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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 ethicwatch July 15, 2013 at 9:52 am

Lack of training guidelines and lack of training.

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avatar Stephanie Taylor Christensen July 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I recently had an issue with TIAA Direct. They made an unauthorized debit of $5,000 OUT of my check Chase account and back into my TIAA online savings account. This threw my checking account into overdraft. Two reps on two separate occassions admitted that there was a “glitch” in the system. This happened on a Friday. When would it be resolved Tuesday? My problem apparently to float a missing $5K out of my checking account until that time. Truly eye opening. I am a personal finance writer and actually recommended them based on the once attractive 1.25% rate. You couldn’t lure me back to them for 10% (and trust me, I like to make money)!

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avatar ethicwatch August 7, 2013 at 8:44 am

On June 28 2013 the Office of Comptroller St Louis Missouri issued a cease and desist order to TC Trust a savings bank for proof of multiply safeguards. Various areas of this company TIAA are under multiagency inspections. What impact is this having on day-to-day operations? The website has been experiencing difficulties for months is thisvi

rder a part of those difficulties? Is the bank still closed to new custom
ers? My TIAA CREF website is messy for retirees it began showing the yearly income as monthly income no explanation. The Separate account VA-1 added a new Individual Flexible premium deferred variable annuity to its existing immediate annuity May 1 2013. Is this so money can be held longer during the annuitization process due to investigations and audits by multistates and state agencies. Are you waiting for your Donald lifetime income payout? Has all your account information disappeared? When you call is a customer resolution person telling you your single life immediate annuities are the end of the process ( these are investment products) Lifetime income annuities are TIAA insurance products. TIAA has been under investigation and auditing by multistates and agencies since Nov 28 2012. I wouldn’t be surprised if the I

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avatar ethicwatch August 7, 2013 at 9:00 am

Sorry the kindle can be a problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if the settlement triggered a IRS investigation and audit. The unclaimed funds and gains must have an increased undeclared tax obligation. The top of this giant is rotting. The multistate audit began Dec 20 2013 how many months did it take? The settlement agreement was reached June 20 2013. The monitoring is set to last 3 years. How many months did this company not process new lifetime annuities. How many months did customer service reps and customer resolution personnel play the waiting game? Nov 28 2012 the multistate targeted market conduct examination began. The agreement must be signed by the States August 12 2013 for settlement. payments. from TIAA the stock. insurance. company.b

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avatar Steve Savage August 1, 2013 at 9:29 am

My experience with TIAA/CREF could only be described as a fiasco. When attempting to transfer funds and begin withdrawals from my lifetime annuity I was continually sent the wrong forms and given misinformation. At times, my financial planner and I spent over a half hour on the phone with TIAA/CREF representatives being walked through forms we sent in, then we told they were not necessary. In total, I believe I filled out six different forms and made six phone calls. The University where I built this annuity as part of their pension program told me this was standard with TIAA/CREF, as did my financial planner.

Finally, I received a letter advising me TIAA/CREF had everything they needed and my forms would be processed in three days. It is now two months later and nothing. I did, however, again receive exactly the same form I had already sent in in a brown manila envelope with no comment. I have filed a complaint with the SEC, which is surprisingly easy to do online. It takes only minutes and I would encourage others to do the same rather than just complain!

In my opinion, the pattern of behavior here on the part of TIAA/CREF is orchestrated in order to delay pay-outs as much as possible and is purposeful. I am also writing to AARP as their monthly magazine accepts advertising from TIAA/CREF and gives the impression AARP supports or endorses TIAA/CREF (although it states otherwise). I would encourage others to do the same.

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avatar mary October 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

we have had a similar problem. in our case TIAA CREF told us that our forms too so long to get to them that they have denied our request for receiving our annuity. how can that be? it is ours! after 30 years of employments and with the very real need for our income in retirement, we are stunned. we also discovered the securities and exchange commission site for complaints, and AARP. In addition arranging a legal team is very expensive, and possibly more costly that the amount in our account. wow….

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avatar ethicwatch November 12, 2013 at 2:38 am

I believe participants are required to decide whether to take cref and tiaa variables as lifetime income within 120 days after a qualifying event ie retirement, termination or death of participant after that time it’s 2-30 years. I’m not clear about tiaa traditional but the 120 day option might also apply, the it appears fixed period monthly payments are available, when your term ends so do your monthly payments. It seems that when you officially end your employment and you meet the requirements for distribution you have 120 days to close lumpsum or lifetime payouts. The lifetime payouts trigger the vintage interest payout it is my understanding sanitizing for lifetime income is the only payout that triggers the vintage system. Why the 120 day rule exists and is set in stone should be questioned you have to at least be 55 years old to qualify for most public pensions and at least 25 years. Rule should be same as other pensionswithin the same system, non discriminatory all things being equal.

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avatar Christopher Hanks November 12, 2013 at 10:57 am

“I believe participants are required to decide whether to take cref and tiaa variables as lifetime income within 120 days after a qualifying event ie retirement, termination or death of participant” –”ethicwatch comment on this website, Nov 12, 2013.

I would suggest everyone on this site who is operating based on advice and comments from “ethicwatch” be careful, because the above statement is dead wrong on the facts – and dangerously misleading for anyone holding a pension interest in TIAA-CREF.

How do I know this?

Because, after 28 years of employment at two different organizations that participated in the TIAA-CREF pension programs, I terminated employment and retired, and began drawing pension benefits from TIAA-CREF — in two different ways. Way number one was to annuitize payments from (only a a portion of – not all of) my TIAA accumulations. Way number two was to leave my CREF accumulations untouched to allow them to continue to grow larger(as they have now finally done, after hitting a scary low at the end of 2008) with the idea of withdrawing from them ON OCCASION and WHEN NECESSARY.. In other words, I was NOT required (and am still NOT being required) to annuitize my CREF holdings for lifetime income, nor am I being required to make withdrawals from my CREF accumulations of any kind. I do occasionally make “one-off” withdrawals when I need the extra money, but it is my choice to make when I do those withdrawals and how much I withdraw.

Overall my experience with TIAA-CREF has been very good. It has required me to become knowledgeable about TIAA-CREF’s withdrawal options and how to exercise them – but that has not been all that hard to do.

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avatar ethicwatch November 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Please read the lifetime income options for tiaa-cref variable annuities it clearly says to convert a portion or all monies in these accounts you have 120 days after a qualifying event to choose to annuitize for lifetime income. The annuitization choices after 120 days is 2-30 years for variables and 5-30 years for tiaa traditional. Withdrawals are a different topic and different payout. I am simply sharing my understanding of lifetime retirement income from a defined contribution program. There is no misinformation, you simply have 120 days to annuitize all or a portion of your accumulations for lifetime income, income that lasts until you die . Not tapping into variable accumulations within the the 120 days is a matter of choice. If you decide to annuitize more of your tiaa traditional you can choose 5-30 years and sine it is not lifetime I don’t think the vintage system applies. The choice is the participants. If you decide to annuitize more of your cref/tiaa variable monies the lifetime income option is no longer available because it is beyond the120 days. Check with TIAA CREF for correctness.

avatar Christopher Hanks November 12, 2013 at 6:29 pm

In response to ethicwatch’s followucomment on Nov. 12, 2013 to my Nov 12, 2013 comment:

TIAA-CREF’s literature speaks of 120 days to make a decision after a qualifying event (e.g. retirement) ONLY when talking about “lump sum” distributions of the TOTAL ACCUMULATION in a contract.

The decision to annuitize TIAA accumulations or CREF accumulations for LIFETIME income (so one is NOT requesting a lump-sum distribution, nor a fixed- period distribution) is NOT bound by the 120-day decision rule.

Ethicwatch: I defy you to find and quote in this thread (please provide the link if you find something – which I don’t think you will) anything in the TIAA-CREF literature on lifetime income options that says otherwise.

In my case, I made a decision MORE THAN A YEAR after I had retired (so no further contributions from either me or my employer had been going to TIAA-CREF for more than a year) to LIFETIME-annuitize a PORTION of my TIAA accumulation (so I was well beyond the 120-day window you say I was subject to).

In the future, I may or may not lifetime annuitize the remaining TIAA accumulations I haven’t annuitized yet (they keep growing in the meantime), nd I may or may not decide to create a lifetime variable annuity with some, or all, of my CREF accumulations (in the stock, bond, real estate, and money market funds that CREF makes available AND allows me to freely move funds around in as I choose online with no tax penalties).

So I will say again: You are giving incorrect information on when and how TIAA-CREF lifetime variable annuities can be set up – and in so doing may lead some readers of this blog to make what could turn out to be very bad financial choices for their retirement.

avatar ethicwatch November 14, 2013 at 5:22 am

You are talking about annuitizing tiaa traditional . Tiaa variable under 403b is the real estate account. It is my understanding that when you access your accumulations for retirement you have 120 days to choose the lifetime income option for your Cref/Tiaa variable monies, after the 120 days you can get annuities for 2-30 years for CREF and 5-30 years for TIAA. No one is required to choose any option unless specified in an employer plan. There are also other options for variable accumulations. The lifetime income annuity available through TIAA TRADITIONAL is unique in that it’s profit sharing with related tax benefits provided with investment income. Every other distribution option is taxed as ordinary income, taxation might not be many participants issues, control of their accumulations is more important. We are all learning and some choose to share our understanding.

avatar Christopher Hanks November 14, 2013 at 8:19 am

“It is my understanding that when you access your accumulations for retirement you have 120 days to choose the lifetime income option for your Cref/Tiaa variable monies, after the 120 days you can get annuities for 2-30 years for CREF and 5-30 years for TIAA.”

Your understanding Is wrong, ethicwatch. I am not talking only about TIAA lifetime annuitization. CREF variable accumulations can be converted to lifetime variable annuities at any time after retirement – there is no 120-day window. You have failed to provide proof of your statement by citing and quoting TIAA-CREF documentation. Why are you continuing to post something that is incorrect?

avatar Franklin Burroughs February 9, 2014 at 9:47 am

My situation is similar to Steve’s: retired academic, now trying to receive my distribution pay outs and also to transfer my funds out of TIAA?CREF into an IRA of my own choosing. I have had exactly the same experience: repeated refilling out of identical forms; long conversations with company representative who in general sound entirely helpful, followed by another batch of the same forms I’ve already filled out; a long 3-way conversation between the TIAA/CREF rep, my financial advisor and myself; followed by more of the same forms. I began with the presumption of innocence–that the company was poorly organized. It now appears to me that there’s a deliberate effort to hold onto my assets.

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avatar ethicwatch August 6, 2013 at 6:29 am

You must receive a monthly payment to qualify for health benefits from public employers at retirement. You have 120 days at retirement to decide on a lumpsum then you can choose between 2 years and 30 years for payments. When a company wishes to keep your money the make the rules murky and complicated. The law says you must be 59 1/2 to take distribution from your annuity except if you annuitize for lifetime income. TIAA CREF will take a part of your accumulation and create a single premium immediate annuity until you reach 59 1/2 or the retirement age under your employer plan. They never explain this move. Your accumulations serve as the underlying investments. You can’t get any information as to how long this immediate variable/fixed annuity stays in effect. Is there a 1035 exchange when the. lifetime income annuitant reaches the normal ret

irement age to qualify for the employer-based benefit. The company seems to be messy. The auditors for the multistate settlement
lement regarding beneficiaries not being notified must have caused a shutdown of normal operations beginning in 2011 when the investigations began because this company has been hellish for those who simply want to convert their accumulations to lifetime.TIAa has been doing this since 1918 they need to be honest
bout the impact of the settlement on access to the general fund for new lifetime annuities. The States involved in the settlement have until Oct 15 2013 to signoff. Does TIAaCREF intend to play oops games with forms and confirmation signatur
es until the settlement is finalized?

then. Tell the annuitants the truth and find solutions rooted in truth utilizes best insurance

sponsored life insurance. Many employer-based participants are stuck in immediate annuity a limbo not knowing why and when it ends. TIAA CREF doesn’t seem comfortable with

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avatar Edward Bergman November 12, 2013 at 11:14 am

I have exactly the same experience as Chrisopher Hanks. You need only annuitize a small portion ($10K for me) to trigger lifetime health benefits from some employers. The balance continues in whatever investments you have selected.

I will say, however, that TC requires a needlessly complicated procedure to withdraw your required minimum distributions (RMDs), particularly if you have more than one contract as many of us do. The investment funds available are also a bit pricey in terms of management fees, which is why I and others have transferred funds out of TC to Vanguard, which is better all around. Just takes a bit of perserverence to pull this off.

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avatar ethicwatch August 6, 2013 at 8:13 am

Sorry. There was a audit of TIAA Life as part of a multistate investigation regarding not notifying insurance and annuity beneficiaries of their benefits. I believe TIAA stopped operations in 2011 Nov to allow private auditors to search their database for deceased annuitants/ insured and their beneficiaries. The multistate investigationa was settled by TC on or about June 13 2013. I think 26 States must agree to the settlement by Oct 15 2013. I believe the company couldn’t fully process lifetime income annuities during the investigation and that’s when the papework/employer confirmation signature oops situations intensified. This appears to be a TIAA generated matter since the investigation and settlement and lifetime income annuities are insurance matters. TIAA needs to be honest the investigation stopped lifetime income annuitization for a time period. The homepage has been e

xperiencing difficulties because some insurance related activities have been stopped for now. Maybe until October 2013. People put their faith in TIAA for a safe secure retirement.by not removing deceased annuitants and paying their beneficiaries their due many new annuitants are stuck in limbo and hurting. I believe this nightmare on third ave in new York city was created by TIAA the insurance company with the multistar rating. Come clean and fix this customer service sucks because the truth about the impact of the insurance investigation hasn’t been revealed. You TC settled with the States the other companies are pending.

rk oops situations increased. Lifetime Annuitants were given single premium immediate annuities as initial payouts because the general fund was tied up in
the investigation.

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avatar David Manger January 4, 2014 at 11:52 pm

It looks from your comments as if annunitants can obtain a single lump-sum payout as a result of and during the settlement. Is this correct? My wife’s account is small and TIAA CREF insists she must receive it in payments over 10 years. Do you have a cite to the litigation? I am an attorney and interested in what is the result of settlement

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avatar Steve January 5, 2014 at 11:56 am

Same thing here, but even after filing paperwork, nothing.

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avatar Pat February 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I would be very interested in any additional information regarding this audit. I had a traditional annuity and was never informed that withdrawals could be made in ten annual installments. The contract with TIAA merely referenced a transfer to a CREF account. I never received the CREF contract until 35 years after the TIAA contract when I complained !
When I called TIAA in 2005 I was given the wrong information. When I contacted TIAA again, I was told that I could not access my funds until I was 65. Then in 2013 I was finally allowed to withdraw my first annual payment. I have complained to the BBB, SEC and the CA Dept of Insurance. But TIAA provides incorrect information and the agencies then state since there is a difference of opinion my only options is to file a lawsuit. The amendments to my TIAA never told me about the cash withdrawals. If there is more information out there, I would love to hear it. Thank you.

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avatar Pat February 11, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I replied to another similar comment. Please see below. I have been going round and round with TIAA and they state I can only receive ten annual installments because of my contract. But when I look at the contract, there is not even a mention of an ability to withdraw cash, just an ability to transfer to CREF. I have been in constant communication with their legal department, but no luck so far. They have provided misinformation and don’t seem to care. The Quarterly statements also do not mention a ten year cash withdrawal option until 2010. If you have any more info I would love to see it and I would be happy to share my information with you. I am trying to get TIAA to provide me with back payments that I should have received but for lack of notice. They denied my claim and now my claim is with the Plan Administrator. Thanks

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avatar The Wizard February 12, 2014 at 6:53 am

It appears that SOMEBODY was not aware of the RULES regarding holding Trad in a GRA or RA. GOTCHA!!

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avatar Pat February 12, 2014 at 10:48 am

Question: If TIAA does not clearly state the rules in their contract, and provides inaccurate information through customer service, how can one be aware of the rules ? Seriously I would appreciate input as I need to determine the extent of their negligence. . So far they have an uncanny ability to distort information that comes from their own office.

avatar ethicwatch August 6, 2013 at 10:48 am

The firm that conducted the audit investigation against TC Verus Financials L.L.C of Waterbury Conn. The auditors demanded and were allowed to get information on ever life insurance policy or annuity contract. Most States do not have statutes of limitation on insurance account information. The look back period can be decades. So ask yourself what impact did this audit have and continues to have on the day to day operations of TIAA the life insurance company that provides retirement income though insurance products? Cref has its problems but it appears this audit has severely hindered TIAA from completely processing lifetime income annuities under employer plan. When you call you connect with CREF staff. TIAA is the mystery.

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avatar Susan M. Petroshius August 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm

We have had a major issue with TIAA Cref not paying out a life insurance policy. The deceased had the policy for 24 years with one year left to go on a 25 year policy. In the 23rd year he was diagnosed with three brain tumors and had immediate emergency surgery followed by a stroke the week of the surgery. This was in Sept of 2010. In July a payment of approximately $770 was due; he passed away in Sept of 2011. He was a 30 year teacher, veteran marine who always made the payments on time. Due to his severe disability, no one was aware of the payment due. After an attorney was hired, a representative of TIAA Cref requested copies of medical records verifying the disability. These were sent in Jan of 2013. To date, after numerous unreturned phone calls and letters, there has been no response from the company. This is not only a horrible way to conduct business but certainly not responsive to the needs of families of disabled teachers and veterans.

