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Ask Money

Retirement savings

Chris Farrell Aug 23, 2010

Question: I found in my “hard copy” documents file a 20-year-old statement from TIAA-CREF, haven’t seen it before or probably didn’t pay attention to it. It shows that Univ. of Arkansas, where I worked at in the 80’s, contributed roughly $3000 toward retirement plan. I went on TIAA-CREF website, plugged all the info on the statement and found the total retirement saving assets now is $15000. Your advice, what to do w/the money? Should I put it in IRA or just leave it the way it is? I am 58 years old, no need for extra cash. Within 2 weeks, the balance went up $341 more, in other words, it is doing very well. Thanks Peter, Indianapolis, IN

Answer: Not bad. It’s nice to hear about a pleasant surprise. Making a few broad assumptions it looks like you made about an 8% average annual return on your investment. And that’s for a buy-and-forget-and-recall portfolio.

You basically matched the average annual stock market return of the past 30 years. (The average annual return over 20 years is around 6%.) Your experience is a reminder why keeping good records on retirement plans is important.

Move it or leave it? TIAA-CREF has a sterling reputation. It offers solid investment products at a low cost. There’s no financial penalty for keeping the money with them. It’s really a money management issue. The main reason for consolidating the money into your other retirement plans is to make it easier for you to stay on top of your portfolio. If you do transfer the money it should be an institution to institution hand-off so that the gain you earned over the years remains tax sheltered.

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