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HeadquartersNew York, NY
Key peopleRoger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and CEO
Gina Wilson, Executive VP and CFO
AUMUS $854 billion

TIAA, formerly known as TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund), is a financial services organization that is the main retirement provider for people who work in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields. TIAA is headquartered in New York city and has $564 billion in assets under management (as of 12/31/2015).[1]

TIAA was chartered in 1918 as a stock life insurance company to provide employees of nonprofit education and research institutions with the means to enhance their future financial security.[2]

CREF, a companion nonprofit organization to TIAA, was founded in 1952 to provide retirement annuities based on investment in common stock. In the 1980s, CREF registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940.[2]

TIAA and CREF each has its own Board of Trustees, whose responsibility is to assure that the organization is managed properly. Above the TIAA and CREF Boards of Trustees are the TIAA and CREF Boards of Overseers.[2]

In 1952 TIAA-CREF introduced the world’s first variable annuity, now known as the CREF Stock Account.[2]

In 1996, TIAA-CREF began offering mutual funds to the general public.[3] The firm now offers retirement plans, IRAs, annuities, mutual funds, brokerage services, life insurance, educational savings accounts, and banking. [2]

In 2016, TIAA-CREF changed its name to TIAA and revamped its website.[4]

Boglehead-style investing at TIAA

The building blocks of Boglehead-style investing are low-expense-ratio index mutual funds and/or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Vanguard fans would suggest that Vanguard has the best and most complete lineup of such funds, and that the most convenient place to hold Vanguard mutual funds is directly at Vanguard. Thus, the Bogleheads forum and Wiki tends to be Vanguard-oriented. But investing according to the Boglehead philosophy certainly does not require you to invest at Vanguard or use Vanguard products. Here are some notes on how to do it at TIAA.

Annuities fund offerings

Some CREF annuities' fund offerings, such as the international funds, are actively managed. Thus an investor's fund selection may result in a partially indexed portfolio.

The CREF Stock fund represents a combination of Total US and Total International (excluding US) funds, which is 2/3 of a Three-fund portfolio. Therefore, a three-fund portfolio can be created using only 2 funds:

  • CREF Stock (70% Russell 3000 / 30% MSCI Allworld ex-US)
  • CREF Bond (Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond)

Any Vanguard LifeStrategy Fund allocation, and most Vanguard Target Retirement Funds allocations, can be emulated by an appropriate mixture of the Stock and Bond funds. Just use the appropriate Stock/Bond split.[5]

Mutual fund (retail) offerings

Construct a three-fund portfolio using the three available index funds:

  • Equity Index (Russell 3000)
  • Emerging Markets Stock Index (MSCI Emerging)
  • Bond Index Fund (Barclays US Aggregate)

Retirement annuities for 403(b) plans

TIAA retirement annuities make up a large part of the university and research institution employer provided retirement plan market. TIAA annuity accounts are managed with much lower costs than most variable annuity offerings. Most of the equity based subaccounts (Global Equity, Stock, Growth, and the equity investments in Social Choice) are actively managed using the following three-part strategy:

  • Active management: one part of the portfolio is devoted to active individual stock selection;
  • Enhanced indexing: one part of the portfolio employs a quantitative modeled stock selection strategy designed to match the risk characteristics of benchmark market sectors;
  • Pure Index: one part of the portfolio is managed to match the performance of the benchmark index.

The investment menu provides one stand-alone index portfolio, the Equity Index fund, based on the Russell 3000 index.

The table below lists the subaccounts that make up the TIAA-CREF line-up of investment options.

CREF Variable Annuity Accounts[6]
Fund Style Benchmark Notes
Global Equities Active / US / International Stock MSCI World Index Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund
Stock Active / US / International Stock 70% Russell 3000 / 30% MSCI Allworld ex-US No comparable single Vanguard fund, but may be emulated by: 70% Vanguard Total Stock Index Fund, 30% Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund.[7]
Equity Index Index / US Stock Russell 3000 Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund
Growth Active / US Stock Russell 1000 Growth Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Growth Index Fund, although the TIAA-CREF Growth Fund can invest in foreign securities
Social Choice Active / Balanced 47% Russell 3000 / 13% MSCI EAFE+Canada / 40% Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Life Strategy Moderate Growth Fund, although the Social Choice Fund imposes social responsibility screens on stock market investments.
Bond Active / Bond Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund, although the TIAA-CREF Bond Fund can invest in lower credit rated bonds.
Inflation Linked Bond Active / Bond Barclays U.S. Inflation Protected Securities (Series L) Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Inflation Protected Securities Fund.
Money Market Money Market iMoneyNet Money Fund Report Averages—All Taxable Comparable Vanguard fund: Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund.