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avatar ethicwatch August 25, 2013 at 9:02 am

Sorting through all the income options can be confusing and frustrating but we’ll worth the effort. My focus at employer-based retirement is on fixed period annuity payments vs lifetime income annuity payments. The first is an investment product and the latter is an insurance product. Th fixed period installment payment are cref and tiaa variable payout options and lifetime income annuity is a guaranteed insurance product from tiaa. At retirement participants who choose fixed period 2-30 years or 5-30 years the amount of their accumulation is put in an annuity to pay principal and interest for the number of years chosen to receive the payout at the end of the time period those payments stop. This decision happens after that 120 day period at retirement when you must take a monthly amount to qualify for employer retirement benefits. It is also at this time participants can decide about lifetime income from 403b variable accumulations. After 120 days lifetime income is not available only fixed period 2-30 or 5-30 yrs depending on the accounts.
A lifetime income annuity is tiaa traditional in payout for lifetime income this is an insurance product. This payout is principal and interest plus declared amounts. The lifetime income annuity is where the vintage system comes into play. I do not believe vintages are calculated with fixed period payments. So it appears most employer-based participants take the lump sum which didn’t include the vintages or the fixed period installment payments which appear to be investment distributions that also do not include the vintage system payment boost.
The question is “why do so few people seek lifetime income payouts” the answer miscommunication.
The payout examples on the statements during accumulation appear to be for a single life immediate variable annuity you can use immediate annuities.com to see if your statement amounts match. Participants see these immediate annuity quotes and decide that a lumpsum is the best answer at retirement. Until a employer-based retiree choses a lifetime income payout you won’t know the positive impact the vintage system has on your payout. Clearer information needs to be given in employer summary plans and all related websites. Longevity insurance is very much a part of a lifetime income annuity for either one or two lives. I don’t think you can do the fixed period payments with tiaa traditional I believe that is ten payments over nine years.
Payouts for 401a which most times is employer contributions can be different from 403b b or the same depending on the plan. I am not so sure the call center people understand lifetime income payouts since TAP and lumpsums are the new normal. I am trying to understand the nature of this retirement beast and share both my confusion and understanding.

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avatar ethicwatch August 26, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Sorry TPA transfer payout annuity.

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avatar Steve Savage August 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I am not confused, nor do I believe the treatment I have received is indicative of call center ineptitude. I made multiple phone calls including two that lasted nearly a half hour. I was walked through forms. I have received a letter stating they have everything they need, then I get the same form I just sent in a week before to be filled out again.

In that same time frame I transferred funds from seven large accounts to an advisor the total of which dwarfs my TIAA/CREF funds. My latest letter, by the way, went unanswered.

I would encourage anyone interacting with TIAA/CREF to do so in writing and sent registered mail, then file a complaint with the appropriate government agency. At the same time, since TIAA/CREF advertises in the AARP monthly and on NPR, write those agencies noting the problems you have had and your opinion of why it has happened.

If the call center can’t handle calls, they need to either train or replace employees. Stop making excuses for what, in my opinion, is deception and dishonesty!!

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avatar ethicwatch August 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I hope you do not get burned by your new advisor through high and hidden fees. I believe the lack of transparency regarding payout options really needs to be investigated by institutions and regulators.

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avatar Steve Savage August 26, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Fees are spelled out and not hard to track. What could be worse than TIAA/CREF which gives me no pay-out, just endless forms? Actually did a fair amount of research prior to choosing advisors. Been investing a long time.

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avatar ethicwatch August 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm

The secret for employer plans is money left in plans by participants continue to serve as a tax deduction to the employer for their contributions. I believe many participants are stuck in payout at the single life immediate annuity phase which is purchased with after tax accumulations. Look at your 403b statements older plans had after tax accumulations I think they were closed but remain in accounts but you might or might not be able to contribute. The payout process for lifetime income is a complete unknown. I think aftertax single life or joking life immediate annuity might serve as the initial payout on the secretive road to lifetime income. Lifetime income annuity tiaa traditional is one or two life. As participants begin to understand the nature of this beast they will demand process transparency. There isn’t a company named TIAA CREF it’s two different companies TIAA and CREF that share services.

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avatar Joel L. Frank September 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm

After tax 403(b) plans are a very small portion of the 403(b) market. The lion’s share is pre-tax and a the smaller share which is always gaining in market share is the Roth 403(b).

Your first sentence is WRONG. A non-profit or public educational institution does not pay income tax!.. Moreover, in a for-profit environment only the annual contribution to the plan is a tax deduction. In the annuity payout phase the annuity income consists of two amounts. Amount 1 is the return of principal (basis) and Amount 2 is the interest earned on the annuity account balance. If the annuitant lives no longer or shorter than his/her life expectancy the account balance will be zero. An actuarial gain to the insurer occurs when the annuitant dies prior to his/her life expectancy while an actuarial gain to the annuitant occurs when the annuitant dies after reaching his/her life expectancy.

Having said all that, assume a 4 percent fixed interest rate. That rate must be paid regardless of the investment return of the insurer’s holdings. From 1982-2000 the SP 500 returned about 17-18 percent per year while during the first decade of the current century it returned about 1 percent. When an insurer has a good year it declares a dividend if the annuity policy is participatory. In a bad year it must continue to payout 4 percent, the guaranteed rate.

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avatar ethicwatch September 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm

All educators had after tax plans in the late 80,s before they were discontinued and frozen. 403b plans are prevalent in higher ed plans mainly as employee only contributions but employers can contribute and use as main retirement accounts. In May of 2013 TIAA is offering “Investment Horizon Annuity” a individual flexible premium modified guaranteed annuity contract, it appears to be after tax. In the prospectus it says for 100000 the monthly payout would be $5000. This is truly a far cry from the single life payout most new annuitants receive through TIAA CREF immediate annuities. I question why, my confusion comes from information in various company literature. The payout should be the same for single life same amount whether before or after tax money is annuitize.

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avatar ethicwatch September 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I said tax deduction you stated income tax. There is an employer tax.

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avatar ethicwatch September 9, 2013 at 12:35 pm

TIAA CREF after tax annuities from today’s website:
Investment Horizon Annuity
Intelligent Variable Annuity
Single Premium Immediate Annuity
please help us understand the superior payout schemes.

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avatar ethicwatch August 27, 2013 at 7:43 am

Joint life (sorry Kindle does what it does)

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avatar ethicwatch September 7, 2013 at 11:42 am

Do you know that under Rev.Rule 2012-4. Participants can rollover 401(k) balances to same employer DB plan and convert to an annuity from DB plan. You do not have to purchase a retail annuity usually inferior and reap the superior payout under your employer plan group annuity. This is a IRS ruling. So much to learn.

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avatar ethicwatch September 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

The push by financial services firms to wealth management seems to have triggered hearings and examinations by the IRS and DOL. Retirement accounts are for retirement and there is specific regulations that govern retirement accumulations and distributions. The existing federal laws for retirement plans do not support wealth management. It would seem that the financial services industry would have made sure wealth management accumulated assets were legislatively protected. I say this because wealth management clients are upset about new and pending legislation that limits account accumulations in excess of the 3 million necessary to generate at 205000 annual lifetime income annuity payout. So where does the blame lie if the IRS starts looking at wealth managed funds for tax levies? It appears that both the financial services companies and the wealth managed participant could be assessed a tax levy since there isn’t, present legislation to protect such schemes that go beyond retirement income provisions. This will be interesting to watch unfold now and in the future. It is quite evident that the financial services industry has fully embrace wealth management and legacy providing as the new normal. They should have lobbied for protective legislation before going full throttle. I suspect they will develop new payout schemes to encourage the use of options. As it stands right now the IRS can use existing laws to go after excess accumulations in retirement savings accounts. Just my simple take on a looming issue. The companies openly advertise wealth management schemes and intent, the IRS and anybody else can clearly see the plan goes way beyond normal retirement. The problem is it is done in the shadow of legislation specifically geared to retirement accumulations and payout options.

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avatar BH September 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

“The push by financial services firms to wealth management seems to have triggered hearings and examinations by the IRS and DOL. ……….. wealth management clients are upset about new and pending legislation that limits account accumulations in excess of the 3 million necessary to generate at 205000 annual lifetime income annuity payout …….”

Ethicwatch …… Could you provide some more information about the above, … links to articles, etc.?

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avatar ethicwatch September 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Just put Obama Administration and IRS go after 401k /retirement wealth. Think in terms of bank and credit union savings accounts the interest is taxed. In now retirement savings accounts yield higher return and the money isn’t taxed until it’s withdrawn. I like people to expand their own understanding and share. There really isn’t anything blocking taxation of excessive accumulations. The excessive accumulations could be create a taxable situation for the participant, employer plan sponsor and the plan provider, the US government has a huge budget hole this presents a legitimate fix thanks to the financial services geniuses.

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avatar Fact Checker December 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

The rumors about a govt take over of retirement plans have swirled for decades and it hasn’t happened yet. In the current anti-tax climate, especially for the wealthy who undoubtedly have most of the ‘excessive’ accumulations, I very much doubt that this will ever happen.

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avatar ethicwatch October 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Update Was it something I said TIAA CREF dropped “wealth management” Now it’s. “Advisory Services”. Great move lots of IRS codes to support advisory services for retirement providers. They still need to provide secure web access to lifetime annuity payout process, the present system must violate federal consumer protection laws bait and switch comes to mind. Using immediate single life annuity quotes on quarterly statements definitely discourage annuitization at retirement, it’s deceptive because the vintages aren’t factored in and lifetime is an insurance product whereas a single life 10 year annuity is an investment product usually from aftertax monies. The call center employees lack understanding of employer based annuitization. Bad information customer frustration and confusion.

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avatar ethicwatch September 11, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Flexible I don’t intend to hijack your website but TIAA lifetime annuity payout process from employer plans leave you feeling violated. This is my last post so I will be brief and direct. When a public sector employee is ready to retire, their state website will tell them to contact the vendor. The website also states you can receive an annuity at any age. The federal law says if you annuitize for lifetime income you will not incur penalties usually levied if you withdraw monies before 59 1/2. So you call TIAA CREF you tell them you want to convert all or a portion of your accumulations to lifetime income, this is when crazy is given life. All TIAA CREF products are some form of fixed or variable annuity. So going back to the law you can get a annuity at any age as long as it is a lifetime annuity. TIAA CREF takes your designated accumulations rolls them into new contracts and your initial payout is either a Single Life or Joint Life Immediate Annuity.As a reference for an article “Retirement Preparation and Crucial Decisions” the author references immediate annuities.com for a female 70 who needs a single life annuity. All lifetime income annuitants at TC convert first to immediate annuities? Why? Why can’t you annuitize from the general account with your vintage and additional amounts? After decades of contributing to public employer based retirement plans all you want is you monthly payment for life. Just run a l
amount through immediate annuities.com for lifetime income and watch your pressure rise. The read the information for the new after tax immediate annuities offered to the public so that we can share the frustration. Very easy in accumulation frustrating and horrific in the lifetime income annuitization process. Please take the time to read TIAA CREF after tax prospectus single premium immediate annuity, intelligent variable annuity and the investment horizon annuity. The company can and must do better regarding the lifetime income annuity process. It presently feels like a scam. I hope my comments help those who simply want a monthly check and fairness. I’m done with this topic.

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avatar ethicwatch September 11, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Sorry typed Flexo luv my Kindle!

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avatar Linda Bricker November 9, 2013 at 7:43 am

Ethics watch, please don’t stop commenting. Your information is clear and very helpful.

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avatar Monica November 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm


I have a traditional retirement account with TIAA-CREF account that I received when I got divorced. I tried to cash it out early on, but they said I had to spread it out over 7 years(I believe). Do I have to accept this answer? They told me the only time I had an option to cash it it out was in the first 120 days. They dragged their feet when I received this from my divorce and the option was gone by the time they finally transferred it to me. Also, there was $17,000 I was awarded and $12,000 when I received it. They said this was due to changes in the market. Any advice?

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avatar radvspu November 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Really disappointed in TIAA-CREF. Information provided by the person answering the phone regarding the transfer of funds into and out of retirements accounts was completely wrong! In addition, the information they provided about opening a brokerage account was incomplete, so this account was not opened. No one contacted me about this, and it has been listed on line as “in process” for days. I just called and found out that they needed additional information to open the account…I spend a lot of time on the phone contacting them to find out why nothing is moving….they used to be on top of things, but, over the past few years have really gone downhill!

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avatar Steve November 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

What no one seems to understand is TIAA/CREF does not care. They do not care about you, they do not care about me, and they have no reason to do so. Unless we can get to the level of filing a class action suit or bring some type of criminal charge, they have us. They are huge, they have a team of lawyers, and you may as well speak a foreign language when calling in as the people answering the phones know next to nothing. I was sent the wrong forms repeatedly, took the wrong forms to the university that employed me three different times for signatures, and had lengthy phone calls with folks identified there as specialist who could help me complete forms (on two occasions with my financial planner on the line so I have a witness). On one occasion I spent nearly 45 minutes with one of these experts filling out a completely unnecessary form. Finally I got two phone calls and a letter advising me everything was complete and two days later got a form I had already sent in to complete. That was months ago and still nothing.

Do the following: If you worked for a University make sure the HR office knows of your problems, write AARP, file a complaint with the Federal government. There is an office that handles complaints about pensions. Do not expect TIAA/CREF to help. They make money by holding onto our money. In my opinion their actions are criminal.

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avatar Carmine November 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Or go to or threaten to go to the media. An investigative outfit like Pro-Publica. After months of resistance, it was only when I emailed (so as to have it in writing) that I would go to the media, that I got a more coherent response.

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avatar Linda Bricker November 9, 2013 at 8:09 am

I’m taking my money out of TIAA, the investment has not been annuitized. Will I face any problems? Any advice? I sadly bought into TIAA’s PR, which was based on a venerable past. Their image as a non-profit for professors and their motto “for the greater good” appealed to me. Now, they are linked with the Arnold Foundation. Diane Ravitch says in her blog that Arnold is out to “gut the public pensions.” Arnold’s Foundation testified in the state capitols, under the guise of the respected Pew name. The website, Truthout explains and Taibbi, in Rolling Stone, “Looting the Pensions”, provides background. Arnold, formerly of Enron, is working with Michelle Rhee to privatize schools. TIAA research was posted at State Budget Solutions, which until 2 weeks ago, Identified itself as a partnership with two Koch-backed organizations. The Chair of the David Koch Theater is on the TIAA Board of Overseers. The Koch’s are probably laughing at professors who showed ignorance by investing in TIAA. I know better now, I’ll do better.

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avatar Steve November 9, 2013 at 8:19 am

How much trouble you will have depends on them. It took me a multitude of forms to get anything back and no luck at all so far on the “lifetime annuity”. As a young professor many years ago, I really had no choice as far as where my pension funds went. The only saving grace for me teaching in a medical school was leaving the University life for private practice.

I may never get all my money back, but if I can do anything to limit TIAA/CRAF’s reach and mobilize some type of action to stop this kind of thing from happening to others, I will have achieved my goal. I just don’t think people are supposed to be treated this way!


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avatar Linda November 10, 2013 at 9:14 am

Inside Higher Ed., July12, 2013, Lauren Ingno, reports, “a federal judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit charging that TIAA-CREF wrongfully retained investment income from the accounts of instructors at private colleges….” I don’t know if there has been any action either way since the report.
Forbes has an interesting article about the resignation of a former TIAA-CREF president, “A Quant’s View…”
I read the TIAA-CREF Policy Statement on Governance. Quoting their mission, “to help those in the academic…field as they plan for .. and live well in retirement…to help provide for their financial security.” (1) Undermining teacher pensions, seems contradictory to the mission? Further, the policy says, “Investors should be willing to take action when they believe the Board has not adequately represented their interests.” (2) In my opinion, TIAA actively worked against my interests when they co-authored dubious research with the Arnold Foundation. Further quoting, “Companies involved in political activities…(should be acting) in the best interests of shareholders” They talk of their “constituencies’ interests for a long-term, sustainable healthy economy”. Domestic spending by a financially secure middle class achieves that goal better than a plutocratic system. The uber wealthy can’t spend their money fast enough to help the economy. That’s why they are pouring it into the political and judicial systems. If TIAA polled their participants and asked them if they wanted TIAA to further the agenda of Enron’s Arnold and the Koch’s, they would say a resounding “no”.
(3) So, who’s interests are TIAA serving?
The Daily Beast described TIAA’s CEO as Wall Street’s Fantasy for head of the Federal Reserve. Thank you Pres. Obama for not choosing him.

