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Need insight: TIAA-CREF - stay in or roll over?

kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,628Super Moderator Senior Member
edited August 2011 in Parent Cafe
I have TIAA-CREF accounts from two universities. I no longer work in higher ed & now have a regular 401K retirement plan. I am not sure if I want to keep my money in TIAA CREF or roll it over. I know that it will take 10 years to move all my TIAA guaranteed annuity money over, but I can roll over all my other money at once (at least for my most recent employer - have to dig out the plan documents to find out about the first employer).

I am just not sure ... wondering if I should just leave the money where it is. I really don't understand how TIAA CREF works. I am really intelligent in most areas, but the whole annuity thing makes my eyes glaze over & numbs my brain for some reason. I just don't get it.

I think I probably really need to talk to a financial planner. But how the heck do I choose one who will just look at my situation and give me unbiased advice?

I am clueless. Any advice?

(By the way, this is one thing that s**ks about being 50+ ... I have to take this stuff way more seriously than I ever did)
Post edited by kelsmom on

Replies to: Need insight: TIAA-CREF - stay in or roll over?

  • IgloooIglooo Posts: 4,721Registered User Senior Member
    Isn't CREF basically a mutual fund?
  • dadx3dadx3 Posts: 1,522Registered User Senior Member
    One reason you might want to move funds from TIAA-CREF to your 401k is if you think you have a better selection of investments at your current 401k. Another might be that you just don't want to keep track of so many different accounts. A final reason, would be that you can take loans from a 401k, but I doubt you can take loans from your TIAA-CREF account, especially since you are no longer working in higher-ed. Most financial advisers counsel great caution in taking loans from a 401k account, however, so I wouldn't move the funds for that reason.

    I have generally heard good things about the investment options in TIAA-CREF, and many 401k plans are stuffed with mutual funds with high fees. So I would think carefully about whether or not it is a good idea to move the money from TIAA-CREF. You can roll the money from an old employer's 401k to a new employers 401k, but I don't think you'd ever be able to move the money back into TIAA-CREF unless you started working in higher-ed again. You can also roll over money from an old 401k into an IRA after you leave the employer.

    Without knowing the specifics of your annuities with TIAA-CREF it is impossible to tell whether it would be a good idea to move them or not. The whole question of whether of not to move from TIAA-CREF to your new employer's 401k is a good one for a financial adviser, but especially about the annuities. So much depends on the details.

    Be thankful that you do have some money in your 401k/403b type plans. Most people don't have much. Studies I've read show that many people spend the balance in their old 401k plan when they move to a new employer - often on things like new cars or boats. Then they get hit with the income tax and 10% penalty for early withdrawals from these types of accounts, and they have little or no money in retirement.
  • IgloooIglooo Posts: 4,721Registered User Senior Member
    We have a TIAA-CREF account, mostly CREF. It's doing very well. I am not an investment expert but I think it beats many other mutual fund.

    If you expect to retire in a few years and be forced to make minimal withdrawal annually, should you move an equity fund to a bond type fund?
  • NewHope33NewHope33 Posts: 6,208Registered User Senior Member
    We have money in TIAA and in CREF and in three brokerage houses. There are differences and similarities. Unless you have a compelling reason to move the money around, you might be better off spending your time enjoying the summer.

    TIAA-CREF has representatives about the country. The one in our area is service-oriented. You might schedule an appointment with the one in your area.
  • sewhappysewhappy Posts: 4,428- Senior Member
    DH and I both had TIAA-CREF accounts from our years in academia. We have liked it so much that we put our 529 money into the Michigan TIAA-CREF run 529 program. When I resigned from my last job I rolled my 401K into my TIAA-CREF account. We are probably going to roll over an IRA and another 401K of my husbands also to TIAA-CREF.

    What can I say? We just like the investment options, the super low risk options, the advice.

    Only drawback is the online account access. Not very user friendly. But it's very easy to talk to a human being when you call.
  • thumper1thumper1 Posts: 38,462Registered User Senior Member
    I have a small TIAA-CREF account that I actually inherited from my mom when she died. To be honest, I wish ALL of my money was invested with them. I have been "offered" the opportunity to move this money many times in the last eight years...and have not done so. I have two other TSA accounts...in addition to this TIAA-CREF account. I like it that way.