Participants in TIAA 403(b) plans may also have two additional investment options (depending on the terms of the individual plan):

  • TIAA Real Estate Account: a portfolio that holds between 65% - 80% of its assets in directly owned commercial real estate property, with the balance of the fund invested in indirect real estate related investments (no more than a 10% allocation to limited partnerships, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), and no more than 25% of the fund in non-real-estate-related publicly traded liquid investments, including U.S. Treasury securities, securities issued by U.S. government agencies or sponsored entities, corporate debt securities, money market instruments and stock of companies that do not primarily own or manage real estate. [8]
  • TIAA Traditional account: A guaranteed annuity backed by TIAA's claims paying ability, TIAA Traditional guarantees principal and a minimum interest rate, plus it offers the opportunity for additional amounts in excess of the guaranteed rate. The rate for the additional amounts, when declared by the TIAA Board of Trustees, remains in effect for the "declaration year" that begins each March 1. [9]

Tier pricing

CREF Variable Annuities have three price tiers (R1, R2, and R3) for institutional and individual annuities. For institutional plans, the tier level depends on the employer-plan's assets under management (AUM). For individual plans, the pricing depends on the individual plan or annuity product. The table below shows the breakdown of asset levels and plan types for each tier.

Unit Class Institutional class Individual plan and annuity product
R1 AUM <$20 million IRA; Keough
R2 AUM $20 million but <$400 million After Tax Retirement Annuity (ATRA)
R3 AUM >$400 million Immediate Annuity; Savings and Investment Plan (SIP); Accumulation Unit Deposit Option (AUDO)

The subaccount expense ratios for the three pricing tiers are shown in the table below:

CREF Variable Annuity tier pricing
Subaccount Class R1 Class R2 Class R3
Stock 0.660 0.460 0.370
Global Equity 0.680 0.480 0.390
Growth 0.625 0.425 0.335
Equity Index 0.595 0.395 0.305
Bond Market 0.660 0.460 0.370
Inflation Linked Bond 0.615 0.415 0.325
Social Choice 0.630 0.430 0.340
Money Market 0.610 0.410 0.320

Retirement plan contracts from TIAA

TIAA offers retirement plans through the following types of contracts:

  • Retirement Annuities: A Retirement Annuity (RA) is used primarily for employer-sponsored retirement plans. Depending on the terms of the employer plan, RA plan premiums can be paid by the employer, by the employee, or by both. For employee paid premiums, contributions can be in either pre-tax dollars through salary reduction, or after-tax dollars through payroll deduction. The employer plan may contain an option to make contributions in the form of after-tax Roth contributions. With an RA, the employer plan’s rules determine which investment and income options are available. The employee decides how to invest funds among the available investment options. Employees can change how new premiums are allocated, or move funds from one investment to another. Employees can also transfer accumulations from other investment choices under the employer’s plan to the RA contract. [10]
  • Group Retirement Annuities: Group Retirement Annuity (GRA) premiums can only be paid by the employer. Premiums can be from pre-tax or after-tax contributions. An employee can transfer accumulations from other investment choices under the employer’s plan to the GRA contract. [10]
  • Supplemental Retirement Annuities: Many institutions that offer RA contracts also offer supplemental plans, which are known as Supplemental Retirement Annuities (SRAs). SRAs are voluntary tax-deferred annuity (TDA) plans through which the employee contributes money for retirement in addition to the basic retirement plan offered by the employer. [10]
  • Group Supplemental Retirement Annuities: The essential difference between a Group Supplemental Retirement Annuity (GSRA) and a SRA contract is that the SRA contract is issued directly to the employee whereas GSRA contracts are issued through an agreement between the employer and TIAA-CREF. [10]
  • Group Annuity (GA) and Institutionally Owned GSRAs: These types of plans are used exclusively for employer retirement plans and are issued directly to the employer or the plan’s trustee. The plan's rules govern the transferring and withdrawing of money, the receipt any annuity income or death benefits, and the timing of payments. [10]
  • Retirement Choice/Retirement Choice Plus Annuities:These plans work very similarly to GRAs and GSRAs. The major difference is that, unlike GRAs, they are issued directly to the employer or the plan’s trustee. Among other rights, the employer retains the right to transfer accumulations under these contracts to alternate funding vehicles. [10]

TIAA Traditional


Deposits to TIAA Traditional are tracked by the date they are made. Deposits include your original contribution and any additional amounts. Original contributions and the guaranteed rate are dated as of the date of the original contribution; additional amounts are dated as of the date paid. Dates are grouped together in vintages, but that grouping may change at the beginning of the next declaration year (March 1). Vintages can be different for different contracts and can be as short as one month or span multiple years. For example, as of 6/1/12 the RA has 18 vintages, including pre-1992, 1992-1999, 2000-2002, ... , 09/11, 10/11, 12/11, and 1/12-6/12, while the SRA has only 11 vintages. Since additional amounts are dated as of the date paid, additional amounts derived from an earlier vintage will be spread across all the more recent vintages and each in turn earn the additional amount in effect for that more recent vintage.