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avatar ethicwatch November 12, 2013 at 3:05 am

Steve please share your lifetime annuity experiences very few tiaa participants annually annuitize for a lifetime income annuity. Most participants chose ore are steered towards a fixed period monthly payments. TIAA is different from the immediate annuities from cref and tiaa variable annuities. There isn’t't any available payout process or timetable. As a consumer purchasing lifetime income from an insurance company this information should be readily available at the employer website and in the employer summary plan since each plan is different.

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avatar Steve November 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

I think one of the most important thing we all can do is make our university representatives aware of the situation. TIAA/CREF needs to be gone!!

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avatar Linda November 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

TIAA participants would be surprised to learn what Huffpost’s David Halperin reported (10-15-2013). “TIAA owns 389,000 shares of Corinthian College”, a for-profit institution, under investigation.
The viewpoints of Rich Hiller, a TIAA vice-president, about pensions, were expressed at American City and County, in 2012 and 2013. In the first he says, “something must be done…with measured expediency.” In the 2nd, he speaks of hybrid plans.
In 2010, Stuart Buck, a doctoral student at the University of Arkansas, wrote a paper titled, “Trouble Brewing, The Disaster of California State Pensions”, which was released by the Foundation for Educational Choice. In what is to me, unprecedented, in academic research, a vested party, a company that stood to gain from political action, was singularly identified. Buck states, “California could shift to a TIAA-CREF style hybrid plan.”
Kentucky pensioners have cause to feel aggrieved.

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avatar ethicwatch November 12, 2013 at 3:17 am

The combined defined benefit/defined contribution hybrids are designed by the employer in the case of the state it’s usually the state, county and local employers. TIAA CREF follows the employer plan. I honestly believe TC LIFE was put on pause NOV
2012 to allow the company hired by the lead states to examine the companies books for unclaimed. and deceased annuitants. Lots of processes were on hold until OCT 2013. TC Life is the unknown.

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avatar Linda November 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Could you please clarify? Are you saying that (1) states have hybrid plans and companies like TIAA handled those plans? (2) In 2012, some of those states hired a company to check to see if plan participants had passed away but, were still listed?
(3) The situation in which a person’s family fails to make a claim to the insurer/annuity provider, in a reasonable time period, must be very common and processes to cover the situation, evident? What would be unique in a case, that would require a year to fix? Is there gain for any party, other than retention of whatever balance was left at the date of death?

Thank you.

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avatar ethicwatch November 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Yes there are states with hybrid plans with TIAA CREF as the provider. States need help providing lifetime income for retirees and relief for taxpayers. 403nd are usually supplemental and voluntary employees can boost retirement monies from basic plans in hybrids. The. 2012 reference deals with dead annuitants and not contacting beneficiaries TC LIFE is a insurance company state insurance directors filed the complaint bad business practice. The settlement agreement is online under Florida multistate settlement with TIAA CREF.

avatar Joel L. Frank November 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Is there anything right with T/C?

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avatar Linda November 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Do you have knowledge about which companies offering 403b’s, are working against the pensions?

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avatar Joel L. Frank November 13, 2013 at 10:13 am

These companies were always the back-up quarterback; just waiting for the first stringer to get hurt or too old—-get my drift? If the pensions were on solid footing how could any extraneous force work for their demise?

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avatar Linda November 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Old story, same Wall St. greed. Corporate raiders, in the 80′s, claimed they would turn around staid companies and they’d flourish under new management. The company, Simplicity, had $100,000,000 in cash. After 4 successive raids, they were $100,000,000 in debt. In 2011, Bill Gates, in a rant against pensions, generalized a crisis from isolated pension shortages, and claimed, “even the Enron guys wouldn’t do this”. Was Bill prescient, was it a Freudian slip or did Arnold get the idea from him?
Back to the central questions, why is TIAA swimming with hedge funds and can you identify financial companies that are not trying to dismantle pension funds/Social Security, because there is a niche for them? A lot of us thought TIAA was that “greater good” niche. Obviously, we were very wrong.

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avatar Joel L. Frank November 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Up until 1960s the public higher education crowd were covered by the PERS of the various states. They wanted portability, so the politicos gave them the portable/mobile system known as T/C. New Jersey for example, has mandated these people into the T/C system, since the 1960s while New York gives them a choice, at the point of hire, of joining the DB PERS or the T/C system.

A 60/40 split between stocks/bonds have served these people very very well over the last 45-50 years. Is there anyone out there that has elected T/C 45-50 years ago that is sorry they did not stay with the DB PERS?

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avatar Linda November 12, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Joel, Thank you for the answer, albeit not the question I asked.
The Federal Reserve, according to NIRS, reports that the median balance, in 401 k’s, is $44,000. TIAA, in 2010, was quoted in an article in the Chronicle (p. 7., Josh Keller, “As Pensions Costs Rise Colleges Pay the Price), paraphrasing,— hybrid plans would provide more security and more political cover than abandoning pensions entirely.—-
College faculty are really a non-issue. Their costs represent a negligible portion of increased costs at colleges. I think almost 70% of faculty are part-time. The real issue is the K-12 teachers and other public employees. Instead of what the manufactured crisis propaganda says, pensions are about 3% of state budgets and the average pension is around $20,000. Many pensioners don’t qualify for Social Security. The NCTR, in an article titled, “Rauh Resurfaces…” debunks a lot of the propaganda.
Let’s say for a moment that k-12 teachers thanked someone for helping them find TIAA. Then, let’s say the person who was thanked, found out that the company was trying to do away with the teachers’ pensions, would he have a responsibility to tell the teachers? Or, would he have the moral compass, that made him think, “If I know a wrong is being committed, I am under no obligation to tell anyone, because I did not commit the wrong”? When Social Security is gone, which is a similar Koch goal, will this man walk by the elderly on the streets and care not, about his part in it? Will he teach his children the same moral code?

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avatar Linda November 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm

With the sort of venom directed at teachers, by the Tea Party, the fact that they go in and teach our children with enthusiasm, exposing themselves to colds/violence and literally hundreds of things a guy sitting in an office, never experiences, is simply dedication to doing the right thing.
As I understand the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Dec. 2013, in an article by William Cohan, Dan Loeb, hedge fund manger of Three Point Capital, joined the anti-teacher Students First, then, audaciously, sought pension funds, from teachers for his company to invest! Let’s see if there is a parallel with TIAA? They publish research, jointly authored with the Arnold Foundation, then try to sell 403 b’s to teachers. 403 b’s are individually purchased so,it may take longer for the teachers to be informed and act but, it’ll happen. Tragically, TIAA is a non-profit with only participants like me, to please. They likely mortally wounded themselves and they don’t even have stockholders pushing them to do it. Incredible. Where are the Boards of CREF and TIAA?

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avatar Marcia Godich November 13, 2013 at 1:35 am

It’s true, teachers do a tough job – so do police and firemen. But unfortunately, partly due to less funding from the Federal government (thanks to the GOP) and to the 2008-09 debacle (thanks to unlicensed free market greed) many communities honestly can no longer continue to pay public pensions AND pay current teachers/police/firemen etc. An the trouble is, with traditional public pensions, they have to keep paying till the retirees die. Meanwhile, if they switch to 403-Bs, they are only obligated until employees retire. I know, I had a choice 30 years ago to go with the public pension or TIAA-CREF. Because I didn’t know if I would get tenure and stay in state, I chose TIAA. When I retired, I chose the lifetime annuity option from TIAA (leaving a lump sum to gather interest for future needs.) My pension is a little lower than if I had gone with the state pension – but I can feel good that my state (PA) doesn’t have to keep paying for me, which helps them pay for the current batch of teachers and students going to school. After all, I have my Social Security (as far as I know, ALL teachers do) which was a “guaranteed” plan, so I could tolerate some risk in the 403B (although I also opted for very conservative investment choices.) From the point of view of our society over-all, I think that if government jobs offer the combination of Social Security with 403Bs, both communities and retirees could remain solvent. After all, what good does a super retirement fund do me if my community goes bankrupt?

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avatar Linda November 13, 2013 at 8:54 am

Should our taxes, allocated for education, line the pockets of Enron’s Arnold and Third Point Capital? Why is TIAA swimming with hedge funds?
Low Walmart wages, no middle class, no Social Security, no revenue for local businesses, guarantees community bankruptcy.
Supreme court Justice Brandeis said, “You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few or, you can have democracy but, you can’t have both.”

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avatar Linda November 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Public employees In Ohio, the seventh largest state, in population, do not qualify for Social Security. The same is true in other large and small states. After privatization of public pensions,abolishment of Social Security is the next agenda item, for Wall Street and the Koch Bros.
When government resources enriched Haliburton, headquartered in Dubai, where was the concern about the consequences of impoverishing the government? Check to see the number of American’s incomes combined that would equal the income of the 6 heirs to the Walmart fortune then, tell me there’s no money for school janitors, infrastructure, and Social Security, etc.

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avatar Marcia Godich November 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Linda – I learned something new here! Sorry – my family is apparently all in states that do include teachers in Soc Sec. Incidentlaly, I was a university teacher, so not considered a “public employee in the same sense – and a friend of mine who retired from Ohio State U. also has Soc Sec benefits, so I am guessing that may be more true of higher education. But, although I hear your fear for Social Security (I am a died in the wool liberal and will do all I can to support strengthening Social Security,) I think it might be better served by including EVERYONE in that safety net instead of a collection of separate state or federal plans for Public Employees. Of course, I could be wrong – lets hope the GOP agenda for destroying our safety nets results in the election of more Dems, which may finally force the GOP to restructure itself into a party that pays attention to the majority rather than the extremists.

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avatar Joel L. Frank November 13, 2013 at 8:44 pm

Your lifetime TIAA annuity is backed up by the current crop of employees/employers that are paying into the T/C system along with dedicated Reserves. The same holds true with someone that gets a DB pension from PA. The “risk pool” is either in the Defined Contribution arena or the Defined Benefit arena. A Defined Benefit pension is nothing more than a lifetime annuity payout. One can get to the same end game by contributing to either plan. One major difference: It is rare for the DB plan to offer a lump-sum settlement—-annuitizing is mandatory. It is rare for the DC plan to mandate annuitizing—most retirees take withdrawals using life expectancy tables. Bo so doing they retain ownership of their retirement capital.

Q.: Why did you not take life expectancy withdrawals from your T/C account rather than annuitizing what I assume was the lion share of your account balance?


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avatar Linda November 14, 2013 at 8:34 am

Joel and Marcia,
(1) The law of contract has not been addressed. Chiquita and Delhi reneged on contracts with pensioners, so can TIAA. The question is, which is more likely, a state files for bankruptcy or a financial firm like TIAA, think Lehman Bros. I wrongly assumed, that TIAA, as a non-profit, would be stable but, now they are swimming with hedge funds.
(2) The teachers have the ability to fight school privatization through their accumulated pensions. They starve Dan Loeb and Michelle Rhee at Students First and the Arnold Foundation, of the hedge funds they so greedily covet.
Who would have thought TIAA would pair with them?
(3) Correction for Joel. Ohio, again the 7th largest state in the nation, has STRS, which for one, offers a lump sum payout.
(4) Warren Buffett said to not invest in something you don’t understand. My Mom, in her 90′s understands her pension. How transparent are annuities? Where will orphans and the elderly be without their Social Security pensions?

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avatar Joel L. Frank November 15, 2013 at 11:43 am

T/C is a Defined Contribution system. As such, the portion that is converted at retirement to a fixed income annuity, by definition is fully funded. Thus, short of bankruptcy TIAA will always honor this fixed annuity contract. In contrast a fixed annuity funded by a DB plan might be only 65 percent funded at the time payments begin. I would rather have TIAA than the public DB pension.

Your mother’s SS is based on her children and grandchildren paying ever higher payroll taxes—–that is how her COLA is financed.

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avatar Joel L. Frank November 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Amplification: Ohio STRS offers a DB or a DC or a combo of the two. The DB mandates annuity payout. The lump-sum comes from the DC plan for those that elected it or the DC portion of the Combo plan for those that elected it.

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avatar Linda November 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm

A few years ago, my friend took a 100% lump sum payout from his STRS D/B plan.
D/C’s went to state capitols, with Pew/Arnold and professors, later discredited, Changes were made to pensions. No surprise.
Here’s what’s unsustainable. There are more mutual funds/hedge funds than there are U. S. companies, in which to invest.

avatar Marcia Godich November 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Joel, you are right that my retirement annuity has to be backed by someone – I assume a combination of current employee payments and the returns from the combination of stocks and bonds etc, that TIAA is invested in. I also realize that’s less secure than a large public fund, but that very insecurity means it won’t be obligated to keep paying out when there is no money with which to do so. So I accept that I may see lower payments in poor economic times. (although of course, it doesn’t make me happy.) I support “socialized programs” Social Security, Public police and fire services, Public Schools and Universities, and a single-payer medical system, because I believe those are things which shouldn’t be considered “commodities.” But I recognize the problem that they had in socialized countries (my father;s family still live in Croatia) when the price of bread was mandated lower than the cost of farming the wheat – it meant collapse!

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avatar Linda November 14, 2013 at 11:56 am

correction to prior post: I did not intend to imply that Michelle Rhee and Students First have any interest in hedge funds.

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avatar Linda November 15, 2013 at 10:01 am

Except that, the hedge funds/managers financially support and/or are on the Boards of Students First.

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avatar Marcia Godich November 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Linda, I understand your concern about the stability of private firms like TIAA-CREF. I share them, and, although I have never had a problem with them I sympathize with those who do, and worry that the company service is going downhill. (amazingly, in the light of the stories I see on Flexo, my retirement plans ran smoothly and TIAA was helpful!) My comment was not to support TIAA-CREF specifically, but to address the issue of public employee pensions, which (however wonderful they seem) I believe are reaching an unsustainable cost to our economy (not because f some corrupt or greedy officials but because of the essential dynamics of the system.) Many of my family members have been school teachers, and I realize that, when we have to pay increased school taxes, a lot of that goes into continuing to support teachers’ pensions. This angers MANY of my neighbors who don’t have the option of public pensions, so they pressure the community to keep the taxes lower. The growing discrepancy between public and private retirements seems to be leading to a conflict that rivals what’s happening in congress! My suggestion, that we ALL accept a combination of security and risk, was with a view to moving in the direction of accord rather than discord.

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avatar Linda November 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Recently, Pete Peterson spent one-half of a billion dollars, in Washington, to get cuts to Social Security (Huffpo). And, your source of power, is?

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avatar David Barnwell November 15, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I have been very unhappy with the standard of customer service given by TIAA-CREF employees. I have been in the process of commencing receipt of payments on my TIAA annutiy and for that reason have had dealings with several employees, by phone and on the TIAA-CREF web site. I received utterly wrong information from one employee (he assured me that my total holdings were about one-third of what they really are, and refused all my efforts to get him to see where he was wrong). I gave up after a while and called back, and was attended to by an agent who at least knew how to calculate my holdings. But I could draw up a long list of errors–wrong forms being sent, inadequate information being given etc. etc. Because this outfit has a near-monopoly I think they get away with lousy service to the customer.

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avatar Linda November 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I am sorry about your experience. It appears it is not unique. I have been looking for a financial firm that is smaller and behaves in a manner more consistent with a motto, the greater good, to transfer my money to. It is my hope that direct communication between the two entities will expedite the process.
TIAA would have more money for staff and training if it wasn’t for the ownership of 386,000 shares of the for-profit, Corinthian University, that is under investigation, currently trading at $2.00, from a high of $20 (assuming Huffpost is correct). Didn’t everyone know there were problems with these types of companies? Our newspapers are always running stories about the corruption at Ohio charter schools. The shared research between the Arnold Foundation and TIAA is confounding. I just can’t figure out where the Boards, that are supposed to oversee the organization, are. TIAA’s governance statements, loftily call for an active community that lets the management know of issues. You can reach them via snail mail but, I’ve had no response. My rep. forwarded an e-mail from the Business Communications person.. I think her name was Hope, too funny, right? She wrote that I should contact her directly with additional questions. And, I’m still waiting for a response. As Steve suggested in an earlier post, share your story with colleagues. I wish you better luck in the future. Sincerely.

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avatar Linda December 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm

My reference to a stated willingness by a TIAA person, to answer my follow-up questions about the Arnold Foundation, was unintentionally incorrect. An offer had been made by my rep. to follow-up, on my concerns about the pension issue. He cited a lack of experience with that type of issue and forwarded my question to an internal TIAA person. I then directed my follow-up question, to that person, to whom, I mistakenly attributed the offer of further reply. The reason the TIAA Institute paired with the Arnold Foundation for research, still confounding. The opinion of the Board about pensions?

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avatar ethicwatch December 30, 2013 at 8:36 am

I decided to research Linda’s comments about the campaign to dismantle public pensions, I found the Institute for America’s Future Report “The Plot Against Pensions” anyone can download this report at the Institute for America website. The companion report from the TIAA CREF Institute was removed. Looks like we have foxes guarding the chicken coop at TIAA CREF INSTITUTE. Those shareholder proxy votes might be creating strange bedfellows between TIAA board members and Wall St. The wolves are looking for sustainable money supplies they smell our retirement monies. This is truly an opportunity for elder abuse. Who watches these people? Everyone read the report, maybe the August 2013 paper from TIAA CREF Institute is still available on the TIAA website.