    We work with a financial/retirement planner...and that has helped us a lot (DH also has various TSA/IRA accounts). Maybe find someone to help you with this...we found it very helpful.
  • ConsolationConsolation Posts: 15,254Registered User Senior Member
    If you look for a financial planner, find one who is fee-based. They have no financial motivation to urge you to make changes. I would avoid the type who appeal to investors who like to think of themselves as players, if you know what I mean. :)
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Posts: 38,125Registered User Senior Member
    You can check Morningstar ( Morningstar Stock, Mutual Fund, Bond, ETF Investment Research ) or other ratings to compare the TIAA-CREF mutual funds to other mutual funds.

    Note that if a retirement plan can be rolled over to a new employer's 401k, you should also have the option to do a direct rollover to an IRA that is independent of your employer plan. Indeed, TIAA-CREF offers IRA accounts ( TIAA-CREF - IRAs ), so they probably make it relatively painless if you want to stay in the TIAA-CREF investments but want to unlink the account from your past employer.
  • notrichenoughnotrichenough Posts: 5,635Registered User Senior Member
    Note that if a retirement plan can be rolled over to a new employer's 401k, you should also have the option to do a direct rollover to an IRA that is independent of your employer plan.
    I believe these are independent of each other.

    Whether you can roll a 401k from an old employer into a 401k at the new employer depends on the new employer's plan - some accept rollovers, some don't.

    You always have the option to roll a 401k from a previous employer into an IRA. IMO it is always beneficial to do so - it lets you consolidate your assets in one place, you have access to order of magnitude more investment options, and it is generally lower cost.

    If you need to take a loan against your 401k in the future then rolling into another 401k might make sense.
  • kelsmomkelsmom Posts: 12,628Super Moderator Senior Member
    Thanks for all the input. I have the sense that my account is doing pretty well, and I am leaning toward leaving the money there. I have recently read so many negative things on the web about TIAA CREF, and I got a bit worried. I should know that the people who are unhappy air their grievances, while those who are happy generally are quiet ... so I shoud remember not to put too much stock in the negatives.

    Consolation, how does one go about finding a good fee-based financial planner? I know a few people who have planners, but theirs are affiliated with funds. I am not interested in that ... I do want someone who will just look at our situation & advise us on the best path for us to take. I have to wait six months to get into the 401K with my new employer, but I am not stopping my savings. I am putting money aside & would like to put that into a Roth IRA (can't deduct a traditional from my taxes this year as both H & I contributed to our 401K/403B accounts during the current year). I would love to find an advisor in the near future so I can determine where I should put my IRA money. We have H's 401K, my 403B, my state public school employee pension fund (very little - probably should do a rollover with this money), and now my new 401K plan. I don't even want to think about the hassles when it comes time to draw the funds ... but yes, it is good that I have this to worry about!
  • moo1960moo1960 Posts: 1Registered User New Member
    I spent a ton of time with the same question. Heres why you should roll to an IRA
    1. IRA has unlimited choices versus the few you have in TIAA Cref
    2. The expenses in the TIAA Cref Funds are not low vs evrything else out there.
    3. "I have the sense that my account is doing pretty well, and I am leaning toward leaving the money there." You need to have clear cut financial goals in order to determine whether you are doing well or not. You may be taking more or less risk than you need. Putting your head in the sand is no way to take hold of your financial affairs
    4. Tiaa Cref doesnt provide more than a one time snapshot of a plan. You need to monitor your plan once its in place.

    I asked my collegues and friends who they use for financial advice, interviewed three of them and went with a guy from Wells Fargo Advisors. Did a plan and we left the TIAA money set and rolled the Cref funds. I have guarenteed income in one bucket and flexible well managed investments in the other. I got advice on the best way to take social security and learned that my will was so outdated that my wishes werent going to be carried out. Each advisor helped me with some bit of info and I ultimatley selected the one I trusted the most.
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