What will we be covering in this TIAA-CREF Variable Annuity review?

In this TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity review, we will be going over the following important details:

  • Type of annuity
  • Feestiaa cref variable annuity
  • Rates
  • Realistic performance expectations
  • Where the annuity is best used
  • How the annuity is most poorly used

If you’ve been doing any research on the TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity, then you may have already noticed that it is somewhat similar to many other variable annuities in that it will perform well in some areas, while it will come up short in others – depending on your particular financial goals.

However, before going out and making a commitment on this annuity – or for that matter, on any annuity – it is highly recommended that you first have a good understanding of just exactly how the product works so that you know what you can anticipate. Otherwise, you could be sorely disappointed.

The reality is that even though annuities can provide you with some great benefits, they are also highly complex products, and the more “bells and whistles” that they offer, the more confusing they tend to be.

This is the case even for well-educated consumers – and even many financial advisors. Because of that, many investors aren’t entirely sure what they are purchasing – only to find out after they’ve locked themselves into the product, it really isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Unfortunately, though, by that time, it is typically much too late to get out of the annuity contract – at least not without incurring some significant surrender penalties. Going this route is definitely not the way to grow and/or protect your hard-earned savings.
That’s where the Annuity Gator comes in!

Annuity and Retirement Income Planning Information You Can Trust

If you’ve never visited our website before, then please allow us to personally welcome you here to Annuity Gator. Our company is made up of a specialized team of financial and annuity experts who focus on providing in-depth, unbiased reviews of all types of annuities online.

We’ve been at this for quite some time now – far longer than our competitors have – although you may have landed on some of their websites, too. Many of these other sites will work hard to lure you in by making some pretty bold claims, such as:

  •  Highest annuity rates.
  •  Low fees.
  •  High payouts.
  •  7 – 8% annual return.

While we wish that this information was true, the reality is that these websites are really only giving you part of the story. On our site, however, you will find that we dig into the good, the bad, and yes even the ugly.

That being said, even though our annuity reviews don’t always paint a nice rosy picture of these financial vehicles, they can help you to realistically anticipate what may happen going forward if you buy an annuity. They could also stop you from buying the wrong annuity before it’s too late.

This isn’t to say that annuities are bad products. In fact, quite the contrary. We think that annuities have a place in many investors’ and retirees’ portfolios…provided that it’s the right annuity for the individual’s specific needs and objectives.

Given that, if you’ve come here looking for more details on this TIAA-CREF variable annuity, you are definitely in the right place. So, without further ado, let’s go ahead and dive right in!

The TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity at a Glance

Completed Years012345678910+
5-Year Option9%8.25%7.25%6.5%5.5%0%0%0%0%0%0%
7-Year Option9%8.25%7.25%6.5%5.5%4.5%3.75%0%0%0%0%
10-Year option*9%8.25%7.25%6.5%5.5%4.5%3.75%2.75%1.75%.75%0%

Opening Thoughts on the TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity

Ever since the company was founded more than a century ago, TIAA has been on a mission to help its customers reach their financial goals. The company has primarily served the retirement needs of those who work in the medical, academic, cultural, and research fields, and today TIAA boasts more than 5 million customers.

The company is the largest manager of qualified plan stable value assets with approximately $171.1 billion in stable value accumulation values. The company is also the #1 non-for-profit retirement market provider in assets and participant accounts. In 2018 alone, TIAA paid more than $5 billion to retired clients – which includes more than 33,000 annuitants over the age of 90.

TIAA is considered to be strong and stable financially, and able to pay out its policyholders’ claims. As of year-end 2019, TIAA holds more than $1.1 trillion in assets under management (with holdings in more than 50 countries). And, since its founding, TIAA has paid out more than $459 billion in benefits.

In late 2019, TIAA maintains the following ratings:

  •  A++ from A.M. Best
  •  AAA from Fitch
  •  AA+ from S&P
  •  Aa1 from Moody’s

While variable annuities have taken somewhat of a back seat to other, safer, alternatives like fixed and fixed indexed annuities over the past decade, there is a definite niche for these products – particularly with those who are seeking the opportunity for a higher rate of return, as well as the tax-deferred growth of assets.