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avatar ethicwatch December 30, 2013 at 10:16 am

At TIAA CREF Institute website I found two studies by Paul J. Yakobosky, Principal Research Fellow TIAA CREF Institute “Rethinking Defined Contribution Retirement Plan Designs a survey of experts and “Public Sector Pension Reform: Pressing Fiscal Realities from a Long-term Perspective. There is nothing worst than an unchecked corporate dept. that runs counter to the primary purpose of the corporation providing retirement services. Please do a study how TIAA subsidiaries have abused their duties to provide fair and honest transparent services to participant, annuitants and beneficiaries, correct the internal process failures that are prevalent. There is blatant abuse of seniors based on unfair business practices. Study TIAA annuitization processes and use the data for corrective measures. Clean your own house before you take on the state’s mess.

avatar Linda November 25, 2013 at 7:58 am

In Yahoo News, Sept. 19, 2013, Chris Moody, says the dubious Generational Opportunity has “financial ties to Charles and David Koch.”
While running for office, Sarah Palin said we shouldn’t throw Grandma under the bus, isn’t starving her, worse? Bernie Sanders, on Nov. 24, 2013, had a great comment, on 60 Minutes, which disparaged Pete Peterson’s philanthropy spent, trying to cut Social Security, etc.
I saw in a TIAA publication from a while ago, Pete Peterson’s praise for TIAA CEO, Roger Ferguson.

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avatar Jan December 2, 2013 at 11:34 am

There has been a systemic delay of closing my account and returning MY money. Despite repeated attempts, multiple phone calls, and 2 overnight mailings, I am no closing to getting my money than I was before I started. I cannot get a definitive answer of when I will get MY money.
11/21/13 – I phone Tiaa-Cref and requested a withdraw of 100% of my funds in order to purchase a house. I explained that it was critically important that this be processed quickly because we were buying a house, and we weren’t the only ones interested in buying theta house. They emailed the forms to my Tiaa-Cref account, and I printed them from my inbox at Tiaa-Cref.
The forms indicated that a signature from the plan administrator was required and I did not have that form. I called Tiaa-Cref and was told that I did need that form, and it was emailed directly to my personal email account. (Days later I was told that I did not need the plan administrator form because I am retired.) The email with the form arrived after 5pm, costing me another day because the bank where I needed to go to get a medallion signature closed at 5pm.
I complete all the forms and overnighted them to Tiaa-Cref.
11/23/13 I follow up with a phone call and was told that there is a 14-day hold placed on the account because it is a new address. We submitted a letter from our new bank with a medallion signature guarantee that we are who we say we are and Tiaa Cref told us this would prevent a 14-day hold being placed on the account. When asked why there is a 14-day hold the Tiaa Cref call taker said she was “looking at the letter” (I assume the documents are in a scanned file that she could view), and she didn’t know why there was a hold on the account. She said she sent an email to the 2 people processing our withdraw request asking why there was a hold on the account, and would call us back. She did call back, but it was after 5pm, so another day was lost.
When the Tiaa Cref representative finally does call, she tells us that we did not include our new address on the letter that the bank sent. No one from Tiaa Cref notified us of this problem by email or phone call. They sent a letter via postal mail. Not notifying us by secure email to my Tiaa Cref account or to my personal email address, the same way they sent the forms to us in the past, was another method to delay sending us OUR MONEY, and closing our account. There was a medallion signature on the letter guaranteeing that it was indeed us. Since the money is being wired into our account, and they had a bank medallion signature guaranteeing it was us, our address is immaterial. The bank’s medallion signature, certifying that we are who we say we are, carried a $500,000 liability insurance, so even if a fraud or error occurred, the loss would not be Tiaa Cref’s loss, but the bank’s loss.
I follow up with a phone call and I am told that all the forms are there and that we would receive our money.
12/2/13 – I follow up today with a phone call and I am told by the Tiaa Cref representative that answered the phone, that he is “tying all the information together” so it can be processed.
I want MY MONEY and I want my Tiaa Cref account closed.
All I am getting is doublespeak and no money. I need help in getting Tiaa Cref to give me MY MONEY.
I filed a complaint with the SEC, the BBB, AARP and notified the college’s HR department. If anyone has had any success in speeding up the process, please let me know.
I wonder if it was this hard to get money out of Bernie Madoff at the end?

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avatar Linda December 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

Google FINRA 2010 TIAA to find a report titled “Disciplinary and Other FINRA Actions”, Reported on January 2010. p. 8.

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avatar Steve December 3, 2013 at 8:31 am

Been there done that! Fortunately I do not have immediate need for my money, but my experience was exactly the same. No matter what I did or how many calls I made or how closely I did what I was told to do, nothing!! I intend to take another crack at it over the winter months, but I have no expectation I will be any more successful now than in my past attempts.


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avatar Linda December 3, 2013 at 8:42 am

Is the following information accurate? And, if so, is my interpretation correct?
On p.3, Figure 2, of a document, from the Center for Political Accountability, titled “Corporate Political Spending and the Mutual Fund Vote…2013″, TIAA-CREF is ranked in the bottom one-half of 40 mutual funds, in a chart titled, “Mutual Fund Families Ranked by 2013 Support for Political Disclosure Resolutions.” The chart shows TIAA-CREF voting only 31% of the time, in favor of shareholder requests for disclosure of political contributions at U.S. companies. The percentage is down from 2012.
If the information is true, is TIAA-CREF being driven as an ideological fiefdom, rather than
reflecting the views of its participants?

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avatar Gerald Monsman December 5, 2013 at 9:46 pm

It has proved virtually impossible for me to get through to any specific person whose tiaa-cref number I have been supplied by the organization. Eventually when I’m palmed off on someone else, nothing can be done with any reasonable promptness. I feel like I’m wading in molasses trying to get information and make changes. I think they don’t have the necessary staff and the staff doesn’t have the training for effective customer support. Yet again today a customer service person could not put through a portfolio transaction which has been pending in one form or another for weeks. And email addresses for the senior officers in the company are unlisted, so who, even, is going to suspect there are problems in the pipeline?

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avatar Steve December 7, 2013 at 9:12 am

The name of the Customer Resolution Manager, Customer Care Team is
James Calvin. His phone number is (800) 842-2733. His ext. is 24-4141. This was current as of May, 2013 when I received written confirmation that all my paperwork was complete and in order. I also spoke with him on the phone. I might note however, I still do not have my funds as of December so good luck with this.

I think the ongoing mistake folks make is failing to realize there is no upside for TIAA/CREF to part with funds. It is to their advantage to delay as long as possible and who is there to actually hold them accountable?


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avatar Linda December 9, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Open Secrets. org lists corporations and identifies the politicians they support, including the amount of support. Is the information about TIAA, at the site, correct? If so, is there a rationale for a disproportionate ratio of donations for Ohio Republicans vs. Ohio Democrats? Is there a reason to think the expenditures reflect the shareholders’ opinions? What is the Board’s position on political donations that favor one party over another?

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avatar Linda December 14, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I received a letter from TIAA-CREF referencing a university retirement plan. The letter stated participants would receive a “plan servicing credit that represents a return of fees that were above what the plan administrator and recordkeeper, TIAA-CREF, needed to cover retirement plan expenses.” In decades of participation, I think this is the first time I have rec’d this type of notification. Does anyone have any knowledge about it?
I called the number provided, to ask for clarification. The representative was very nice. I asked a question about what instigated the review of fees. The answer, however, was not clear. Then, in answer to follow-up questions, I concluded the representative had a quasi feeling that the CEO might be the owner of TIAA-CREF. I said, the participants elect the Board of Trustees. He registered surprise that TIAA had a Board.

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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Based on my payout for a lifetime annuity I need to share my experiences and understanding every employer plan is different. When you mailed your authorization for lifetime income did someone from TIAA CREF SERVICES call and say your signature was cutoff? Did they send you another set of forms for corrections instructing you to state “refer to original forms”. Did you eventually receive a message that your employer confirmation signature was missing? Do you think the processor didn’t refer to the original forms as you were instructed to indicate on the second set of documents to replace the cutoff signature from the original document? Did someone send all of your original payout contracts and certificates to 1481 Calmac Ct Bay city MI where you never lived or visited? Did you receive vintage payout document when they finally sent your payout documents to the proper address on their files since 1983? Are your original conversion to lifetime income available in your statements area of your account online? Why not? Did you receive an initial immediate annuity the your account numbers got ending dashes now you have a single life annuity. You search the company site and discover immediate and single life annuities are from VA 1 which is a separate account established by TIAA under a company called TC LIFE PO Box 9333898, Atlanta, Georgia. This corporate inbred handles aftertax annuities the old frozen and the newly designed May 2013 versions. They forgot to tell the folks in Denver that lifetime annuitants monies are processed through TCLIFE immediate and single life after tax annuities. Look on your statements for frozen aftertax accounts. Look on your direct deposit and payment statements to see if your monthly payments are coming from TC LIFE. Did your payment account numbers change from no dash to a dash between the last two numbers, this occurred during the process from single premium immediate annuity to single life annuity. In your many white envelopes there are documents to support every step just in my case no explanation. For your TIAA monies there is a contract with the converted amount one life traditional and one life with variable benefits could be tiaa real estate, the real estate account is the tiaa variable account. If you decide to do followup on the annuitization process the folks in Denver another example of corporate inbreeding will inform you there is no way your payments are coming from TCLife because TCLIFE only handles aftertax annuities which many older participants have/ had. Mr Ginter,consultant Denver. One day your account revert back to the original account numbers no dashes all of your nine accounts are TIAA the guaranteed one life ( in my case) no explanation. I know that I annuitize five accounts for one life. I have come to understand TIAA CREF to be many companies imbreeded that shares the same staff. Many of the resolution managers are stockbrokers, lifetime income is an insurance product fixed with the possibility of additional amounts. In other times this company would be labelled a monopoly. Your papers could be lost and scrambled in the networks. Participants should be allowed to simply annuitize from the general account all the financial wizards can remain until end and beyond. After confusing decades most retirees just want a monthly payment and lifetime relief from TIAA confusion. The folks in Denver informed me that lifetime income is taxed as ordinary income really. I thought TIAA was taxed as capital gains since its profitsharing. Maybe he was talking about all the other options. I think the new generation spent a lot of time devising corporate inbreed subsidiaries to slowly move annuitize funds to lifetime payouts. Ask Denver Services staff about their contract to handle TIAA lifetime annuity payments and how often they mess up payments to employer plan participants. Very frustrating I share my frustrations with the SEC, State Insurance Dept it’s so twisted everyone is confused but I intend to be a beam of light to find out what happens in the annuitization process and why state employer, participants and multi agencies haven’t launched an investigation regarding annuitization for lifetime income from TIAA the stock insurance company. I live on the east coast far away from Bay city, MI.


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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm

So much VS to share. I read about TIAA Investment Horizon Annuity, you can exchange your disqualified annuity for this newbie from. TC Life. I have the scrappy Single Life Annuity so why not exchange crap for the newly released aftertax annuity offering not so fast those annuities are for folks with annuities from other companies not TIAA CREF annuitants and only if the funds at TIAA CREF are in the accumulation phase. They do not wish to upgrade their scrappy immediate and single life annuities but outside annuities are welcome. Call TC Life in Atlanta, Ga. to verify first read the TIAA INVESTMENT HORIZON ANNUITY prospectus so your contempt will be focused and correct. There’s some third party inbreeding corporate negating situation in TIAA, Ga but they are all probably employers of the corporate inbreeding subsidiaries of TIAA that begat CREF.
Could someone explain when my TIAA TRADITIONAL that I paid premiums become Tiaa traditional annuity that was my variable real estate monies in my gsra and sra for years? There is no way this company hasn’t violated consumer laws at the state and federal levels. One website for employer plans that also serves the general public. Payout process that appears to be the same for participants annuitizing from employer plans and individual accounts. Too big not to fail soon be the reality. I and my employer contributed for decades the stockbrokers took over and the manipulation is in full play. The brochures online are generic because all payouts start with immediate annuities, 1035 to single or Joint life, TIAA TRADITIONAL was only available to participants in employer plans maybe the tiaa traditional annuity investment product replaced the TIAA TRADITIONAL insurance product who knows. Could the company set an internal training series so all inbred subsidiaries shared employees speak from the same scripts for each product and service offered.

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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 3:38 pm

The kindle acting up “disqualified annuities”. “crappy” annuities. I still love my kindle flaws and all.

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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Qualified annuities. Sorry!

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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm

In May, 2013 when the 3 New aftertax annuities were announced my first reaction was what nerve. Now I’m thinking the wall st. invaders do not want participants to annuitize directly from the TIAA General account. I now think the Roth IRA is the test sector, if approved by the state’s then all stable value participants would annuitize from these accounts using 1035. TIAA is an insurance product these new annuities appear to be investment products. I don’t know how the vintages apply or the impact of short term holding account on the 120 day rule. TC Life that handle these new products including the TIAA INVESTMENT HORIZON ANNUITY which is a deferred annuity. It just might be the wall street invaders want to keep the monies in the TIAA General account for real estate and investment purposes this would go hand and hand with the companies focus on wealth management as opposed to providing retirement payouts. Even though the wealth management campaign was toned down the intent remains. There are more twist and turns than a corn maze without the fun.

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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

So my last comments, why would the wall st invaders want to hold as much money as possible in the TIAA General account. My conclusion shareholder voting power, big influence on corporate boards, even paid and unpaid corporate board seats. Voting proxies represent power and wall street invaders love money and power. Using General Account monies for annuity payouts might interfere with power and influence so setup separate accounts. Create payout situations that pay like immediateannuities.com where the principle remains intact and invested everyone is dumb so hire stockbrokers to speak in brokerspeak as opposed to retirement specialist when participants are ready to annuitize for TIAA lifetime income. Pretend you are many subsidiaries in reality the companies exist on paper but have no real staff. The staff same for TIAA, CREF and TC Life. Where is consumer affairs? This is senior/ elderly abuse.

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avatar ethicwatch December 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm

When your accumulations were converted to lifetime income immediate and single life annuities did you notice you couldn’t / can’t move your monies around inside the annuity. Movement is supposed to be available between cref accounts, to the standard payment from graded, from TIAA to Cref but not back to TIAA from Cref and CREF to TIAA. For me there is no such movement possibilities I asked why still waiting. You think I’m in the short term holding account? Deception.

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avatar Linda December 31, 2013 at 9:05 am

I read a new year’s post from Robert Reich and I was reminded of a quote from Abraham Lincoln. “Two principles have stood face to face from the beginning of time…the one is the common right of humanity and the other, the divine right of kings…It is the (principle) that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ (Whatever its shape and regardless of who says it, it’s the same issue).”

I wish you a happy and peaceful new year, Ethicswatch.

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avatar ethicwatch January 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

Happy New Year! Here is something new to ponder, sometimes the language in the state summary plan conflicts with Irs codes. The age exception clearly applies if you annuitize for lifetime income you can be any age. Tucked within some state summary plans is an exception to the exception that might read like this ” notwithstanding the schedule described in (a) 2 a participants interest in that portion of his or her account attributable to employer contributions shall be vested and onion-forgettable upon his attainment while employed by an employer of age 65″ . HUH! If in this state’s case you are immediately vested after one year and all contributions belong to the vested employee are the referencing those who leave before the vesting period are they saying the invested funds remain in the employer account until age 65? Is this state treasure saying the employee can annuitize their vested monies at any age but the employer contributions can’t access the employer contributions until 65. Maybe this state treasurer means you can’t access the employer contributions for other options besides annuitization before 65 like fixed period since its not lifetime. This kills early retirement options other than Its backed lifetime income at any age. All TIAA CREF products appear to be some kind of annuity they just aren’t lifetime income options so for this state unless you annuitize for lifetime income the state employer contributions can’t be accessed until 65. This was effective September 2013. In August 2012 the Governor of this state limited the benefit amount for dc participants to $138,000 per year. Problem over the decades plans were frozen, new plans offered most 401a people still entitled to payouts under old plans. Anyway here’s more reading material for the pension warriors, ” Keeping the Promise: State Solutions for Government Pension Reform” by the American Legislative Exchange Council Center for State Federal Reform alex.org/keepingthepromise.

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avatar Joel L. Frank January 1, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Do other large financial services firms have difficulties? Do we hear about such shortcomings on this website? Or are shortcomings only the province of the Tiaa-Cref organization?

Joel L. Frank

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avatar Steve January 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Having moved much larger sums between advisors and funds with regularity for years, I can assure you, when it comes it ineptitude,TIAA/CREF is in a league by themselves!!

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avatar Joel L. Frank January 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

But let’s not be johnny-one-note. If this thread has to do with delivery of financial services let’s get some other firms, along with their defects, into the mix, no?

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avatar Linda January 2, 2014 at 6:10 pm

Participants like me, chose TIAA-CREF because of its reputation, a non-profit, for the greater good. Three weeks ago, TIAA sent me promotional materials, in which they said, in bold print, “Leadership you can trust since 1918″. TIAA’s management participates on college campuses, in forums about ethics. They’re interviewed to discuss the positive role of investors, in voting for corporate disclosure. Their research is valued because of its objectivity, etc.

