like it!
Suggestions anyone?

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avatar Seth Hill May 21, 2013 at 12:47 am

Most of the comments agree that TIAA-CREF is fine as long as you are sending them money, less than fine when you ask them to send you money. I think people are trying to warn us in advance to be prepared for when we start taking money out of T-C.

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avatar Bob April 7, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I’ve had a lot of problems with TIAA-CREF, and am happy to be finally moving my money elsewhere, albeit over a 10 year period. But as the last writer remarked about interest rates, and I have no idea if they have ever gone under the minimum, I must say that you’d be hard pressed to get a better interest rate than the TIAA current rates, which differ depending on when you deposited your money. But, try to find a CD that pays better than 1%; TIAA does much better, so far. Personally, I wouldn’t quibble with them on this matter. My point of departure with this company is their dismal customer service, but not the rate of return on, basically, bonds. Returns are crap, right now. Everywhere.

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avatar The Lucky One April 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I can’t believe it but the long nightmare is over. Probably it’s partly because I wrote letters and made phone calls to TIAA-CRAP often during the past four years and someone took the decision that it fighting me wasn’t worth the time and effort it cost them. My TIAA-CRAP retirement fund has been successfully rolled over into my Fidelity IRA. True, I had to resign from my job to obtain it, since TIAA-CRAP suckered a naive office manager into agreeing to that provision many years ago and the company didn’t really give a toss about its employees’ retirement funds.

May I offer a few points of advice for those still struggling with TIAA-CRAP?

1. I agree with the suggestions that you are more likely to get a response, maybe even a correct one, if you use the on-site email. Unlike the doofs who answer the phones — if they answer them — the email reps know they are creating a paper trail.

2. Using the online messaging, I actually (on the second try) was connected to a rep who seemed genuinely keen to help. Her name is Adrienne Abramovich, and she even gave me her phone extension: 219855. I hope she hasn’t been fired for being too cooperative with the servants, I mean, customers.

3. If you happen to work for one of the minority of companies that care about their employees’ retirement benefits (most don’t — what’s it to us what happens to ‘em once they don’t work for us?), your company can carry a lot of weight, especially if they have a lot of employees enrolled in TIAA-CRAP. Talk with the person in charge of benefits. Copy in the president and CEO if you think it’s safe. If you can get other employees to join with you, so much the better — but most people are financial idiots who just want someone else to take responsibility for their futures. But even one or two allies suggests you have a case and aren’t just a malcontent.

4. Point out to your benefits manager that TIAA-CRAP is not a publicly traded company and is a closed circle. Look on their web site — you can’t even find the names of the officers. It is secretive. Do they mention they are making wild real estate acquisitions — not for the real estate index fund, but for themselves. For example, they own 80 percent of a shopping center … in Berlin. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek, April 17, 2012.) Mention the word Enron.

I hope your luck is as good as mine. Keep after them and don’t give up the fight!

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avatar Seth Hill April 21, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I don’t know who manages the CREF Stock fund, nor who hires and fires the managers. But that fund has consistently underperformed its own benchmarks for a long, long time. In other words, if the managers just invested in an index and did nothing, they would improve their performance. I don’t know why managers who actively do worse than doing nothing keep their jobs. But I’m just an average guy who doesn’t understand esoteric financial stuff.

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avatar vin May 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I’ve been actively participating in my employer sponsored, tiaa-cref retirement investments for 15 years I find T/C to be an excellent financial organization that provides a wide variety of investment choices for retirement savings.
I meet with the same T/C rep on a regular (almost monthly) basis. The information provided over the years has been very helpful in my investment choices as I continue to build my retirment portfolio.
Their web site is easy to use (I use it daily) and provides immediate feedback when asked questions. (I don’t always like the answers to my questions, but they answer within 48 hours.) T/C is an excellent investment choice that everyone should consider before selecting a financial institution to invest your hard working dollars with.
I shall be retiring in 3-4 years and am already asking my rep. questions about the wide variety of choices I will have in determining the best retirement withdrawl plan I will select.
Good planning is key…
Good luck!

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avatar Seth Hill May 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I understand that you like their customer service. But what has been the return on your investments with TIAA-CREF? If you are happy with your returns, let me know what choices you made; maybe I’ll move some of my unhappy choices.

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avatar vin May 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I consider myself a very conservative investor. I received 8.9% last year from my tiaa-cref portfolio which, being a very conservative, i am happy with.

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avatar Seth Hill May 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Yes, I understand you got a good return on your TIAA-CREF choices. I didn’t, so I wonder which funds you choose, so I can re-balance my choices and get a better return.