Before we get into the gritty details, here are some necessary legal disclosures…

This is an independent annuity product review. It is not a recommendation to purchase or to sell an annuity. TIAA has not endorsed this review in any way, nor do we receive any type of compensation for providing this review. This TIAA-CREF variable annuity review is meant solely to be an independent review at the request of our readers so that they may see our perspective when breaking down the positives and the negatives of this particular annuity. Prior to committing to the purchase of any type of insurance and / or investment vehicle, it is critical that you do your own due diligence, and that you also talk with a properly licensed professional if you have any questions that relate to your specific situation. All of the names, materials, and marks that have been used in compiling this TIAA-CREF variable annuity review are the property of their respective owners.

For additional information on how to compare variable annuities so that you can decide which may be the best one for you,  in order to obtain our free truth about variable annuities report.

How TIAA-CREF Describes the Intelligent Variable Annuity

TIAA-CREF describes the intelligent variable annuity as an “innovative, flexible, low-cost retirement solution” that offers:

  •  Low fees
  •  Tax-smart investing
  •  Growth potential with professional money management
  •  Flexible options
  •  Guarantees for you and your loved ones

For instance, unlike many annuities in the market today, this TIAA-CREF variable annuity has no surrender charges. (There are, however, some other fees you need to be aware of here. We will discuss these later in this annuity review.)

The tax-deferred growth of your funds in this annuity can certainly allow your money to grow at a faster pace in comparison to a taxable investment. But here again, tax-deferred growth is something you can get from nearly any annuity. So, this is really nothing special for this particular product.

As with other variable annuity offerings, your money can be put to work based on a number of investment options – in this case, 60 – from recognized investment management companies. Given the multitude of options here, it can make it easier to match your particular investing style and risk tolerance. Unfortunately, though, it still doesn’t completely remove any market-related risk.

If you opt to convert this TIAA-CREF variable annuity into an income stream, there are several different withdrawal options that you could choose from. These include a set number of years, or even a lifetime income option that will continue to pay out for as long as you live.

There are some additional features that can be included on this annuity – one of them being a death benefit that is paid out to a named beneficiary (or beneficiaries). This benefit guarantees that if you die before you start to receive income from the annuity, your loved one(s) will receive either the annuity’s value or the principal, adjusted for any withdrawals – whichever amount is greater. Note, however, that there is an additional fee for adding the death benefit rider.

To take a closer look at the TIAA-CREF Intelligent variable annuity’s product guide, go HERE.

How an Insurance or Financial Advisor May “Pitch” this TIAA-CREF Variable Annuity to You

Given its features, it is likely that a financial or insurance advisor would describe this TIAA-CREF variable annuity as a way to enhance and grow your retirement portfolio, as well as a way to supplement your retirement income down the road.

With that in mind, remember that variable annuities are designed for doing two main things. These include growing principal and producing retirement income. But in reality, these types of annuities are not really all that good at producing income. One reason for this is because of the risk that they present to the investor, as well as to the insurance companies that offer them.

In fact, because the value of a variable annuity can – and typically does – fluctuate so much, the insurance carrier that offers it can really only guarantee a lesser amount of retirement income than that of a “safer” alternative such as a fixed annuity… for the exact same amount of money that you’ve deposited.

It seems a bit silly, then, to endure countless sleepless nights hoping that the market doesn’t “correct” itself when you may not gain any more in an equity-based product than you would with something that’s guaranteed. So, if your primary goal for purchasing an annuity is to use it for producing income in the future, then a variable annuity may not be your best option.

That being said, when it comes to the investment aspect of variable annuities, these financial vehicles can offer you the opportunity of unlimited growth. But here again, this comes with the “tradeoff” of downside risk – and in some cases, it could be a substantial amount of such risk.