TIAA-CREF’s competitors don’t have TIAA-CREF’s image. If their competitors were engaged, with a political advocacy group, in the national discussion about financial security and a safety net for the 90%.. ho hum, expected. If, as investors, they voted against shareholders’ proposals …ho hum, expected, etc.

Is there any goal that would trump the importance of maintaining a firm’s hard-earned and highly regarded reputation?

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avatar Steve January 1, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Suggest you read the title on the URL. This is a TIAA/CREF thread!

My wife and I have extensive holdings with multiple financial firms and have had for decades. TIAA/CREF is the only firm with which we have ever had problems. I have invested hours on the phone and filling out loads of forms in order to obtain a very small amount of money. It seems I always have the wrong form, even though they are the ones sending it. Time on the phone would have been better spent talking to my dog.

In my case, I have a witness because many of the calls took place in the presence of my financial planner on speaker-phone.

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avatar ethicwatch January 1, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Apparently this thread continues to address problems with TIAA CREF. There is nothing blocking interested kindred spirits from starting another thread about other financial services firms. I believe it provides information that helps TIAA CREF participants understand issues that might arise contacting our retirement services provider.

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avatar Linda January 2, 2014 at 12:15 am

Ethicswatch and Steve, the information and comments have helped me to understand financial firms and products. So, thanks.

There are extensive files about ALEC, posted online, by the Center for Media and Democracy. Main-stream-media coverage, that sheds light on ALEC’s funders and its impact on state governance, is less than one would expect, given the organization’s past influence on state legislators.

Dean Baker, Keith Brainard, Matt Taibbi, Diane Ravitch and others have examined and written about the context of the narrative, that created the view of widespread “pension failure”.

Are more collaborative papers, between the Arnold Foundation and the TIAA Institute, to be released? Relative to pensions, in what other efforts, if any, is TIAA-CREF, involved? Is it reasonable,for participants, a significant number, of whom, rely on pensions, in lieu of Social Security, to expect a statement, from leaders, about pension activity as it relates to corporate mission/values/identity ?

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avatar ethicwatch January 2, 2014 at 11:50 am

Glad to be of some assistance Linda. As a former state pension participant I was active at first in a defined benefit program, then they allowed administrators into the defined contribution plan. My defined benefit account was frozen and allocated to TIAA Traditional you could move a certain percent every year $ 1000 was the minimum. I read enough in the beginning to understand that TIAA Traditional was a guaranteed insurance product, my contributions were premium payments. I read and understood the TIAA variable under the state sponsored 403b was the real estate account. I had GRA (401a), GSRA (403b), two RA and a SRA. I allocated most of my money to TIAA TRADITIONAL. My premiums were placed in the general account of TIAA, my retirement goal was always lifetime income from TIAA the stock insurance company that has provided retirement annuities since 1918. The frustration comes in dealing with the stockbroker invested CREF subsidiaries/ TClife that processes accumulations to lifetime income. Here’s my latest today online it shows my annuity income not from 2013, but 2012, the payout amount listed is a double the amount I received in 2012, the 1099r forms do not support the amount showing. So I concluded that whomever received my original payout documents at 1441 CarmacSt, Bay city, MI where I never visited or lived must be my spouse that I never knew, entitled to half of my retirement payout. I turned this mess over to the IRS. Maybe, someone on the original processing team devised a scheme to invent ghost spouses to steal participants rightful monthly payouts in my case. The other thing might be a dividend payout that was reinvested I,”ll know in 6 weeks when the IRS reports back to me concerning my payouts for lifetime income from TIAA.

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avatar ethicwatch January 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Excuse me 1481 CarmacCt , who knows maybe through corporate inbreeding they begat arranged by processing spousal support system among unknowing strangers who live all over the nation. Hope the IRS can cut through the bs.

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avatar ethicwatch January 2, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Lofty ideals lose impact in call centers and it appears with members of processing teams. Individuals and kindred souls deviate, if the organization’s checks and balances can be skewed then some participants get victimized. Those at the top should insure that the processes closest to the participants is stellar and clearly exemplifies all that lofty language . If ever a system needed to employ specific advance technology it is this one. A programmed humanoid would be a welcomed change, information consistency a clear understanding of processes and effective. Someone seems to have a world vision for this company. I and many others after decades simple want our lifetime income annuity payment until we die.

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avatar Seth Hill January 3, 2014 at 12:33 am

I don’t know why people keep complaining (in exhausting detail!) about TIAA-CREF. It should be obvious to everyone by now they are a deeply flawed institution. Just take your money out and invest it elsewhere. And stop whining!

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avatar Luke Landes January 3, 2014 at 12:42 am

Unfortunately, taking money out of TIAA-CREF can prove to be tricky, if not nearly impossible, hence many of the complaints.

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avatar ethicwatch January 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

Stop reading the complaints, nap help eliminate exhaustion. We need to examine the difference between TIAA Traditional and TIAA Traditional Annuity. Since TIAA Traditional wasn’t a mutual fund or an investment product there wasn’t a prospectus but now the fixed guaranteed product is clearly called TIAA Traditional Annuity is there a prospectus is this tied to the general fund or a separate account? I the difference in this fixed income product simple where the monies are placed and distributed, is it some kind of hybrid? The IRS rules are different for insurance companies and their products vs investment co. products and distributions. As always the real concern is what impact different business models have on retirement payouts.

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avatar Linda January 3, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Can you provide the name of a financial firm that opposes the Tea Party ideology?
I need both a brokerage firm and a firm that accepts 403b roll-overs.
If you don’t know any, let’s expect the SEC to create two lists, for investors. The first would list firms, that use business resources to push for privatization of public assets (even when their owners oppose it). The second, would list firms, that have board members, who understand, “taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society.”
Investors who chose the second, would be giving our children and grandchildren a chance to live in a democracy, not a plutocracy.

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avatar ethicwatch January 3, 2014 at 10:19 am

Sorry “naps help exhaustion”. You should step in the shoes of those who simply tried to convert to a lifetime fixed income annuity so many roadblocks you don’t hear as much from the fixed period retirees by now the truly know they should have read the options closer. I believe the people at TIAA read these comments and so do their competitors. I pray that regulators also read since pension reform is needed with protections for the retirees.

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avatar Steve January 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

That is the entire point of this thread. If we can call enough attention to the situation, it may eventually make a difference for others.

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avatar ethicwatch January 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

It appears that original TIAA TRAD. contributions brought an annuity payout amount of lifetime income that was shown on the participants’ statement. The lumpsum in TIAA accounts now use a complex math formula that includes vintages only for lifetime income. Remember the vintage system only applies to TIAA lifetime payouts. TIAA TRADITIONAL and TIAA Stable Return are guaranteed insurance contracts. TIAA Stable Value is a separate account during the accumulation phase. Lifetime annuity payments are provided by TIAA. Two interesting items about stable return that deal with plan discontinuance 90 days or two years. It appears stable value might plan a roll in the annuitization process ” equity wash” comes to mind. Could these two timeframes be repurposed to lengthen the lifetime annuitization process. If this is the case it would conflict with insurance laws regarding payouts. This should keep my mind spinning for a few. There really is a move away from TIAA Traditional the general fund based fixed annuity towards the remixed TIAA Traditional Annuity. Lifetime income still comes from TIAA General Account for now, it’s being pilot tested.

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avatar ethicwatch January 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

David Manger please refer to the employer plan summary from your wife’s employer to determine plan specific distribution rules. Also for Government employees you must annuitize a small sum within a specified time period to qualify as a retiree entitled to employer sponsored health benefits. Lumpsums do not qualify you for retiree benefits.

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avatar ethicwatch January 5, 2014 at 11:51 am

The beneficiaries settlement sites are accessed by googling ” multistate settlement with TIAA CREF”. Kansas, Florida and PA. plus more.

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avatar kathy181 January 6, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Okay, all this talk scares me. I have been in TIAA-CREF for 35rys. And will retire in the next few years. I have half my money 50% TIAA, 50% CREF. How do I get my money out of the annuity part, so I have the most flexibility with my account or should I be worrying about it? Any suggestions would be appreciated .

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avatar Mike January 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Always check with your plan adminstrator to verify distribution policies, but here are some suggestions based on my own research of how to take distributions from T-C in retirement.

CREF – lots of flexibility here. You can take systematic withdrawls, or roll over to an IRA either within T-C, or outside such as with Fidelity or Vanguard.

TIAA – less flexibility but still there are several options including:

1. TPA – total payout annuity – taken over a 10 year period (actually 9 years and one day). You could roll these distributions each year into an IRA.
2. IPRO – interest only payout option – where you receive interest from the TIAA portion of your accumulations. At age 70.5 you would begin RMD (required minimum distributions based on IRS tables), but in the early years of RMD the withdrawal would be similar to the interest only option.
3. Annuity – the annuity gives you a life-time income, but learn the pros and cons of investing in an annuity, or talk to a financial planner to help with this decision.

The MorningStar website has a dedicated forum for TIAA-CREF. There are lots of knowledgeable people in that forum that are great at answering questions related to T-C. I read the postings weekly. Here’s the website address:


Click on “DISCUSS” in the tabs at the top of the page.
You’ll see lots of forums dedicated to various aspects of investing and retirement. Scroll to bottom and you’ll find the “TIAA-CREF Funds” forum.

T-C is a great company, but every participant should carefully read their institutional policy regarding withdrawals at retirement.

P.S. I’m also a long term T-C participant with the 50/50 asset allocation!

Happy Learning!

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avatar Linda January 6, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Is the information about pension and endowment funds, at the Oakland Institute, correct?

Thomas Jefferson warned about the end of democracy and the defeat of the American revolution, when he said, “having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of 1776, now look to an aristocratic government, founded on banking institutions, and monied incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufacturers, commerce and navigation, having power greater than standing armies, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.”
Matt Taibbi’s article in Rolling Stone, “Looting the Pensions”, should receive a Pulitzer.

The current rules of the game, set legislatively and judicially, favor financial firms, outsourcing, privatization etc. A company that was once great because of its values like serving the greater good, may change and say, performance matters, or, it could lead a national discussion about the meaning of democracy. A non-profit firm has a marked advantage, in adhering to and advocating for noble principles.

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avatar Seth Hill January 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm

But this non-profit firm, TIAA-CREF, underperforms all its own market benchmarks. In other words, it’s badly managed.

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avatar ethicwatch January 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I get the feeling that the”separate account might be the path to a spinoff where lifetime benefits are guaranteed by the separate account and not by TIAA the stock insurance company thus the confusing life-changing language about TIAA TRADITIONAL and the TIAA Traditional Annuity. One is an insurance product guaranteed by the claims paying ability of the insurance company, the other is an variable investment product attached to a separate account that is attached to the General Account of TIAA. All lifetime fixed payments are paid presently from TIAA, this might change in the near future. Something is changing the problem is most of the monies come from retirement plans with the emphasis on funding retirements in the present and future. CREF might want to be a brokerage firm I hope not. I’ve been a active participant since 1982, The lifetime income process has been horrendous. Now there is no escape hatch.

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avatar Joel L. Frank January 10, 2014 at 11:44 am

Hi Mike,

It cannot be over emphasized that when one signs up for a guaranteed lifetime income the retiree is transferring the title to their capital to the guarantor/insurer. In return they are contractually promised an income for life.
That said, the guaranteed lifetime income can be in fixed dollars or variable dollars. When one elects to be paid in variable dollars the total number of variable units is converted to a fixed number of monthly units payable for a long as one lives. The monthly income increases or decreases based on the investment results of that fixed number of units.

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avatar ethicwatch January 6, 2014 at 4:10 pm

You should meet with a retirement advisor and ask lots of questions, you need to read your employers’ plan to make sure about plan distribution options. Lifetime income forms were available online now you must call. There is a form for TIAA and a form for TIAA and CREF variables. All other distribution forms are available on the website. The choice is up to the participant just make sure you get employer authorization signature with your termination date, the crazy begins after the paperwork is completed.

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avatar Seth Hill January 6, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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avatar SharoneL January 9, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Once you start to get distributions, no matter how tiny the account may be (i.e. < $100,000) TIAA-CREF has set up impossible to fulfill rules for getting an advance even in extreme hardship cases. To wit, and I quote from their letter to me, first sent by snail mail, then when I could not find it and the writer was on vacation, I got it by email from another employee, which emailing suddenly became OK, "As previously communicated TPA contracts option allows distribution in 10 installments over 9
years. However if you are experiencing extreme financial distress a one-time TPA advance may
be considered on a case by case basis. The criteria for consideration will be strictly limited and
eligibility requirements and supporting documentation will be required for a TPA advance. In
addition only one TPA advance will be accommodated for the life of the contract and the next
anniversary payment will be skipped, if the advance is approved. Please review the following
listed below.
Copy of Eviction Notice that is future dated.
Eviction Notice is typically a court document; it must provide the amount in arrears and date of
A rental agreement may be requested since eviction proceedings vary from state to state.
A notice to vacate is not an acceptable form of documentation.
Eviction Notice must be the address of record that TIAA-CREF has on file and must be the
primary residence.

Copy of Foreclosure Notice that is future dated.
Must be on letterhead from the lender of the court document
Unacceptable documentation includes:
Loan modification agreements
Short sales notices
Loan in default and debt collection attempts
Foreclosure Notice must the address of record that TIAA-CREF has on file and must be the
primary residence.

Utility Shut Off:
Shut off notice must be future dated and provide the amount to avoid shut off.
Shut off notice must be the address of record that TIAA-CREF has on file and must be the
primary residence.
Must be an essential utility water, gas, electric or oil to heat the home (no phone, internet or

Medicial Bills Exceeding 10% Household Income:
Copy of current medical bills showing outstanding balances due (no credit card payments or
insurance premiums).
Must provide proof of income:
W2 or previous year’s tax return
Check stub
Statement of Social Security Benefits
If no income, must provide a letter from the unemployment office or from the social security
administration confirming benefits have stopped.

Burial/Cremation or Funeral Expenses:
Must be an immediate family member who has passed away within the last year
Copy of current bill showing an outstanding balance for burial cremation or funeral expenses."

Notice for the medical bills, they require that they be DUE, not paid. No medical provider will let you leave the office without paying, and from TIAA-CREF's statement, payment by credit card will not do. So you're stuck.

The employee who originally sent me the letter claims it's the IRS making these requirements. I doubt even the IRS would be that unreasonable and draconian. Therefore, I suspect TIAA-CREF created these rules which hew to their goal of holding onto your money, even if it's a relative pittance until the bitter end (of your life and even beyond – see the settlement of June 2013) and then ran them by the IRS which said OK, so they could then blame the IRS, which is called passing the buck. This company is SO dishonest and devious in its policies, it boggles the mind.

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avatar ethicwatch January 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

ID Thief TIAA-CREF Charlotte,NC here’s story of one unmatched Fox touch.sun-sentinel.com he sold personal information of more than 500 individual clients for tax schemes between 2011-2012.

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avatar ethicwatch January 10, 2014 at 11:20 am

“unmatched”. They knew in Charlotte and Denver, they knew who the victims are and never said anything.

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avatar ethicwatch January 10, 2014 at 4:10 pm

“unwatched” luv my Kindle!

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avatar jelly wall January 15, 2014 at 5:16 pm

TIAA needs to start doing correct criminal background checks on their employees! I did a search on my advisor and found numerous charges that were scary considering he has all my personal information. I dont think Mr. Ferguson would be happy if he knew this. I would NOT recommend any one to TIAA CREF in
pennsylvania until they start checking on their employeees criminal records. I believe that FINRA also needs to be notified to follow up with TIAA.

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avatar Steve January 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm

When I last met with my financial planner last week, she also suggested contacting FINRA. Most recently I wrote a letter to the university where I was employed outlining the difficulties I have had with TIAA/CREF and now correspond with then only in writing, mailing all forms with a signature required to verify delivery.

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avatar Cris January 16, 2014 at 1:06 pm

In late 2008 or early 2009, whilst in the middle of finishing up a Ph.D. and only tangentially aware of the 2008 crash, I asked a trusted financial planner to move all of my balance in TIAA-CREF into a fund with no fees and a decent interest rate considering the times and my possible needs in 5 years. He made the request/demand electronically. I thought all was well and moved on to other pressing matters. Imagine my shock when a year later I discovered that TIAA-CREF did not release the funds for roll-over. Either they lost it or ignored it. Shortly after, my financial situation required that I start withdrawals, unaware of how their would subsequently change from sweet and bend over backwards helpful to nasty, secretive and unresponsive. Moral of this short version of the story. Before you start withdrawals, demand and keep repeating your demand for rollover to another fund. We need to get the word out to those who have yet to start withdrawals. I don’t recall seeing any article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about this mess. Just this week, after providing a whole mess of documents so as to try to get an advance, I get a voice mail from a William, no last name, claiming to be with TIAA-CREF and giving a telephone number, no extension, to “discuss” my demand. I sent a message via their online system stating the above and that I wanted a written response. Other than a “got your message and will pass it on” email response, I have yet to hear again from “William.” Good luck with getting anything in writing other than the reams of paper and postage they waste in sending you updates and requests for more business from you.

