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Hey fools. Can someone explain to me whether TIAA-CREF's SRA is truly an annuity? My understanding is that the SRA allows an investment (in a choice of funds including an index fund), but how does that differ from choosing an index fund within an IRA? Is this a good option for investing beyond an IRA?

An SRA through TIAA-CREF is "truly" an annuity. However, TIAA-CREF's annuities lack the drawbacks that make so many other annuities unappealing (TIAA-CREF's expense ratios are low, and there are no surrender charges).

There is essentially no difference between investing in an index fund in TIAA-CREF or in an IRA. When you retire, you have the option of taking your money from TIAA-CREF as an annuity, but you are not required to. The main difference between an SRA and an IRA is in investment options: you have more flexibility (i.e. individual stocks) in an IRA. But if you're going to invest in an index fund either way, then the SRA may be a better way to go because contribution limits are higher for 403b plans than for IRAs.

One little-known option for SRAs is that you could transfer them to a 403b7 account with a mutual fund, i.e. Vanguard. You do not have to keep them in TIAA-CREF. However, the CREF funds have been good performers so unless you have some special interest that isn't covered by CREF, I don't see any reason to transfer out.
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