TIAA-CREF offers defined contribution retirement plans through your employer. Typically, contributions made in such plans are tax-deferred, 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 managed investment options and mutual funds have no sales charges.2 We aim to keep expenses low to keep more of your dollars working for you.3


You can direct your contributions to a variety of investment options that are offered under your plan by your employer. 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.4

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:

For 2015 and 2016, the maximum contribution is 100% of an individual’s salary or $53,000, whichever is less. This pertains to all contributions, including both employee and employer contributions, but not after-tax 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 $18,000 in 2015 and 2016. 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

Either within or outside of your plan, we have a variety of flexible options that can provide lifetime income 5 - where regular payments are based on:

Generally, you may also be able to take cash withdrawals, or use other options to design your own payout schedule. (Based upon contract type and plan provisions.)


No taxes are due on pretax contributions and earnings until the money is withdrawn.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.

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Learn more about opening a TIAA-CREF retirement plan account.

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