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avatar nickname January 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm

The Prudent Professor, by Edwin Bridges, identified TIAA-CREF as no longer on the University of Minnesota retirement investment option list (beginning in 2007).

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avatar ethicwatch January 18, 2014 at 12:42 pm

TIAA TRADITIONAL is a insurance product therefore complaints should be filed with the NY State Dept. of Insurance since TIAA headquarters is located in NYC plus your state’s insurance dept. Since 2012 TIAA has reported income from a nonexistent IRA, I convinced the IRS I never had an IRA, so the investigation is on. I guess the IRA yearly withdrawals went to the MI address where my original contracts were sent with the rest of my lifetime payments from my employer plans. Mr. Ferguson and company needs to investigate their internal systems, a network of computer savvy thieves have manipulated your antiquated systems stealing retirees money.

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avatar Martin Helander January 21, 2014 at 3:28 pm

I was contacted by TIAA CREF 3 months ago. They told me – You are 70.5 years of age and you need to take your TIAA CREF money. I was very happy to get this message. Since then I a have tried to get my money. I have called several times, and I was promised forms to fill in – they never arrived. I fear that I will die before the money comes. Any advice,

Thank you, Martin

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avatar Asher January 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Martin, document time and date of every call. Send them a message via the message system at their website and save it. Then contact FINRA, like I’m doing right now, and/or EBSA.
This is from the FINRA website:
Who Handles 401(k), Pension or Retirement Plan Problems? If your problem involves a 401(k), pension or retirement plan, be sure to contact the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). EBSA enforces the rules governing the conduct of plan managers, investment of plan money, reporting and disclosure of plan information, enforcement of the fiduciary provisions of the law, and workers’ benefit rights. If your problem involves a brokerage firm serving as the administrator of your 401(k) or other retirement plan—or if it involves an individual broker who provided advice or handled transactions in your retirement plan—then you should file your complaint with FINRA.

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avatar ethicwatch January 21, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Some forms available online. I suggest you read the distribution options for each contract / plan and then develop a distribution strategy. There are advisors and wealth managers in local offices. One commenter suggests a criminal background check. Be prepared for all manners of craziness.

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avatar Steve January 21, 2014 at 5:32 pm

I suspect very little will change unless we can reach a critical mass and draw attention to this problem through one of the regulatory agencies.

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avatar Linda January 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

The SEC?
You’ll want to read, “Top Bank Lawyer’s E-Mails…”, in Bloomberg, 9-5-2012, by Robert Schmidt and Jesse Hamilton. TIAA-CREF is mentioned in the 7th heading, ‘Bush Appt.’,
3rd paragraph.
There’s a new petition circulating, addressed to the SEC Chair. It is about the recent removal of an agenda item that focused on disclosure of political spending, by corporations. Chris Tobe, in his book, Kentucky Fried Pensions, criticized the SEC for its relationship with the Wall Street lobby, The Schmidt/Hamilton article provides insight.

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avatar Asher January 21, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Steve, yes, so let’s all on this site just do that, file complaints with FINRA ( I just did an online filing – quick and easy) with your state insurance regulator if TIAA-CREF has an office there, like NY and NC, and Martin, telephone and send a letter to your former employer’s Benefits Office. For all those who stayed a long time at an employer and that employer paid into your TIAA-CREF, contact your HR office and let them know in no uncertain terms.

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avatar Optionless January 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm

FINRA is an voluntary organization that self-regulates its members. I think the members pay for the overhead, like staff, etc..
When you contact them, ask if information on the internet about a 2010 FINRA fine, against TIAA-CREF, for customer complaints, is accurate, and, if so, ask if the fine resulted in fewer complaints.
When you contact your HR Dept., ask them the amount the employer receives, as a fee, for plan administration.
The amount my employer receives, is apparently a deeply guarded secret. My TIAA-CREF representative deferred my question, to the employer for an answer. And, shockingly, the employer is unwilling to disclose the amount.
As I understand the process, for example, when TIAA-CREF identifies an amount of credit for participants, in an employer’s plan, the employer decides the amount that they will require for administration. The participants’ interests in the transaction are represented by_____?

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avatar Carol January 28, 2014 at 8:58 am

Six months after first trying to roll over the 40K left in my TIAA-CREF account, I still don’t have my money. I’ve been through ten phone calls, a dozen forms, and 10 different customer service reps each telling me something different. Even our financial advisor has gotten involved, and he can’t believe the incompetence. As if my experiences in academia weren’t soul-crushing enough, this just adds insult to injury.

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avatar Linda January 29, 2014 at 1:44 am

I’m disappointed in TIAA-CREF. I rolled over a beneficiary IRA to TIAA-CREF, but they didn’t tell me that I needed to take minimum required distributions until more than 3 years later. I am facing an approximate $1,500 tax penalty (50%), which could have been avoided, had they told me sooner that I needed to take minimum required distributions. This is not just 50% of missed taxes, but 50% of the distributions (about $3,000). I can ask the IRS to waive the penalty, but I don’t know if they will. I had two annual consultations with TIAA-CREF counselors at work, but no one flagged this. I’m going to inquire about whether I can move this account elsewhere, because I don’t trust TIAA-CREF after this. In the 3 years I held this account with TIAA-CREF, it earned about $15.

How would they like to lose $1,500? Formerly, I trusted them, but now I think that trust was misplaced. They’re getting paid to hold my money, and they couldn’t be bothered to spend 5 minutes to show me where the minimum required distribution form was, explain it, and how to fill it out, until 3 years too late?

Their customer service on the phone leaves something to be desired. Most of the people won’t admit when they don’t know something. Sometimes when I ask to speak to a supervisor, they say there is no supervisor there. They usually don’t ask a more senior employee when they have questions. It must be a lack of training and some sort of CYA culture there. It seems like they hire people who are slick-tongued, but not knowledgeable. I think these skewed priorities reflect their company’s values.

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avatar The Wizard January 31, 2014 at 8:16 am

It’s up to the taxpayer to keep on top of RMDs.
You can have more than one IRA at different providers and you can legally take your total RMD from just one of your IRAs, for simplicity.
It’s not TIAA-CREFs fault that you didn’t understand the IRS rules…

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avatar Seth Hill February 9, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I did understand the IRS rules. I filed paperwork with TIAA-CREF early in 2013 to set up my Required Minimum Distributions. They forgot to do it in December, and finally got around to doing it in February 2014. They admitted they had made a mistake. So I may have to pay a 50% penalty. So, what this my fault?

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avatar Seth Hill February 9, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I have been too polite in my comments. Please, everyone, get out of TIAA-CREF as soon as you can! They will loose your money! They are your enemy!

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avatar Seth Hill January 29, 2014 at 10:11 am

It gets worse. I had set up my Required Minimum Distributions, filed the paperwork with TIAA-CREF, etc. I called them near the end of this year and asked, where’s my RMD? The representative on the phone took a long time to look into it, then he admitted they were supposed to have sent it, but they forgot. Yes, that’s what he said. Luckily I had called a few days before Dec 31, so they were able to cut the check in time.
But … it gets even worse. Their returns on your investments never even match their own benchmarks. In other words, the TIAA-CREF account managers do worse than nothing.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

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avatar The Wizard January 31, 2014 at 8:12 am

Which specific investment fails to meet its benchmark?
I’m sure there are some, I just want specifics…

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avatar Seth Hill February 9, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Well, they said they would cut the check in time. But they didn’t. They wrote it in February, 2 months late. Now I may have to pay the government a 50% penalty.
Be extremely afraid.

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avatar Joel L. Frank January 31, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I would like to know what the TIAA-CREF experience has been with the public higher education community in New Jersey. The legislature did away with their Defined Benefit Pension back in 1968 in favor of mandating participation in the NJ Alternate Benefit Program (ABP), a Defined Contribution pension plan. The public institution of higher education contributes 8 percent of salary while the employee contributes 5 percent. These rates have been in effect since the ABP began in 1968.

Was it a good thing to force you into a Defined Contribution plan? Are you pleased with your TIAA-CREF accumulation? Please share your thoughts and experiences since you began your participation.

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avatar Linda February 5, 2014 at 9:39 am

The chart on p. 11, of David Sirota’s research paper, “The Plot Against Pensions”, at the Institute for America’s Future, addresses comparative costs. Seven states are profiled in the paper. The names and motivation of the billionaires involved, are also identified. In the section, “Arnold’s Pension Operative Appeared on Right-Wing T.V. to Demand Pension Cuts”, the operative identified, is the co-author of the TIAA Institute paper.

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avatar ethicwatch February 9, 2014 at 11:38 am

By law participants are entitled to review your employer summary plan document that outlines the particulars to your retirement plan. My new question is are participants entitled to a copy/ review of the actual insurance policy that details the exact benefits purchased with accumulations that purchase lifetime income. The summary plan is basic/ generic. The insurance policy must clearly outline the vintage system, age requirement, length of service etc. which would be specific and individualized. TIAA TRAD, was a premium being purchased for guaranteed lifetime income. I would like the website to be clear about the insurance policy that guarantees lifetime income. This would be a insurance/consumer law matter. Presently, there is no information available about the role TIAA life insurance plays in lifetime income. Public unions have failed its members by not demanding transparency. All of the payout information at the website relates to TC fixed and variable annuities which are investment products. There is a need for total understanding of these financial and insurance consumer retirement products.

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avatar Seth Hill February 9, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Anyone reading the comments here would be motivated to move all their assets from TIAA-CREF to anywhere else. I second that motion.
Like everyone else, I’ve had problems over the years. The most recent: I filed paperwork early in 2013 to get my yearly Require Minimum Distribution. I called in late December to find out where it was, and the rep on the phone admitted they had made a mistake and not sent it. So they sent it in January, and now I may have to pay the Government a 50% penalty. I’m sorry to say, this is par for the course with TIAA-CREF.
Also, my CREF fund was down, when the stock market was way up!
I kept a little in my TIAA account because it pays a decent rate of return, but it’s not worth it any more. Bye bye TIAA-CREF!

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avatar zkeith February 9, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Seth, a married couple I know, both of whom have T/C in 2012 had more RMD removed that requested and much more than the required minimum for their ages. T/C was able to take the excess back and re-deposit to their respective accounts. Hopefully, you will be able to get some proof from T/C that the error was not yours.

I began taking RMD in 2012 and had it removed on December 20 of that year and December 20 of 2013. I contacted each financial institution from which my RMD was coming to confirm that I was good to go for the December 20 withdrawal. Given your experience, I will make a mental note to confirm each year that RMD is to be taken on December 20.

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avatar Seth Hill February 9, 2014 at 3:21 pm

You are right; I need to do TIAA-CREF’s job for them. I have IRAs in other institutions, and they take care of my RMDs without me having to nag them. I am moving all my remaining funds from TIAA-CREF to institutions that know what they are doing.

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avatar The Wizard February 10, 2014 at 7:18 am

OK, that’s fine, but you can still complain about T-C after all your $$$ is at Fidelity or wherever.
But that’s assuming you’re able to get T-C to agree to let you make that move, which is highly unlikely…

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avatar Roberta Spalter-Roth February 11, 2014 at 4:56 pm

I am retiring soon. I have tried to make an apppointment with financial advisors in the TIAA-Creff Office. They keep canceling and suggest I use the call center. I have found this later method of communication, unsatisfactory. I am enraged that many of us are railroaded into using this method of retirement saving through our workplace, but get no service. I assume they make profit on our accounts. I assume its not possible to withdraw all my money before I retire? One is just stuck with an uncooperative organization that holds my retirement savings.

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avatar The Wizard February 12, 2014 at 6:58 am

My WMA was Very Helpful back during my working years, dropping by my office whenever I requested assistance getting my retirement plans in order. Do you live in/near a major metro area?

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avatar Linda February 12, 2014 at 8:51 am

The TIAA WMA, assigned to my account at a public university, refuses to disclose the amount that the university received as plan administrators. TIAA asked plan participants, if the amount of credit he/ she received from a TIAA instigated-credit was accurate. How would a participant know? I contacted FINRA and the DOL, and was told neither TIAA nor the university have to disclose the fee. Trust?

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avatar Linda February 18, 2014 at 9:40 am

I received a reply from FINRA today, I conclude, rightly or wrongly, that if a 403b fits some definition, it falls under ERISA. But I deduce, again rightly or wrongly, that not all 403b’s do. And, if they don’t, the DOL phone reps. seem convincing to me, in saying the fee info., does not have to be provided, by the firm or the employer. I would appreciate clarification, if you have it.
Relative to the titles/acronyms, a financial firm gives its employees/representatives, I admit confusion. Are there some positions that are within the company, in a traditional sense, and others, that are linked in some way, but fit another description?

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avatar ethicwatch February 12, 2014 at 7:21 am

The local office employees are directly responsible for decades of misinformation that results in irreversible options. They tell you take 10000 to qualify for your employer sponsored benefits. Then you have 120 days to decide a lumpsum amount after which you can decide other distribution options that have limitations. The local focus appears to be like the website geared toward tiaa and cref variable annuities. I believe that many public sector employees are steered to the fixed period payout option by local office employees of TIAA-CREF. Even if you read all available information and ask the right questions you can still make a mistake that last a lifetime. The 9 year+ payout for TIAA is stated in various places it should be on the contract and statements. TIAA TRADITIONAL has been changed to TIAA Stable Value, maybe the newer advisors aren’t familiar with the particulars of TIAA TRADITIONAL. There is a need for training and a separation of retirement plan services from individual services, very messy, very frustrating.

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avatar The Wizard February 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

TIAA Trad at 3.75% is great right now.
And once you ANNUITIZE it down the road it gets even better…

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avatar Pat February 12, 2014 at 10:59 am

I am having an issue with the 9+ year payout plan. My contract in 1994 was amended to advise of an ability to transfer traditional funds to CREF, but no mention of cash withdrawals. In addition if you read the quarterly statements it is not til December of 2010 that the term “cash withdrawals” was first utilized. Prior to that the language used only the term ‘transfer’. By the way, 35 years after the fact I just received my CREF “matching’ contract.

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avatar ethicwatch February 12, 2014 at 10:51 am

The 65 age restriction for TIAA is not set in stone you can change it by writing the NYC Headquarters of TIAA and requesting a new annuity date. The language is in the original contract.

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avatar The Wizard February 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

“set in stone”?
It’s not set ANYWHERE.
The participant is the sole determinator of when and how much to annuitize, if anything.
I speak from experience, having done a partial annuitization 11 months ago at age 63…

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avatar ethicwatch February 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

It depends on the group policy language and employer restrictions, maybe your employer imposed no restrictions. Maybe the vintage advantage kicks in at 65 it’s a mystery.

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avatar SUNYProf February 12, 2014 at 11:38 am

Having read many of these comments, I decided to get my money out of TIAA-CREF. I am now 66 and continuing to work full time at my job as a professor in the SUNY system. Several years ago, I met with my TIAA-CREF representative and initiated the ten-year process of moving my TIAA investments into a transfer payout annuity. That has been proceeding nicely. Then I visited my ING (VOYA) investment advisor and worked with him to roll over my CREF investments into an ING IRA. That has gone well. It is much easier to deal with TIAA-CREF through a professional in another qualified plan, someone who knows which forms to ask for and can follow up with the appropriate calls, etc. Now all I have left in TIAA-CREF is the remainder of the money in TIAA, which I plan to roll over in portions each year to ING, as soon as possible. Edward Jones is also good at helping with TIAA-CREF rollovers, which you should be able to initiate once you reach the age of 59 1/2, I believe, but don’t quote me on that.

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avatar The Wizard February 12, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Edward Jones…now THERE’S a good low-cost provider…

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avatar Diane February 13, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I have been on the phone, on hold, speaking with TIAA-CREF representatives many many many times over the past couple of months and it has been a very difficult and frustrating situation each time. They have multiple account numbers and different names for account types. None of their departments communicate with the other. Because my father had accounts with them I have to deal with them. As soon as I get all this sorted out I am transferring all monies to another institution.

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avatar Joan February 13, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Please be careful here. I am not sure, but they may be trying to stall you. I believe I read somewhere that, as a non-spouse beneficiary, you have a certain amount of time to move your inheritance, via a rollover or whatever. When the time is up, you are stuck with TIAA. I hope you will look into this.

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avatar She from New york February 18, 2014 at 10:00 am

Why don’t you ever name the names of the representatives you have spoken with and the toll free numbers you are calling-I simply do not believe you are telling the truth!

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avatar ethicwatch February 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

The comment highlight the weaknesses in the system, the goal is reform and transparency. The problems stem from policies to processes the staff is a part of the overall problems. The unemployment rate is high enough so unless there is fraud or an ethical breech the focus must be on efficiencies.

