Understanding the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Find (TIAA-CREF)

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Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association - College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) is one of the largest private retirement systems in the United States, with over $410 billion under management. It provides for more than 3.5 million members of the academic, cultural, medical, research communities and institutional investors outside of the academic world. TIAA–CREF is a Fortune 100 financial services organization.

TIAA-CREF offers a full range of financial services to meet the needs of people throughout the nonprofit world as well as institutional investors. Its core offerings include financial advice, investment information, retirement plans and accounts, annuities, life insurance, brokerage, and trust services (through TIAA-CREF Trust). The system, a not-for-profit organization, also manages a line of mutual funds.

In 1918 the Carnegie Foundation established Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), a fully-funded system of pensions for professors. Incorporated as a life insurance company in New York, TIAA began operation under the leadership of Henry S. Pritchett, a former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the end of its first year, 30 public and private institutions had signed on.

From the beginning, TIAA followed a prudent, long-term approach to investing. This strategy allowed the company to weather the Depression. Assets under management grew from $19 million in 1929 to $105 million in 1939.

When the Second World War ended, the G.I. Bill made it possible for many returning veterans to go to college. The number of graduates tripled between 1944 and 1950.

By then, TIAA had nearly 600 participating institutions, but it faced new challenges. During the 1940s, inflation averaged more than 7 percent per year, with a record 18.2 percent in 1946. In addition, increased longevity was radically changing actuarial projections. In just 50 years, the average life expectancy in the United States had increased from 48 to nearly 70. Lives lasted longer and the dollar started shrinking. TIAA responded by creating the College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF), the world’s first variable annuity, which began operation on July 1, 1952.

TIAA-CREF continued to provide innovative solutions for building retirement assets. In the 1970s, it was one of the first companies to use an extensive portfolio of international stocks as part of its investment strategy. In 1988, it began expanding its variable annuity offerings. In 1995, it created the TIAA Real Estate Account, allowing participants to invest in directly owned real estate properties.

The balanced approach to building retirement assets pioneered by TIAA-CREF has helped thousands of participants retire with financial security. Since 1918, TIAA-CREF participants have received a total of $292.3 billion in annuity payments and other benefits.

Today, TIAA-CREF offers a full range of financial services, including retirement plans, IRAs, mutual funds, brokerage services, life insurance, and education savings plans.

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