In addition, variable annuities are also known for having high fees. These don’t necessarily only include an up-front commission charge, but also annual fees for account management and maintenance, as well as surrender charges if you withdraw more than 10% of the annuity’s value during its surrender period.

Taking all of this into consideration, it can be even more important than ever for you to be sure that the benefits of this – or any – annuity are well worth it. It is also essential that you know what to anticipate with this type of financial vehicle.

Annuities can be confusing products – and because of that, it is important that you know what you’re getting into, and you know what questions you should ask before moving forward. With that in mind, if you would like some additional tips on what you need to know before buying an annuity, just simply click here so that you can immediately access our free report on how to shop for an annuity.

What About the Fees on the TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity?

Although annuities in general are often lambasted for their fees, in reality it is the variable annuities that are usually the worst offender here. And true to form, even though this TIAA-CREF variable annuity doesn’t have surrender charges, it still has a long list of fees, including:

  •  Mortality and expense (M&E) risk charge
  •  Administrative fee of up to 0.30% per year
  •  Management fees / Fund operating expenses – roughly 0.54%

A more detailed list of the fees and the amounts can be found in the TIAA Intelligent Variable Annuity product guide HERE.

All of these annuity fees need to be considered because they could have a big impact on how much you ultimately return.

The Annuity Gator’s End Take on the TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity

Where this annuity works the best:

Considering all of this TIAA-CREF variable annuity’s pros and cons, it could be a good fit:

  •  For those who are looking for the opportunity to attain market-related growth
  •  For those who are seeking lifetime income
  •  For those who are seeking a way to diversify their assets
  •  For those seeking an additional method of leaving a legacy
  •  For those who wish to obtain additional tax-deferred growth and have already maxed out their 401(k) and IRA options

Where this annuity works the worst:

This TIAA-CREF variable annuity may not be the right option:

  •  For those who have a low-risk tolerance
  •  For those who do not intend on using the lifetime income feature

In Summary

If you’ve found yourself going back and forth with the thought of whether or not to purchase a variable annuity – or any annuity, for that matter – but you’ve been hesitant to move forward because you just aren’t sure which annuity might be right for you, it is important that you know all of the ins and the outs of a particular product before you sign on the dotted line.

This is because an annuity should always be considered as a long term financial commitment – and if you do end up determining that a particular annuity just isn’t for you after you’ve purchased it, it can be fairly expensive to get out of it.

If you’re still leaning towards the purchase of the TIAA-CREF Intelligent Variable Annuity, you can be assured that there are some nice advantages to be had. However, this annuity may also fall somewhat short – particularly if you are seeking safety of your principal and a low-fee product that won’t eat away at your overall return. With that in mind, there could be a better product that fits your specific needs.

The only way to really know for sure, though, whether or not this is the right annuity for you, is to have it tested. At Annuity Gator, we would be happy to provide this testing for you, at no cost or obligation. So, just simply contact us via our secure online contact form now to find out more.

Do You Have Any Additional Questions or Concerns? Did You Happen to Notice Any Mistakes in this TIAA-CREF Variable Annuity Review?

We realize that this annuity review went a bit long. So, we certainly do appreciate you sticking with us through here to the end. But we truly feel that it is much better to “err” on the side of providing you with “too much” information as versus not enough.

That being the case, if you feel that this TIAA-CREF variable annuity review was beneficial to you, then please feel free to forward it on to anybody else who you believe would also benefit from it, as well.

Also, as humans oftentimes do, we understand that information about annuities can change quickly. Therefore, if you happened to notice that any details in this review were out of date or need correction, please let us know that as well, and we will get it fixed quickly.

Are there any other annuities that you would like to also see reviewed?

If you have checked out our list of annuity reviews in our database, and there is another annuity (or more than one other annuity) that is not currently included there, but that you would like to see reviewed, please let us know the name of the annuity or annuities and our team of annuity “geeks” will get right on it. So, be sure to check back with us soon to see any updates.


The Annuity Gator.

P.S. If you would like to read more of our TIAA annuity reviews here are some links to check out:

tiaa cref variable annuity