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avatar drpat February 17, 2014 at 10:24 am

Please define TIAA WMA

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avatar Linda February 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Two company representatives agreed, in an e-mail reply to me, that it was up to the University, if an answer would be given about the fees. Repeated requests to the HR Dept., led to a response from University Counsel. The HR representative said Counsel is responsible for adherence to plan requirements. In repeated attempts to get the info.from Counsel, they replied only with, what they intend to use the money to pay for, not the amount or percentage, of the credit, that the University received for plan administration. I followed up by asking if a public university has to disclose, when asked, the fee, as a revenue source to the public institution. I rec’d no reply, which led me to ask FINRA and DOL.
In my final communication with FINRA, without citing the name of the company, I asked, if an unwillingness to disclose the amount is commonplace and I asked them to please advise me so that I knew if I should pursue the question any further. I rec’d no reply. DOL was more forthcoming, in saying there was no one with authority to get an answer.
If my experience is just a situation where there was a lack of knowledge, by the people I’ve asked, I’d appreciate knowing the proper process to obtain the info. Thank you.

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avatar ethicwatch February 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm

If the truth is revealed the conspiracy to hold on to participants accumulations would be exposed. The worldwide real estate game takes a lot of capital, this the unholy alliance.

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avatar ethicwatch February 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Wealth Management Advisor, financial planning that extends to estate planning.

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avatar Steve February 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Having followed the comments here for some time and having been successful in getting payments started after ten months and a multitude of meaningless forms, here are my conclusions.

1. The problem is with TIAA/CREF, not with the folks posting here.
2. Contacting TIAA/CREF on the phone is a waste of time, unless of course you have time tow waste, in which case it makes sense.
3. Any form you obtain, by whatever means you obtain it, and send in should be copied and sent registered mail with a signature guarantee. You will eventually receive the same form to send again, so you may as well have a copy so you can copy the copy and resubmit.
4. Investing experience is not helpful and will only serve to contrast the ineptitude of TIAA/CREF with experience you have any where else.
5. Having a Wealth Management Advisor is not helpful and having them talk to TIAA/CREF with you will only waste their time.
6. Talking with HR reps at your university will only serve to verify your suspicions that you are not alone in your frustration.
7. Talking with a “specialist” at TIAA/CREF who supposedly has expertise in filling out the form you have at hand will virtually guarantee you do not have the correct form.
8. If your HR rep tells you TIAA/CREF did not send you the correct form, Listen to them! You have the wrong form.
9. Don’t be ashamed of asking your HR rep to sign off on more than one form, before you get to the one that counts. It’s a test!
10. Accept the fact that TIAA/CREF is operating without contingencies. There is no consequence for them, if they delay you payments.

My wife and I have been investing for decades in funds other than TIAA/CREF. Our TIAA/CREF holdings are insignificant, although the principle involved in obtaining them is not. We have never had a single problem with any of the multitude of mutual funds and stocks we have held when requesting fund transfers or payment. My TIAA/CREF check started this month, after months of forms and phone calls. All my previous comments are based on my actual experience with TIAA/CREF. My Wealth Management Advisor can verify her role in joint phone calls on speaker phone and can attest to her previous difficulties in obtaining other clients holding with TIAA/CREF.

I am going to sign off on this point and wish those of you having problems luck. I think how soon you are successful in obtaining your funds from TIAA/CREF is most likely based on what their random generator spits out when you form arrives in their mail.

Hang in there and keep complaining! In my opinion, TIAA/CREF needs to go away!


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avatar A Reader February 18, 2014 at 9:46 am

The advice about mailings, copies etc. was beneficial.
Enjoy your future.

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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

Odd that you had so much trouble.
I retired a year ago and started up five annuity contracts and two systematic withdrawal contracts with T-C, using my WMA and his team to help me get this done.
It all worked out fine and the money rolls into my checking account twice a month now without fail.
You must have done something wrong?

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avatar She from New york February 18, 2014 at 9:59 am

I agree with the Wizard. I think that some of you are spoofing-you might not even have a contract with TIAA-Cref and you are simply typing in nonsense on this site. Also wonder if most of this spin on problems is coming from one or two disgruntled employees!

Because TIAA-CREF is a regulated entity and you can so easily get the answers to your questions, the correct forms etc. You however, must fill the forms out correctly.

In advance, I know I will be flamed for this post. But the reality is that most of the”problems” are not even in the sphere of reality.

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avatar Borogrove February 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Re “I think that some of you are spoofing-you might not even have a contract with TIAA-Cref and you are simply typing in nonsense on this site. Also wonder if most of this spin on problems is coming from one or two disgruntled employees!

Because TIAA-CREF is a regulated entity and you can so easily get the answers to your questions, the correct forms etc. You however, must fill the forms out correctly.

In advance, I know I will be flamed for this post. But the reality is that most of the”problems” are not even in the sphere of reality” this is the close to the exact wording of a post that appeared almost a year ago on this site.” As a resident of New York, I take offense. As someone whose FA’s order to transfer funds out of T-C shortly after the 2008 crash was ignored by T-C, I take offense. As someone who has dealt with the run around, the deluge of forms, the huge difference in T-C employee attitude before disbursement starts and after disbursement starts, I take offense. But then it’s clear this person must be a name changing troll. As for T-C being regulated and everything is just AOK, a pox on that. Fossil fuel corporations are regulated and that spew their crap into our air, water, soil and then lie and/or walk away leaving taxpayers to pay for cleanup. Wall St.and banks supposedly are regulated but you know how that went down. The cruelty of trolls to kick people in the face when they’re hurting financially and/or emotionally from the financial betrayal has no bounds so this is not a flame, dear “she from New York”, but the wrath of us who will be avenged. Have you not seen the class action suit for non-release of funds by T-C? But, of course, reality and truth are of no import to such as you which is why you end your post with a claim to speak for reality. HA!

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avatar Doctrina Perpetua February 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I agree with the “spoofing” theory. :) But even legitimate problems (in these postings) seem to stem mostly from a failure to understand the TIAA-Cref contracts. Contracts can vary from institution to institution, and the restrictions on withdrawing TIAA traditional are well known. It is important for all plan participants to stay informed, engaged, and proactive with respect to their individual TIAA-Cref contracts. On a personal note, I’ve not had any problems submitting forms or communicating with TIAA-Cref counselors or advisors. They’ve all been courteous and helpful in answering my many questions. Yes, there are other firms (Fidelity, Vanguard, etc.) that have equally good customer service reps, and even lower ER’s (fees) than TIAA-Cref. But TIAA traditional is a unique FI investment, and one that I’m happy to have in my portfolio.

Let the flames begin! :)

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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 9:17 pm

No flames needed for a simple explanatory post. I only have about 10% of my T-C port in Trad, but I’ve been aware of the limitations for decades now…

avatar zkeith February 18, 2014 at 9:20 pm

My dealings with T/C have been as pleasant as they have been with Fidelity, Edward Jones, etc. I have had only one minor problem, and it was self inflicted. I didn’t respond to a letter sent out by my last employer regarding RMD. But because I had already completed all of the paperwork for my RMD to begin, I thought it didn’t pertain to me. And when my former employer pointed out the error to T/C, I had a phone call from a fairly high-level employee at T/C apologizing for the error that was made–but it was really my fault.

As I’ve mentioned several times in other posts, I recommend people contact T/C using e-mail. Stay off the phones because you will waste time waiting for someone to help you; and with an e-mail, you have a paper trail. And I get a fairly quick response–usually within 24 hours or sooner in some cases.

No, I do not work nor have I ever worked for T/C. I monitor my T/C holdings carefully and make adjustments when and where I think I should. My 2013 return was close to 25 percent–better than my return at a couple of other investment companies. I chose not to change them because I didn’t want to pay the brokerage fee that I considered was too high. I’ve since transferred those assets to Fidelity.

I guess I am fortunate in that my former employer did a good job of communicating with employees regarding their retirement program, including T/C. I knew for a number of years (don’t recall specifically how many) that Traditional TIAA had several stipulations regarding removal of funds. However, because I planned to leave them intact until RMD, it was not of a concern to me. I feel sorry for people who were caught off guard.

avatar Pat February 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Perhaps in your case the restrictions on withdrawal were well known. In my contract there has never been an amendment that changed the original lifelong annuity at 65 option into a ten year cash withdrawal from TIAA. The first mention of an ability to withdraw cash in 10 annual installments appeared in the small print of my quarterly statement in 2010. So your comment proves my point that TIAA may have noticed some but not all contract holders of the ten year option.

avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm

I wouldn’t be quite so harsh on the poster.
T-C DOES have some issues, but at least some of the problems here could be due to not understanding restrictions on some accounts, particularly Trad and TREA.
We discuss this whole area a lot over on the M* T-C forum…

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avatar Franklin Burroughs February 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Steve’s experience with T/C, as described in his post of Feb. 17 & previously, is remarkably similar to my own, and mine, like his, includes not only myself, but my investment advisor and the HR director from the institution at which I taught (and which, incidentally, no longer does business with T/C, having had too many problems of this nature). I have had long telephone conversations with 5 different consultants, received incorrect forms, sometimes more than once, etc. etc. At present, I am still struggling to extricate myself entirely from this wretched company.
I actually agree with She From NY to the extent that these problems seem too bizarre and protracted to belong entirely within “the sphere of reality.” But, alas, they exist anyway. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist–I tend to presuppose honest intentions on the part of the other party in transactions like these. But this organization is either spectacularly disorganized or deliberately obstructive in abiding by the terms of the contract.

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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 3:17 pm

“Wretched” is a fine adjective and one which we should all strive to use more frequently in our daily lives…

avatar Pat February 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I would like to assure you that I have an actual contract from TIAA since 1978. I only received the CREF portion of my contract two months ago. TIAA failed to provide me with accurate notice regarding the ten year restriction. It is very sad that you try to negate people’s true concerns rather than help but that is obviously your personal choice. I am neither an ex employee nor unrealistic. I simply would like TIAA to accept the fact that there are times when their customer service and information provided is inaccurate. They cannot be expected to be perfect but they should correct their mistakes.

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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm

T-C is primarily set up for long-term retirement-oriented investments.
They’re not set up for short-term wheeling-dealing operations.
I was with them for 40 years on the accumulation side and thus far one year on the decumulation side.
I have money at Vanguard as well but I like some funds at T-C better.
The financial ocean is full of ICEBERGS; the successful sailor learns to navigate properly…

avatar Seth Hill February 18, 2014 at 9:46 pm

To: “She From New York” : I would like to ask you, what is your association with TIAA-CREF? Employee? Client? Your post seems to fit the definition of trolling, spreading hate and dissension for no other reason than to create chaos and call attention to yourself. But I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt. I hope you can give more details as to why you doubt I am sincere in the complaints I have posted about TIAA-CREF. By the way, I use my real name in this forum, because I have nothing to hide. I wonder who you are?

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avatar ethicwatch February 28, 2014 at 1:03 pm

You and Wizard should meet at the morningstar forums providing investment advice, this forum is to share problems. It appears TIAA CREF is better with accumulation than distribution, especially lifetime income. After 25-40 years contributing the payout process should be very simple no matter what option. Technology can be programmed to handle most functions. I applaud your success go forward and enjoy your abundance. The website is problems maybe you two could become trustees and represent participants frustrations at the meetings in between discussions about real estate acquisitions.

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avatar Pat February 17, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I agree with you Steve. I have complained to the BBB, SEC, CA Dept of Insurance and the DOL. While all agencies say they are available to help, if TIAA disputes an annuitants claim, the agencies then tell you that they cannot help and the only option is to file a lawsuit. If I could, I would take out all my funds but I am stuck in a TPA. It’s a shame that TIAA-CREF gets away with such nonsense. And shame on the Universities for allowing TIAA to treat their employees in such a poor manner.

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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Note that a TPA is required only for the portion of money in TIAA Traditional within a GRA or RA. Money in all other T-C investments is not restricted in this manner.
You DID know about the 10 year restriction going in didn’t you?

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avatar Pat February 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm

No and that is the whole point. The ten year restriction was first identified in a 1994 amendment to my original contract. I originally signed my application for benefits in 1978. The amendment did not clarify that the ten year option was available for cash withdrawals rather it only referred to a transfers to CREF. After 35 years I just received the CREF contract in an apologetic letter from TIAA saying that they failed to send it to me along with my original TIAA contract. My quarterly statements did not mention a cash withdrawal (in very small print) until 2010.. So I really had no clue regarding the 10 year restriction until I actually needed the money several years ago. TIAA refuses to accept responsibility for a failure to clearly provide the ten year restriction info at least in my contract.

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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 9:13 pm

If you still have that letter of apology, then take the bastards to court! Sue them for triple damages. Even with your attorney getting 40%, you’ll still make out fine…

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avatar Steve February 18, 2014 at 10:38 am

Yes, of course, I, along with all the others posting here with problems must have done something wrong and you are a genius. You really don’t get it. Exactly what was my mistake? Was it calling TIAA/CREF numerous times for help? Was it filling out every form I was sent? Was it believing when I received a letter telling me everything was in order I was done? Was it having to send in the same form more than one time? Was it sitting on speaker phone with my WMA who has dealt with TIAA/CREF numerous times most of which have been problematic?

You really don’t get it. I have investments worldwide and have transferred funds and opened and closed funds for years. What is odd, if you have been following the comments here is so many people whom one would anticipate are above average in intelligence are having problems with what should be a very simple task.

In the past, I have transferred funds with never more than one form or one phone call and never a hitch. I guess my dumb luck ran out with TIAA/CREF.


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avatar The Wizard February 18, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Do you mind sharing the details of the transfer you were trying to do?
I scrolled back a dozen pages and didn’t see the details…

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avatar Pat February 24, 2014 at 7:24 pm

I cannot help wondering if some of the difficulties that I and others have experienced in dealing with TIAA-CREF may be related to the following factors:
1. Lack of clear information for faculty regarding the correct process/form to be used to withdraw money from the different productions offered by TIAA-CREF
2. Lack of clarity regarding parties responsible for providing this information to retiring faculty [university HR or TIAA-CREF staff]
3. Changing state and/or university regulations regarding withdrawal of retirement funds [there have been significant procedural changes in a number of states regarding contributions and/or withdrawal of funds by retiring faculty who have taught at state universities]
4. A better process than several sheets of paper in tiny print informing retirees of updates or changes in the process for withdrawal of funds
Perhaps universities should designate a specific person in HR with a CPA to assist retirees

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avatar The Wizard February 25, 2014 at 10:00 am

T-C has this booklet (pdf file) called something like Receiving Your Retirement Income. It details 4 or 5 different methods for receiving money in retirement. My experience thus far shows that both Annuitization (fixed and variable) and Systematic Withdrawals work just fine. My WMA and his team did what it took to get done what I wanted.
My remaining funds in T-C will be subject to RMDs in a few years and I expect that process to work Just Fine as well…

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avatar Pat February 25, 2014 at 11:28 am

I’m sure TIAA-CREF works fine for some people, however that does not mean that they are infallible. And the issue is that when they do make a mistake, at least in my experience they do not handle their mistakes in a professional manner. When a company such as TIAA-CREF makes misrepresentations to government agencies just to avoid admission of a mistake they fail to meet their obligations as fiduciaries.

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avatar Edward Bergman February 25, 2014 at 11:39 am

Agreed, definitely not infallible, but not invariably at fault either, based on the nature of many complaints and misinformation issued here. I am now in the midst of their complicated RMD process–unlike the simple one at Vanguard–which was made worse by all the sub-contracts between my university and T/C that now require multiple RMDs.

avatar zkeith February 25, 2014 at 11:47 am

My experience with T/C is exactly as The Wizard has detailed. I knew what my options were early one, decided which ones worked best for me, and planned accordingly. I found the RMD process to be fairly easy and straight forward because much of the needed information on the application was prefilled. T/C’s process was not nearly as cumbersome as Merrill Lynch’s process that I’ve also experienced and that requires the submission of the same paperwork year after year (it may be because it is a SEP plan, not of 401 or 403 plan like I have at T/C).

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avatar Linda February 25, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Today, my financial advisor called TIAA for me, concerning section 10, of the document to close my 403b. She said she was told I should answer “no” to question 2, asking if I had been terminated, because it is untrue, I retired. I, then, called TIAA, and I was told that I should answer, “yes”. The TIAA rep. elaborated by saying, termination is not a prejudicial term.
Many people would move funds at retirement, why isn’t “retirement”, an answer choice?

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avatar Just starting retirement February 27, 2014 at 5:44 pm

I just started a joint Standard annuity with TC. It is a small test for us. We put in $43,634 from TIAA traditional and bought a standard lifetime annuity joint with wife I am 65 she is 63. They guarantee us $152.29 a month for life plus $81.35 in dividends. That is a payout of 6.4% which is better than the 5.8% from another life insurance company rated highly.
My fear is the dividend. How is it determined? Is it global across the board or can they set it to zero just for me when my principal is gone? I cannot find anything anywhere. We are ORP with no social security or pension I must know more. Any TC old timers out there getting a standard annuity with dividends and have they stopped? My experience with TC with a term life was horrible. I paid $300 a quarter because of dividend then when I reached 60 they jumped it a huge amount and I had to drop it. Why cannot TC give a real immediate annuity like other insurance companies?

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avatar Doctrina Perpetua February 27, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Go to the Morningstar website Forums area. There’s a forum for TIAA-CREF. They might be able to help you with that question about dividends.



