2007: The End of TIAA-Cref for My Investments

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Last updated on July 23, 2019 Comments: 18

At the end of the year, I will be ceasing my investment in TIAA-Cref funds for retirement. There are less expensive options at Vanguard, and TIAA-Cref’s customer service record has been spotty. I haven’t had any problems lately, but other people still face difficulties.

My original post about my problems with TIAA-Cref from almost two years ago still receives occasional comments. Here’s the latest comment, from Ed, with his experience.

After two months of wrangling with TIAA-CREF , I was finally able to get a portion of my money. When I called to get the rest, the company told me that they had made a mistake and that it would be 12-15 business days before they could send out the rest of the funds. I knew from my previous interaction with them that they have a system in place to “walk through” payment requests and to get them processed in 3-5 business days. I pushed for the 3-5 day process.

To make a long story short, I told the customer service phone rep to send a message to his supervisor informing him that as soon as I hung up the phone I was going to follow up with the SEC regarding the complaint I filed against TIAA-CREF (I gave them the name of the staff attorney and the file number for my complaint).

You can file a complaint against TIAA-CREF with the SEC here.

The outcome was that the balance of my money was in my checking account in less than 24 hours. Furthermore, it was seemingly impossible to get anyone at the company to do anything that would help me or resolve my case. But after mentioning the SEC, I received at least two calls from TIAA-CREF employees following up — finally — on my case letting me know how sorry they were.

Ed’s success came from filing a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and making sure the customer service representatives were aware of the full complaint information. This escalated his case, and he was able to get some results.

Article comments

LizaBBBB says:

Yes, I too have experienced (and continue to experience, at this moment) difficulty getting withdrawals/transfers/and the like completed by TIAA in a timely manner. In early 2019, it had taken me over two months to get merely an intra-TIAA transfer. Now I am experiencing another problem, in which the intra-TIAA monies were deposited in a new account i inever set up.

Anonymous says:

Please help! I called TIAA yesterday. I wanted to borrow money. First I was told I could. Then I was told I can’t because it is an annunity. I asked about cashing it out. I was told I could get about $1500 a year? I need the money now to pay some bills. What can I do? I have not worked for a non-profit for over 14 years and no longer contribute.


Anonymous says:

OHMG!! I’ve had a horrendous experience with TIAA CREF in 1996 when my husband passed away.Now in 2011 I’m having another hassle even after hiring an accountant and lawyer to deal with them.Employees are non-communicative, dismissive, refuse to listen to your question or answer it, give wrong answers, and harass clients.Do not do business with TIAA Cref. Your money will be lost in the system! And this happened well before 2008 and the present financial crisis.
The date on these is comments is 2007. I hope you are still involved here.

Anonymous says:

EDUCATORS and other PROFESSIONALS with TIAA CREF-Please be aware of the trap TIIA_CREF has in their “guaranteed 3% account-they don’t tell you you are stuck in that account and can only take your money out in 10 equal installments over 9 years-you not not allowed to roll your money over to another qualified account-this is a crime and the company misleads you on the phone by telling you that if you take money out, you have to take it all out -Do Not Invest in the Account Particularly and if your employer has any other option, DO NOT INVEST YOUR RETIREMENT FUNDS WITH TIAA-CREF

Anonymous says:

TIAA-CREF has essentially robbed me of my retirement-when the market turned bad, I changed my investment to their “3% guaranteed account” for a temporary safe haven-when I attempted to move it back into another account, they told me I could not because of their 3% guarantee and the only way I could move money out of the account was via 10 equal installments over 9 years. Allegedly they said their telephone rep explained this-I understood him to say that if I took money out of the 3% account, I had to take it all out. Now, I have no access to my money and absolutely no trust or faith in TIAA-CREF. I contacted the CEO of the company and received a call from their “dispute resolution” department telling me I was stuck in the account and their was nothing I could do other than take 10 equal installments over 9 years. This has to be illegal-has anyone else been mislead by this company-if so, perhaps we can find enough people to file a class action.

Anonymous says:

I sent TIAA paperwork to withdraw a sum of money several weeks ago but they say they never got it. I can file new withdrawal paperwork, but if the first withdrawal paperwork turns up, I could end up liquidating two times more than I planned due to their negligence. TIAA customer service reps say they can “try” to catch the old paperwork if it shows up, but if it goes through along with the newer request, I’ll have liquidated twice more of my retirement than planned. This huge company is unconcerned that they have lost my paperwork and has no mechanism to be sure the lost set of paperwork is tossed out if it turns up. I’ve called them six times this week, got no results and had to talk to young kids who sound like they should be rotating tires at Les Schwab, not ansering investiment calls. I had no idea this company has such horrid customer service. I’ll file an SEC complaint this week and transfer my money to a better managed fund.

Anonymous says:

has this deplorable problem occurred with other academics????

Anonymous says:

I was a medical school college professor (l974-1981) at the University of Nevada Medical School and participated in TIAA-CREF and resigned my position in May of l981 to attend podiatric medical school and recently I inquired with TIAA about my retirment money. They first denied me ever having an account, then said I did have an annuity account but the balance was zero, then they wrote me a letter after doing research to report that I was not vested and therefore the University of Nevada at Reno had repurchase my contract and had been given my retirement money, all of which are damnable lies, I have taken your advice and contacted the SEC to file a complaint. Thankyou very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Dr. Kendall

Anonymous says:

I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say that our experience with TIAA regarding our late father’s account has been just as horrible (or even more so) than detailed here. Our counsel is recommending a lawsuit.

