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Just some ramblings about TIAA/CREF that may or may not address your question.

I have a 403(b) at TIAA/CREF. I no longer work at a university because I stay at home and play on my computer buying and selling things they call securities. ;-) Given that I did not like the limited choices that they offer, I started a campaign to learn how I could transer the money accumulated to a self-directed IRA, in which I could buy and sell individual stocks and not be limited to the "funds" offered by TIAA/CREF. I discovered some interesting things. First, one can transfer tax free from the CREF account immediately to an IRA if the former university allows it. Three out of the four universities where I was employed allowed me to do this. The other has a policy that no funds can be withdrawn or transferred until the individual reaches age 59and1/2.(They are trying to protect us from ourselves). The only way one can transfer the portion in TIAA is over a ten-year period. What is not good about this option is that the Infernal Revenue Service(aka IRS) will not consider this a nontaxable IRA transfer because of the ten-year period over which the payments are made. In other words, if you take your 10% out, you not only have to include this amount in your income(unless there were contributions made by you after leaving academia, in which case this portion would not be taxable) but you also must pay a 10% penalty. I recently decided to do this because I think I can do much better(even after taxes and penalties)by investing the way I want to invest.(I don't recommend this option to anyone)

There is also another type of account that you can contribute to in the same way that you contribute to the regular annuity. It's called the SRA(Supplemental Retirement Annuity). I'm not certain that all colleges offer this option but I think they can do if you request. I am glad that I had 50% of my contributions going to the SRA because you don't need anyone's permission to transfer funds out of this. Needless to say I was very happy to be able to transfer 100% of ALL funds in my SRA without written permission from the universities. I would strongly recommend to anyone that is considering doing their own investing in other than mutual funds to go down to their human resources department and have them establish an SRA with TIAA/CREF. The only downside to this, in my view, is that the interest paid on money market funds is slightly less than what is paid from the regular annuity. Everything else is exactly the same as how you are now allocating your money.

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