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avatar The Wizard February 28, 2014 at 9:11 am

TIAA is highly rated for financial strength. They tend to maintain those extra amounts from year to year and they even INCREASED current standard Traditional annuity payouts by 2% for 2014 even though they were not contractually obligated to.
Other insurance companies would likely never do this.
Note: I have many times more than $43K annuitized with T-C, but I think it’s good that you’re doing a “test” to see how you like it…

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avatar Linda March 2, 2014 at 11:25 am

Quoting the post, “Other insurance companies would likely never do this (increase payouts by 2%).”
Theoretically, isn’t it logical for the participants of a non-profit financial firm, to receive, a product rate similar to that, offered by, for-profit firms, plus, the equivalent of a corporate dividend? What corporate dividend rates, did firm’s like Prudential, recently pay out to their owners?
Recent research makes the case that the financial industry, which has grown from 5% to 8%, of U.S. GDP, contributes far less to a nation’s growth, than if the resources were devoted to other industries.
There are small, local, independent financial firms that may charge a transparent 1%, to manage an account of diverse stocks (including 403b roll-overs to an IRA). The firms’ owners and employees spend their earnings in the local community. The firm can get to know their investors. Employee turnover, is likely low so, answers, likely consistent. The investor can set up an account that allows trades but, prohibits withdrawals, making firm bankruptcy, a non-issue. There is the option of saying, “don’t invest in company X”. The independent firm can be chosen, based on its FINRA membership.

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avatar Joel L. Frank February 27, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Don’t you think you should have gotten answers to these questions BEFORE you annuitized $43,634?

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avatar Pat February 27, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Wouldn’t it be better to provide this person with some insight or information rather than a caustic non informative reply ?

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avatar Just starting retirement February 27, 2014 at 11:50 pm

They quoted a guarantee and then a guarantee plus additional and never mention dividend nor the meaning of the additional amount. There are pages and pages based on the total amount but only one chart that shows the guaranteed amount plus extra. I caught it. They also quoted my TIAA vintage rate as 4.25% and 4.50% when the contract comes it says 2.5%. I thought it was between 4.25-4.50%. When I asked why they could not guarantee the full amount like an immediate annuity our advisor said others do not actually give a 100% guarantee and it depends on the ability to pay. Like others on this blog they put in delays up to 2 months. That is $466 in their pocket at my expense. They illustrate annual expenses from 0.48% to 2.38% but never say what mine would be. Like their confusing monthly statements any company that tries to conceal and mislead will not last long.

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avatar The Wizard February 28, 2014 at 9:19 am

That “additional” IS the dividend, just a terminology thing.
Your annuity payout rate is based on your age at the start of the annuity payout. So if there was a two month delay, you’ll be getting a bit more per month henceforth.
And those annual expenses don’t matter in this case; they are not subtracted from your monthly payment.
And TIAA has been around since 1918 and is the highest rated Insurance Company in the US.
So my advice: just relax and enjoy your annuity income…

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avatar Just starting retirement February 28, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Ok I get it. $43,643 gets me $152.29 guaranteed a month for the rest of my life and TC will pay 2.2% dividend this year on the principal to get me another $81.35 for a grand total of $233.64 at age 65. When I am 85 and my principal runs out I will get $152.29 and no dividend. At 3% inflation that is $84.32 or $102.49 at 2%. An immediate annuity would be $210 a month for life or $116 to $141 a month in 2035 dollars.

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avatar The Wizard February 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm

No, that’s incorrect.
The “additional amounts” (formerly called dividends) have to do mostly with the vintages of the Trad that you annuitized and secondly with overall TIAA performance year by year. Your principal never “runs out”.

I have two Standard Traditional annuities. One pays $482.05 + $107.15 additional per month. The other pays $104.59 + $84.25 additional. Clearly that second one has way older, higher yielding Trad from the 1980s.

And then some years, they increase the additional amounts just because they had a good year, NOT because of contractual obligation. This newsletter explains what they did for 2014:

As a result of that change, my payout on my second Regular Traditional annuity has changed to $104.59 + $86.82 additional.

avatar ethicwatch February 28, 2014 at 5:30 pm

There is a distinct difference between TIAA TRADITIONAL the insurance premium and TIAA Traditional Annuity the fixed and variable annuities. TIAA TRADITIONAL is paid out from the General Acct of the stock life insurance co. for lifetime income, lifetime income triggers the vintage payout system. TIAA TRADITIONAL Annuity is paid through TIAA Access accounts fixed and variable the 2.5 applies, this is the new stable value account, the vintage system only applies to lifetime income from TIAA TRADITIONAL the insurance product. So which system is being discussed insurance based or investment?

avatar Pat February 28, 2014 at 11:20 am

Would you please provide the source of your statement that TIAA is the highest rated insurance company ?

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avatar The Wizard February 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Item 2 at this link has links to PDF files within the last 12 months from the four insurance rating agencies on Financial Strength.

The other two insurance companies with top-level financial strength ratings are Northwestern Mutual and New York Life.

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avatar The Wizard February 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

And there’s a fifth insurance rating agency called Weiss Ratings. If you sign up for a free account with them, you can browse Strongest Large Life Insurers and Strongest Large Annuity Insurers.
You’ll see that TIAA shares the highest Weiss Financial Strength rating of A+ with 4 or 5 other Ins Cos, but that NW Mutual and NY LIfe both have A- ratings.
So using Weiss as a tie-breaker, I guess we could say TIAA wins…

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avatar Pat February 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Thanks for your link that refers back to TIAA-CREF. I still cannot find an independent third party that states TIAA is THE highest rated. I asked because I want to contact the source and inform them of the less than stellar performance I experienced. I agree that this forum is helpful for those having problems with TIAA, and usually those parties are in no need of a TIAA cheerleader.

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avatar The Wizard February 28, 2014 at 4:35 pm

There are FOUR independent PDF files compiled in one place for convenience at that link; did you take a look at them?.
But these ratings are concerned with Financial Strength primarily.
They are not at all concerned about customer service and forms containing multi-syllable words in small print that cannot be understood by some folks.

If you give an insurance company a million dollars for a lifetime annuity, you want confidence that they will be around for the next few decades and not go bust. That’s what Financial Strength is about…

avatar ethicwatch February 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I totally agree, it’s obvious the ratings aren’t based on customer service, staff development, product clarity, difference between employer based plans and individual accounts. So big up to the ratings, excellence should be holistic. Single Life annuities are the first step in many options but they are not the last step in the lifetime income process. The company saves a lot of money through the other options because the vintages do not apply and the new stable value annuities are not attached to the vintage system. I do believe stable value is used for equity wash.

avatar ethicwatch March 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm

It cannot be me here’s the latest. According to Esperanza Espinosa, Sr. Customer Resolution Manager, TIAA-CREF Individual and Institutional Services, Denver, the tiaa traditional premiums I paid since 1983 were not premiums connected to a guaranteed insurance contract which is part of my employer sponsored far and gsra. According to Ms E. my traditional accumulations are tiaa variable which I understand to be a group annuity attached to the real estate account that represents traditional variable in my 403b supplemental accounts. The company pamphlets clearly distinguish between TIAA Traditional in an employer sponsored plan 401a and a supplemental plan. For lifetime income tiaa traditional is a guaranteed insurance contract to which the vintage system is connected. Services processes investment products for CREF and tiaa. TIAA LIFETIME INCOME in an employer plan is an insurance product not an investment product. I honestly believe TIAA TRADITIONAL payout process is used so infrequently very few employees realize it still exist and the payment comes from the general account not a separate account it is guaranteed by the claims paying ability of TIAA the insurance company ‘s . Most participants are steered towards fixed period payouts that end at the fixed period and do not include the benefit of the vintage system. I don’t think services handles tiaa traditional payouts from the guaranteed insurance product it might be tclife. The real story lies in the state insurance contract. So there is tiaa traditional guaranteed insurance contract in my employer plan 401a and tiaa traditional annuity investment variable in 403b in my employer plan which you can move around unless you asked for lifetime income which then becomes fixed and guaranteed by the general account like the traditional insurance product. Keep an eye on the account numbers. The saga continues.


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avatar Sherlock March 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I’m 66 years old. I retired from Wayne State University almost 4 years ago. All of my 403b contributions and earnings are managed by TIAA-CREF. I have not had a single problem with my 403b in more than 30 years. I’ve been receiving monthly income from TIAA-CREF via the Interest-Only Option and Systematic Withdrawals since Jan. 2011. I plan to annuitize a significant fraction of my TIAA Traditional accumulation within my RA soon after my 68th birthday. Over the years I’ve called the TC offices on numerous occasions to ask a variety of questions. I always get through to a representative quickly. I always receive clear, concise answers to my questions. It was easy to get my monthly income started and I always receive the automatic deposits on time and in the correct amount. The large number of complaints directed at TIAA-CREF on this site surprises me. I could not have hoped for a more reliable, efficient company to oversee the accumulation and distribution of my 403b plan. I’m an engineer and I’ve run the numbers for a large number of payout scenarios. I’ve generated my own estimates of expected income by hand and I’ve applied the TIAA-CREF web site calculator to compare against my own estimates. It all works. Everything checks out fine. Once a year I make an appointment at the local TIAA-CREF office to ask some additional questions and go over future investment and income strategies. That annual experience has always met my expectations. I am extremely satisfied with the way TIAA-CREF has handled my 403b plan over the years …. before and since I retired. Again, I’m stunned at the complaining I’ve observed on this web site. It’s hard for me to believe it’s accurate.

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avatar Marty Martins March 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Sherlock, why would the complaints not be accurate? What motivation would the complainers have other than trying to get some suggestions as to how to deal with and maybe solve their negative experiences? What would the complainers gain from fabricating? Have you not seen the reports of the class action suit? That is not invented. Have you not seen the reports of the multi-state settlement that T-C signed after it was found to have engaged in not disbursing to beneficiaries on the death of contributors? That is not invented. Hopefully, you have read the complaints and the comments to realize that TC has many different kinds of plans, that different employers don’t offer all the different types of plans, that retiring from just one institution may result in a different situation as compared to retiring from multiple institutions. I know I got much more cordial and dedicated treatment when I still had accounts from working at Cornell and Dartmouth, before I depleted them, as compared to my accounts at SUNY.

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avatar Pat March 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Agreed. While it is good news that TIAA works for Sherlock, please do not belittle others whose experience is not the same. I am trying to resolve an issue with TIAA and find they are less than honorable in their responses. I assure you my complaint is not fabricated but I am frustrated with dealing with a $34 billion company who does not act responsibly in my own particular case.

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avatar Linda March 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm

How much did you and, are you, paying Wayne State for “plan administrator fees”?
If Sherlock doesn’t reply, will someone else, who has info. about university charges, please reply? Is it common for public universities to be reluctant to disclose fees?

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avatar emeritus March 17, 2014 at 4:52 am

FWIW I am an Emeritus professor from an ENG school. TIAA CREF has been a complete total unmitigated nightmare. Incompetence, foot-dragging, endless paperwork and sheer nastyness has been the order of the day. My accounts are closed but dealing with them on behalf of my disabled wife is awful.

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avatar Franklin Burroughs March 22, 2014 at 11:45 am

Is TIAA/CREF, at best, a confusing, frustrating, & inefficient organization; or are those of us who experience it as such either incompetent or malicious? Consider this. Within the past month, to my great relief, I finally succeeded in getting my minimum distribution check from T/C. Today I have received from them a letter of a very familiar kind: notification that my withdrawal form had been filled out incorrectly, and that I would need to fill it out again. A copy of the form–the same one I filled out and mailed to them at the beginning of March–was included. So one set of bureaucrats there mailed me my check; another set has rejected my application for it. Hell of a way to run a railroad.

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avatar The Wizard March 22, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Settle down, Franklin.
I’ll report further as time goes on.
I’m 6 years from RMDs so can’t comment on that.
Go to the Morningstar T-C forum for more advice, thx…

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avatar ethicwatch March 15, 2014 at 8:42 am

In 1991 my employer issued new contracts for my GSRA unlike the. GRA this contract offers a single life annuity as a lifetime payout option. The original GRA and gsra contracts offered one or two life annuities. You don’t notice the difference until you seek payout options. So it appears beginning in 1991 single life immediate annuities became a step in the annuitization process. The lifetime annuity still was/ is paid through the general account. All the other payout options exist, this appears to provide participants with flexibility while helping TIAA CREF hold on to assets. The contract number begins with C- for the Retirement Annuity Contract and a U- for the Retirement unit annuity certificate. The CREF units could be transferred to TIAA for the purchase of a fixed dollar contract which would be either a one or two life income annuity. TIAA TRADITIONAL is a guaranteed insurance contract, not an investment. Payout stage interest rates vintages are only for lifetime annuities. It’s like the single life annuity is a spoiler.

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avatar Pat March 15, 2014 at 11:07 am

Was there any change to your contract that informed you of an ability to take ten annual cash withdrawals

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avatar ethicwatch March 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm

No. The original contracts have a curious statement “no request for benefits will be deemed be received by us (TIAA) unless it is received at our home office”. TIAA, Third Ave, NY, NY 10017. The original contract also states you should mail the contract/ certificate to the NY address. The call center people never mentioned this step in the annuitization process. Is this still the route to lifetime income? I went back to my final statement the funds from the 1991 contract was a 403b nonqualified plan TIAA CO five number-one number in an after tax annuity pre-1995. The CREF certificate UP five number-one number. Since the accumulations in all plans contracts and certificates are individually owned does the application process satisfy the rules in the contracts and certificates? Please read your documents before you answer.

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avatar The Wizard March 17, 2014 at 12:49 am

Just work with your WMA on this.
Old contracts have obsolete language.
I sent a 13 ounce package of paper work to their Charlotte NC office and my annuity and systematic withdrawal payments started up perfectly…

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avatar Pat March 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I’m not clear on the specific application process you are referring to. The reason why I asked about the 10 year cash disbursement option is because I believe TIAA has hidden that option for many. My Trad annuity contract was amended in 1994 to allow transfers to CREF, a variable annuity. TIAA is trying to interpret that as information regarding the 10 year cash withdrawal option. .However ERISA requires accurate and comprehensive language. I checked all of my universities plan documents and while they mention distribution options, they also disclaim that a specific option is based on your individual contract. SO it goes around if the contract is ambiguous you can only get specific info from TIAA customer service. And their advice is verbal and easily disputed. In my opinion TIAA has not clearly explained the 10 year cash disbursement option. Check your universities web page on TIAA. I looked at several universities and it is all the same…mo mention of a 10 year cash withdrawal option.

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avatar The Wizard March 17, 2014 at 12:47 am

Are you talking about TIAA Traditional in an RA/GRA?
That typically has a 9 year + 1 day transfer/withdrawal option.
It’s no big secret.
But it’s not an approach that’s good for most retirees either…

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avatar Pat March 17, 2014 at 1:28 am

Yes. I have a TIAA traditional (RA). I know you have said before that it is no secret, but if it is not written in my contract, how would I know about the 10 year cash withdrawal option in my specific case? My TIAA account is very small compared to my other pension accounts. When I recently found out about the withdrawal option I was very annoyed that I had not been advised by TIAA of its existence. They recently claimed that since a CREF account number appeared on my quarterly statement in 2009, (without any other information) that was sufficient written notice of the cash withdrawal option. As noted before I never did receive a CREF contract until several months ago. Sounds like a lot of back tracking to me.

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avatar zkeith March 17, 2014 at 6:38 am

About two years before I actually retired, I contacted TIAA-CREF to request retirement brochures, etc. I received a large packet of information, and the 10-year payout option was a prominent part of several of the pieces of information in the packet. Did you not request this packet?

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avatar Pat March 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Thanks. I appreciate your reply. When I contacted TIAA in 2005 over the phone and asked about withdrawal options I was not informed of any distribution option other than the original lifetime annuity. No information was ever sent. So I did not call again for years when once again I was told no other option for a Trad Annuity. Finally last year I called again and was finally was told of the 10 year option. I could have been receiving it for years. My point is that I should have been notified in writing of the option ?

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avatar The Wizard March 17, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Seems like T-C was negligent in your case, yes. Unless you were one of the few present-day participants with a contract from your employer that restricted payouts to annuity only. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Nonetheless, go ahead and annuitize this modest TIAA Traditional accumulation at the start of your retirement, assuming you’re in decent health…

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avatar Retired teacher March 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm

The California Teachers Association, Nov. 8, 2013, letter to the Teachers’ Retirement Board, is posted at the NCTR website. It references the TIAA Institute and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
A Diane Ravitch blog just posted, “Texas Democratic Party Condemns Stealth Privatization of Dallas Public Schools”, includes resolutions relating to the Arnold Foundation.

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avatar Pat March 18, 2014 at 2:27 am

In 2010 TIAA was fined $100,000 for several failures regarding their customer service by FINRA (Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority) It doesn’t look like they took any corrective action based upon posted comments.

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avatar ethicwatch March 20, 2014 at 11:00 am

Oops, they did it again! U.DIstrict Court 19 million dollar settlement for higher ed participants. Read settlement document at http://www.document.cloud.org/document/1093507-tiaa-c.

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avatar Linda March 21, 2014 at 11:07 am

Inside Higher Ed explains the details of the proposed settlement and the alleged wrongdoing.

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