Separate vintages also are used in determining any annuity payout. As of 6/1/12, there are 6 vintages with 4 different interest rates used to determine the annuity payout on those 6 portions of your accumulation. [note 1]

Distribution options

TIAA retirement plan participants can opt for the following distribution options when taking income from their accounts: [11]

  • Minimum Distribution Requirements: (available since 1991). The Minimum Distribution option conforms to the IRS minimum distribution requirements and is currently the default option for retirement plan participants. [12]
  • Lifetime Annuity Payments: (available since 1918). TIAA-CREF offers both single and joint life income annuities. Joint annuities can be elected that provide the survivor with either 100%, two thirds, or one half of the original payout stream. For an additional cost, individuals can add a guarantee period to the annuity payouts. The choice of a life annuity is irrevocable. [12]
For fixed lifetime annuity payments, TIAA Traditional offers both a standard payment method and a graded payment method. The standard payment method usually provides a higher initial income; while the graded method is more likely to provide for an increasing income stream year to year. [13].
TIAA also provides for a variable immediate annuity, based on a 4% Assumed Interest Rate (AIR) and the performance of the CREF subaccounts. The retiree has the option of selecting monthly or annual income changes. Subject to limitations, TIAA allows retirees to transfer income streams among variable subaccounts; among monthly and annual income changes; from variable accounts to the Traditional account standard payment and/or graded payment annuities. With limitations, retirees can exchange Traditional standard payments to CREF variable payments. One can also exchange a graded payment income stream for a standard payment income stream.[14]
  • Systematic Withdrawals: (available since 1996). With a systematic withdrawal, the individual plan owner selects a set dollar or set percentage amount of regular withdrawals from the plan. Lump sum withdrawals are always possible. The systematic withdrawals must meet minimum distribution requirements when applicable (after age 70 ). An individual using systematic withdrawals retains the flexibility to convert to other distribution options (minimum distribution or life annuity). [12]
  • Interest-Only Payments: (available since 1989). For TIAA traditional holdings, this income option enables plan holders to receive the interest credited on their TIAA traditional annuity accumulations as income. Principal is retained for a later date, when it can be converted to a minimum distribution option, life annuity, or otherwise withdrawn. [12]
  • Transfer Payout Annuities: For TIAA traditional holdings within a Retirement Annuity, Group Retirement Annuity or Retirement Choice Contract. The primary goal of the TIAA Traditional Annuity is to provide the highest level of interest while guaranteeing the principal balance. In order to uphold these benefits, withdrawals are limited to a portion of the balance each year. For income from a TIAA Traditional balance in a Retirement Annuity or Group Retirement Annuity, an investor can receive 10 annual withdrawals through the Transfer Payout Annuity. Group Retirement Annuities may also offer the choice of annual fixed-period withdrawals between 5 and 30 years. Retirement Choice contracts offer a 7-year withdrawal option. [15]

The following table and chart show the initial income distribution selection chosen by TIAA-CREF investors during the period 1975 to 2001. [12]

After-tax annuities

Outside of retirement plans, TIAA offers a number of after-tax annuities. The company offers a tax-deferred fixed annuity as well as a no-load variable tax-deferred annuity. The firm also offers both a fixed income immediate annuity as well as a no-load variable immediate annuity. [16]

Mutual funds

TIAA provides mutual fund investment portfolios for the individual retail market, [17] retirement plans, [18] and educational savings plans. [19] The firm offers both actively managed funds, as well as index funds.

The following table provides a listing of TIAA index funds. The firm offers only three index funds in the retail share class (covering the total US stock and investment grade bond markets and emerging market stocks). The retail class expense ratios are higher than similar fund offerings from such firms as Vanguard and Fidelity and for many exchange traded funds.

The firm provides a larger menu of lower cost (retirement shares and premium shares) index fund offerings for employer provided retirement plans . TIAA-CREF institutional shares are used in the firm's management of 529 savings plans.