Anonymous says:

Did you file a lawsuit? Considering this option regarding my deceased 43 year old husbands account.

Anonymous says:

We need to get busy and vote on TIAA-CREF with our feet by: a) stopping our colleagues from giving additional contributions and b) convincing our non-profits to eliminate them from their options lists.
I first became in involved with TIAA-CREF in 1977. Looking back, it turned out to be a dismal day. How dismal only became apparent during the past decade or so as I approached retirement!
TIAA has never had a useful program for paying out lumpsums. Once they’ve got your money, you are absolutely out of luck. It will be annuitized on a mysterious schedule that favors them, and leaves you destitute. There is no realistic way to track the performance of any asset allocation you may choose in the annuity program. The only thing you can be certain of is that your money will underperform any other way to invest your retirement contributions you can imagine. This explains why TIAA-CREF has no true lumpsum program. If they had one, noone would annuitize with them.
Today, with all the 403b options available, any non-profit employee who gives these turkeys even a single additional penny of their retirement contributions is nuts, no spell that NUTS. If you have friends who are using them, get them to stop NOW. Let’s vote with our feet.
If your non-profit is still using these jerks as one of their options, get them to STOP (and set up their 403b program with a place like Fidelity or Vanguard), and be a hero to your friends by keeping them from getting screwed. It is also a benefit to your non-profit, because their precious funds will magically start doing more, instead of less good.

Anonymous says:

Ack! I’m in TIAA hell!!! Last year, I got flat-out wrong advice on a Roth IRA conversion from a TIAA rep. They also lost the paperwork to set it up, got it on the second try, then lost the paperwork to undo it (my income made me ineligible to do the conversion, so I had asked to undo it). Now, I’ve got a headache of unbelievable proportions. I’ve dealt with one great person there and five that ranged from incompetent to insulting. Unfortunately, I can’t even find a way to complain up the chain of command.
TIAA-CREF was great 10 years ago. They’re awful now. Every other financial group I’ve dealt with has been better.

Anonymous says:


I have been a customer at TIAA for over 11 years and have witness that this company has changed from the top of top to the bottom of bottom in terms of fund performance, customer services, managing accounts online (such as downloading), to security and best practice… It is now full of tiaa-craps and is a total waste of my time each time when I call their customer abusing call center, where green hands freshly hired simply are STUPID, HELPLESS, and USELESS! I cannot understand how can such a giant in mutual fund and retirement business for the highly concentrated smart people of higher leanings be ruined by Allison so quickly in such a short time ever since this jerk took over its top position.

To Allison: Shame, Shame, Shame!!!

I will manage to get all of our accounts (acount 20) transferred out if I have a change and the engery to tackle on them in the months to come.

Also, I will be the first one to sign up if anyone is going to file a class action lawsuit against it! Any takers?

Anonymous says:

Yes, I am in the process of recovering what I invested in an annuity after tax with Tiaa Cref.
I had no idea that this was going on. But today I faxed them and they told me that in 3 days would be in my account. I will file a complain with the better business bureau and the SEC if I don’t see my money in one week on my account.

Have you been able to collect on them?

Anonymous says:

I am a regulatory compliance “geek” in an independent consultant capacity. We also provide expert witness assistance as well. I happened upon this blog (showed up in my Google news) and found the investor oncerns raised herein to be disturbing.

This is not an ad for a service offering. We focus mainly on firm compliance and are a private, referral based entity. If you need investor assistance, you’ll want to contact a regulator and/or your legal counsel.

Good for the host(s)and contributors of this blog for providing guidance concerning dispute / complaint issues. No one should ever hesitate seeking assistance from a regulator when dealing with firm problems – they want to hear from you. In many situations, you might think you’re the lone person w/a complaint… only to find that many folks are having trouble.

You may wish to try the firm’s compliance department first – if you get no response (unlikely – but possible), send a duplicate marked, “Second Request” and copy that one to the appropriate regulator. We like to send one via fax and one via the mail (to ensure receipt). Keep copies of your communications. The “cc” to the regulator should be an attention getter. If no response (that would be a surprise), then follow-up with the regulator w/the copies of your attempts to resolve the matter and request to file a complaint.

No firm wants to get to the point where a regulator is following up with them on an investor issue that hasn’t been given appropriate attention.

Best wishes to all – don’t let a few bad situations scare…there are lots of firms out there that are pleased to help you invest and strive to deliver excellent service.

Kind regards,


Anonymous says:

I personally have had no problems with TIAA-Cref, but from their record if I did have a problem it seems it will be very difficult to solve. One the upside they are the best company for a 403B which is what my wife has from the school she teaches at.

Anonymous says:

Sounds like an awful company. Thanks for the warning!

Anonymous says:

When will investment firms ever get it that it’s not their money, it’s ours!
I shifted most of our retirement assets to Vanguard a couple of years ago and while we’re not retired yet and drawing on them, Vanguard is a class act. Plus they have some nice perks you may be eligible for.