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avatar vin May 18, 2013 at 6:27 am

Have you looked at th Real Estate Fund?

avatar Seth Hill May 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Don’t get me wrong. TIAA is a good investment, it returns 3.5% annually (changes from year-to-year but always better than a CD). But the CREF Growth fund is awful. I foolishly invested in it several years ago, and it’s still down 8% while the market in general is up a lot. That fund even under-performs its own benchmarks. I hate to sell it while it’s still down, but I guess I have to and take a loss.

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avatar Bnom May 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm

A fiduciary advisor told me I should shift my accounts out of TIAA Cref because of all its hidden fees. So a month ago, I tried to initiate a rollover of my retirement funds and was told they couldn’t send me the papers electronically (in direct contradiction to what I’d been told previously) so I was to wait a week for the paper work to arrive. Nothing. Then two weeks later I get a call from a rep trying to talk me out of the rollover. He assures me that he himself has already sent the paperwork. Nothing. I call again and ask for a manager. Lo and behold it turns out the paperwork can be emailed to me. How much is TIAA CREF earning on my account by delaying this process?

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avatar zeke May 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

If I were you, I’d have this fiduciary advisor show you proof that T/C has hidden fees. I’ve never been charged any fees for withdrawals, and T/C has some of the lowest management fees around. My T/C investments have returned nearly 11 percent since January 1. I don’t think you can beat that kind of return very often by anyone else.

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avatar Dr. Carmen May 28, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Did you all see this? TIAA-CREF also have swanky offices at 730 Third Ave in NYC. I passed by there today on my way to the NYC office of my federal senators and picked up a business card which has the usual TIAA-CREF tel. nos. but NO street addresses on the card. The nervous woman at the front desk told me the CEO does not have offices in that building but in another in the area. I had asked her how I could contact him.
TIAA-CREF Pays $60M for 1511 Third Avenue
by By Al Barbarino 1/03 12:00pm
TIAA-CREF has purchased 1511 Third Avenue on the Upper East Side from Related Companies for $60 million, sources tell The Commercial Observer.

The 60,000-square-foot property is a four-story landmarked building, one block south of East 86th Street, the main retail artery in the neighborhood.

A financial services provider, TIAA-CREF, also known as Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund, recognized the long-term value in a neighborhood where retail rents are likely to keep rising, the source said.

Rents along the main retail stretch of East 86th Street, between Lexington and 2nd Avenues, increased 13 percent since last fall, according to the latest data from the Real Estate Board of New York.

The building is fully leased to long-term tenants Gap, whose flagship location sits on the ground floor and basement; and luxury fitness club Equinox, which occupies the three upper floors and part of the basement. Their leases expire in 2021 and 2020, respectively.

Massey Knakal Realty Services’ Chairman Robert Knakal confirmed that he brokered the deal, but declined further comment.

The building, known by locals for its large bronze entrance doors, is a standout example of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture – which emulated the Renaissance palazzi of Northern Italy and was most popular from the 1800’s to about 1930.

It was constructed in 1905 and was originally the site of the Yorkville Bank, which had a large German immigrant shareholder base. German-born architect Robert Maynicke designed the building, built with granite, limestone, brick and terracotta.

TIAA-CREF, a leading provider of retirement services in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields, has $495 billion in assets under management.

Last month, the firm announced that it had acquired a 49 percent equity ownership in the residential portion of New York by Gehry at Eight Spruce Street, an award-winning 76-story, 898-unit Frank Gehry-designed building valued at $1.05 billion. Original partners Forest City Ratner Companies and the INDURE Fund retained 26 and 25 percent stakes, respectively.

TIAA-CREF and Related Companies, which recently broke ground on the $15 billion mini-city at Hudson Yards, did not return calls seeking comment.

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avatar Joe June 11, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I contacted TIAA-CREF today regarding some information my current 401K provider needs to rollover my TIAA-CREF account. I spoke to Leslie in the rollover department requesting the information I need. Leslie started by stating my current 401K provider couldn’t facilitate the rollover making it very clear to me that she wasn’t going to cooperate in any way if possible. After making my request for the information again Leslie stated she would provide the information but it will take 4 to 6 weeks to get it to me. When I asked why so long she stated it had to be hand generated. Not satisfied with her answer or attitude I asked to speak with a supervisor who decided to hang up on me while I stated my complaint against Leslie. I then called back asking for a manager and was told one would be contacting me; which I never received a return call from. Do as you wish but my experience with TIAA-CREF’s customer relations attitude and policy clearly indicates that client satisfaction and service is non-existent at TIAA-CREF. If you’re smart, you’ll stay as far away as possible from TIAA-CREF!