TIAA-CREF Index Funds [note 2]
Fund Benchmark Retail shares Expense Ratio Retirement shares Expense Ratio Premier shares Expense Ratio Institutional shares Expense Ratio
Equity Index Russell 3000 Yes 0.40% Yes 0.32% Yes 0.22% Yes 0.07%
S&P 500 Index S&P 500 - - Yes 0.32% - - Yes 0.07%
Large Growth Index Russell 1000 Growth - - Yes 0.33% - - Yes 0.08%
Large Value Index Russell 1000 Value - - Yes 0.33% - - Yes 0.08%
Small Blend Index Russell 2000 - - Yes 0.40% - - Yes 0.15%
International Index MSCI EAFE - Yes 0.34% Yes 0.24% Yes 0.09%
Emerging Market Index MSCI Emerging Markets Yes 0.65% Yes 0.51% Yes 0.41% Yes 0.26%
Bond Index Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Yes 0.48% Yes 0.38% Yes 0.28% Yes 0.13%


  1. The TIAA-CREF website provides access to the record of Traditional account vintages for each contract type:
  2. TIAA-CREF Funds - Institutional Class, Retrieved 7 June, 2012.
    • Retail shares have a minimum investment of $2,500 ($2,000 for IRAs and Coverdell accounts) and a minimum $100 for subsequent investments.
    • Retirement shares have no minimum investment and are offered primarily through employer provided retirement plans.
    • Premier shares are made available to retirement plans having $100 million in aggregate plan size, with a $5 million dollar minimum investment.
    • Institutional shares have a $10 million dollar minimum, with a $1,000 minimum for subsequent investments (subject to modification by a financial intermediaries that enter into an appropriate agreement with the fund.

See also


  1. How we invest, TIAA, viewed March 09, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Organizational Structure, TIAA-CREF, Retrieved 19 April, 2014.
  3. Our History, TIAA-CREF, Retrieved 19 April, 2014.
  4. TIAA-CREF Begins New Chapter as TIAA, February 22, 2016.
  5. The Three Fund Portfolio, forum discussion.
  6. CREF Variable Annuity Accounts. Retrieved 8 June, 2012.
    Beginning July 16, 2009, part or all of the 12b-1 distribution expenses and/or administrative expenses attributable to the CREF Money Market Account are being voluntarily waived.
  7. The Three Fund Portfolio, forum discussion.
  8. The Real Estate Account: Frequently Asked Questions, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  9. TIAA Traditional: Retirement Annuity. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 TIAA-CREF - Retirement annuities, group retirement annuities and supplemental retirement annuities, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  11. Retirement Plan Income Options, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Ameriks, John (December 2002). "Recent Trends in the Selection of Retirement Income Streams Among TIAA-CREF Participants". TIAA-CREF Institute Research and Dialogue (Issue # 74): 4-6. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  13. Questions and Answers on TIAA Interest Rates, Performance and Income, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  14. Adjusting Your Annuity Income, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  15. TIAA-CREF Transfer Payout Annuity Form, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  16. Compare Annuities, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  17. TIAA-CREF Mutual Funds-Retail Class, TIAA. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  18. TIAA-CREF Funds; Retirement Class, TIAA-CREF. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
  19. TIAA CREF Education Savings, TIAA-CREF, Retrieved 15 June 2012.

External links


  • Ameriks, John, Recent Trends in the Selection of Retirement Income Streams Among TIAA-CREF Participants, (December 2002) TIAA-CREF Institute Research and Dialogue (Issue # 74). Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  • Biggs, John H, How TIAA-CREF Funded Plans Differ from a Typical 401(k) Plan, (February 2010) TIAA-CREF Institute Trends and Issues. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  • Greenough, William C. "It's My Retirement Money, Take Good Care Of It, The TIAA-CREF Story", Homewood, IL, IRWIN, for Pension Research Council, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 1990. ISBN 0-256-08657-5
  • [1989 SEC LEXIS 1606] This is a complete citation for Admin. Proc. File No. 3-6954, SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, INVESTMENT COMPANY ACT OF 1940, Release No. 17116, 50 S.E.C. 84, August 22, 1989
  • [1989 SEC LEXIS 1605] Also August 22, 1989
  • Crenshaw, Albert B. "The Fight for College Pensions; SEC Decision May Touch Off Fierce Competition to Manage Retirement Funds." The Washington Post, June 25, 1989.
  • TIAA-CREF. “TIAA-CREF: The Future Agenda. Final Report November 18, 1987”, New York, TIAA-CREF, NY, 1987. 104 pp. Paperbound. Multiple revisions may exist.
  • Abelson, Reed, “Budget Deal to Cost T.I.A.A.-C.R.E.F. Its Tax Exemption” New York Times (July 30, 1997).