Defined Contribution / Retirement Plans

TIAA-CREF offers defined contribution retirement plans through your employer. These plans are sometimes referred to as retirement (or group retirement) annuity contracts. Typically, contributions are made on a tax-deferred basis, which means you don't pay taxes until you take money out.1

Here's how they work:

  1. Your employer determines the plan's features, such as the contribution schedule, investment choices, income options and vesting rules.
  2. You decide how to allocate the contributions among the investment choices — and when the time comes, how you want to take your benefits.
  3. TIAA-CREF sets up the plan according to your employer's instructions, then allocates contributions and pays benefits according to your wishes.


TIAA-CREF Expenses

TIAA-CREF annuities and mutual funds have no sales charges.2 We aim to keep expenses low to keep more of your dollars working for you.


You can direct your contributions to a variety of annuity accounts (and mutual fund accounts at some employers). You can change where you want future contributions to go at any time; and you can transfer some or all of your funds among accounts, with no tax implications.

Contribution Limits

Plan contributions are either required by your employer or are made voluntarily by you. The Internal Revenue Code limits the total amount that can be contributed:

  • Limits on Employer Contributions
    In 2011, the maximum contribution was 100% of an individual's salary, or $49,000, whichever is less. For 2012, the maximum contribution is 100% of an individual’s salary or $50,000, whichever is less. This pertains to all contributions, including both employee and employer contributions, but not after-tax contributions.
  • Limits on Employee Contributions
    The maximum depends on your income, years of service, tax-deferred contributions you've made in the past and other factors. Generally, many people can save as much as $17,000 in 2012 and $16,500 in 2011. If you are over age 50 and/or have worked more than 15 years at certain types of institutions, you may be able to contribute more. 

Income and Distributions

All our plans offer the choice of lifetime income, where regular payments are based on how much money you accumulated, your age, the option you selected, and the interest and/or investment returns you continue to earn once you've retired.

Depending on your employer's plan, you may also be able to take cash withdrawals, or use other options to design your own payment schedule. 

Learn more about Retirement Plan Income Options.


No taxes are due on pretax contributions and earnings until the money is withdrawn. Because these plans are intended primarily for retirement, you can generally withdraw funds without penalties after you've reached age 59½.


Find out if you are eligible for a TIAA-CREF Defined Contribution / Retirement Plan account.

1 The fact that TIAA-CREF retirement (or group retirement) annuity contracts are annuities does not provide any tax-deferral advantage over other types of investments offered through qualified plans. Withdrawals made prior to age 591/2 may be subject to an additional 10% penalty in addition to ordinary income tax.

2 Other fees and expenses do apply to a continued investment in the fund and are described in the fund’s current prospectus.

3 Any guarantees under annuities issued by TIAA are subject to TIAA's claims-paying ability. Payments from the variable accounts will rise or fall based on investment performance.

Please keep in mind that there are risks associated with investing in securities including loss of principal.

© 2014 and prior years, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF), New York, NY 10017