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avatar ethicwatch June 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

Every Spring there seems to be transfer problems. Maybe IT upgrade is needed.

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avatar The Lucky One June 12, 2013 at 7:38 am

Joe is not exaggerating. The executives of TIAA-CREF should be in jail. Each and every day I thank God I no longer have to put up with this corrupt organization. Avoid TIAA-CREF even if it’s the only retirement company your employer offers. Put your money in an IRA. Ignore this advice at your peril!

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avatar Brian Millhoff June 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Attention All University Faculty who work for an institution using TIAA-CREF
As a new retiree I have made a startling discovery you need to be aware of!
When you retire you will have to go back to every school you have worked for that made contributions from your salary and get their signature as time and date of employment and termination. For some faculty this could be as many as six colleges in a career, thousands of miles away.
This of course is all design to slow and hinder TIAA-CREF distribution of ‘Your Fund’ they have held in ‘Trust’ for you. Not to mention the difficult it poses for a surviving spouse.
It is too late for me see this structure changed, but I strongly urge current faculty to see to its operational change.

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avatar zeke June 21, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I think there are some exceptions to what you discovered: 1. The requirements of the universities where you worked, and 2. How soon you began taking withdrawals after retiring. I taught at two different TIAA-CREF universities during my career, and neither had to sign off when I began taking withdrawals. But then I didn’t take my first withdrawal until reaching age 70.5, that magical age when required minimum distributions must begin to avoid severe financial penalties.

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avatar ethicwatch June 23, 2013 at 11:09 am

Many private sector retirees can’t trace retirement funds left in retirement accounts of former employers. Good practice make sure contact information is updated with hr at former employers.

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avatar LD June 26, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I’m in the process (or so I like to imagine) of rolling over my 403(B) from CREF to Vanguard. My suspicions were aroused when several weeks passed without action, and they dishonestly claimed not to have heard from my prior employer regarding my termination date. Stone cold lie. They did indeed talk to the business manager of my previous employer by phone, and she clearly confirmed my termination date.

And yet, another week and a half have passed, and they claim not to have any information at all about my termination date. It has been nearly a decade since I left this employer, and half that long ago that the employer ceased all dealings with TIAA-Cref entirely! And the strange thing is, the business manager, whom I know and have had a good working relationship with on other matters, cannot get through by phone. She has been cut off several times. She asked if I could get an email address of the person at TIAA-Cref, but they do not release email addresses (probably a good thing, for security purposes).

So today I filed an SEC complaint. We’ll see how far I get. But I’ll be filing a FINRA complaint next. And a consumer complaint with the State of New York Attorney General. And a consumer complaint with my own state attorney general. And a BBB complaint. And if this isn’t resolved within a matter of days, I’ll do the thing that I do every day in my job. I’ll build a new website — a vast clearing house for web data about complaints and legal actions and articles about TIAA-Cref. And then I’ll start all over again filing complaints.

Expect a full report on my experiences.

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avatar ethicwatch June 27, 2013 at 9:58 am

Did the business manager fax a signed employer confirmation form after the phone confirmation? Is the Ba the authorized representative for the employer account? Fir the company update the authorization Rep. information since canceling relationship with TIAA CREF? Customer service is very bad with present accounts its probably a nightmare for dormant accounts. Maybe there is a need for staff to handle dormant employer accounts that require employer authorization. TC encourages employees to leave money in former employers accounts after termination. It is TC’s responsibility to insure that when the participant is ready there is a seamless assessed to withdrawal and distribution options.

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avatar LD July 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

The SEC complaint that I filed was the charm in this case. Within three days, TC had re-contacted the business manager of my former employer and processed the transfer.

Anyone who has these kinds of ridiculous issues with TIAA-Cref should without hesitation begin by filing an SEC complaint, and proceed from there with FINRA, BBB, state attorney general consumer complaints, and so on.

Had I known about these issues after leaving the employer, I would have transferred my funds immediately. As has been mentioned, TIAA-Cref is wonderful so long as you’re feeding them money, but when you want to transfer out, they quickly turn into a scheming bureaucracy.

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avatar ethicwatch July 10, 2013 at 8:22 am

Contacting former employers for confirmation is a must when annuitizing accumulations from employer plans to benefit from riders otherwise you are a retail customer getting an immediate annuity. Insurance companies love annuitants that are ignorant of the total process. Many people remain in limbo for years getting a fraction of the payout they are entitled via the employer plan.

