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Greetings, Sweth, and welcome. You wrote in part:

<<I worked for an educational institution for a few years, and while there contributed a few thousand dollars to a TIAA-CREF 403(b). When I left that job a year ago and went to work in the private sector, I left the money in that account, since I was told that I could not roll it over into the 401(k) my new employer provided. I was recently told that what I should have done instead was roll the funds in that account into an IRA, instead. >>

Others have given you an excellent response to all your queries. I'll just point out that you may find your ability to transfer your 403b plan money to an IRA somewhat limited. As an example, money invested in CREF vehicles can be moved to an IRA only over a 10-year period, not all at once. Thus, don't be surprised if your 403b custodian tells you some restrictions may apply.

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