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avatar ethicwatch July 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

I believe missing employer confirmation document is just as scandalous as not notifying beneficiaries of their rights to a deceased annuitants survivor benefits. I believe TC has a legal responsibility to inform annuitants why employer confirmations are necessary and what happens in the payout process. TC needs to clean up the annuitization process for those who are in employer plans and annuitize months or years after termination. What benefit is he entitled to based on the employer plan ( s). There must be hundreds of thousand employer plan participants that have not fully annuitized because he employer confirmation form is missing from the file. My suggestion is that those who began the process and never submitted employer confirmation do so immmediately

avatar Lillian James June 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

Each time I have taken a new job in the last 40-some years I have rolled my retirement funds to Vanguard. I had to file with the SEC and the state of NY about 10yrs to get my post tax investments out of TIAA/CREF. I was part of the class action and got a nice chunk of change for all the screwing around with my money that TIAA/CREF did. This time next summer I will be retiring from my final job. I will start the process and have all the paperwork in place to roll my TIAA/CREF funds Vanguard many months before I retire. On the day I retire the funds will be transferred and a rollover account established to get the remainder of my annuity away from these crooks. I, like so many academic who did not pay attention, have one of those 10yr payout deals. I started rolling that out of the annuity into the money market 4yrs ago and anyone else who got stuck with one of these stupid plans should do so likewise. I will still have to deal with TIAA/CRAP for five years after I retire but then I will be free of one of the biggest hassles and stresses I ave ever encountered. SO EVERYONE WHO IS HAVING ISSUES WITH T_CRAP SHOULD KEEP FILING COMPLAINTS AGAINST THEM. Some schools have taken all employees out ot T-CRAP. BEWARE is all I can say about that company.

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avatar ethicwatch July 10, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I believe that employer plan participants annuitizing for lifetime income should demand that TC provide a clear explanation of the annuitization process accessible through the webpage. This is a necessity for people who have contributed to deferred annuities for years/decades.

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avatar ethicwatch July 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

It doesn’t matter when the lifetime income annuitization process began you are entitled to the benefits of your employer sponsored group annuity per the employer summary plan.

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avatar Seth Hill July 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

Well, I called TIAA-CREF and asked about my options for an annuity. The man tried to explain it, but I got more and more confused. So I asked if he could e-mail me the options, and he said he would be glad to. Well, it’s been 3 days now, and I’m still waiting …

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avatar ethicwatch July 11, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Try asking for process and timespan regarding annuitization. It’s not in any publications. Not supplied when lifetime income application is sent from company. As consumers buying retirement products you should know how the products work in each phase.

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avatar Seth Hill July 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm

It gets worse. I called today and spoke to Sandra Chiavelli. She said that, even though their previous representative had told me he would send me annuity options through email, that TIAA-CREF cannot send annuity options through e-mail. Then she said they can, so she tried, but I got only a blank e-mail. She tried various ways to convert the documents to pdf format; this took about 20 minutes, but she couldn’t get anything to work. She finally said she would try scanning them (25 pages each for 8 documents = 200 pages to be scanned) and attaching them to an email. Yes, she did. Then I asked a separate question about one of my investments; she put me on hold for a minute, then she came back and said she was unable to find anyone who could answer my question.
So, that’s TIAA-CREF.

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avatar ethicwatch July 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Maybe everyone is busy processing unpaid benefits to beneficiaries based on the recently settled multistate agreement. What a shame the investigators must help those in immediate annuity limbo. Cref is the culprit they like to hold on to money it appears to the detriment of especially those in employer based plans. Former Wallstreet robbers have invaded this company needs a deep cleansing a return to its roo

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avatar Seth Hill July 14, 2013 at 12:07 am

Now it’s even worse … or more bizarre. I just got 7 large bulky envelopes from UPS. I opened the first, and it was from TIAAA-CREF: a lot of boiler-plate info and colorful brochures, along with several pages showing some of my options for starting to withdraw from my account. I read it over a few times, but I just couldn’t understand my options. They never explain the difference between “annuity partner,” “survivor,” “beneficiary,” “graded,” and “standard” … at least where I could find that. So I opened the second UPS envelope: same stuff. So I opened the third … to make a long story short, all 7 large, bulky envelopes, sent UPS Air Second Day, were the same!
My question to you: do you think the people at TIAA-CREF are merely hopelessly incompetent … or is there something more sinister at work here?

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