As the First Variable Annuity Turns 70, TIAA’s CREF Proves as Powerful as Ever

NEW YORK – July 20, 2022 – The same conditions that made the TIAA CREF variable annuity so revolutionary when it was introduced in July 1952 are again demonstrating the value of the innovative solution on its 70th anniversary.

Between 1940 and 1950, Americans faced skyrocketing inflation that almost halved their purchasing power. At the same time, life expectancy in the U.S. was steadily rising. To tackle the potential retirement shortfall, TIAA came up with a retirement offering that provided an opportunity for both growth and lifetime income: the world’s first variable annuity, now known as the CREF Stock Account.

The CREF Stock Account was the first account offered of the current eight investment options CREF offers today. The CREF lineup includes eight different investment options, representing all asset classes and management styles, using multiple approaches to investing.

“When the CREF Stock Account was developed, the economy faced great inflationary pressures, just like today,” said Colbert Narcisse, TIAA’s Chief Product & Business Development Officer. “Even moderate inflation can be devastating in retirement. A diversified retirement portfolio that includes lifetime income from both fixed and variable annuities can offer the confidence of having adequate income for life.”

TIAA’s CREF variable annuity offers seven other investment options, in addition to the CREF Stock account, including strategies in equity, fixed Income, money market and a balanced fund.

Diversified Income Approach

CREF is designed to be paired with TIAA Traditional, a fixed annuity that allows participants to create a diversified retirement income strategy that meets their individual retirement-income needs. A fixed annuity can  provide a reliable income floor to pay for essential expenses and supplement other guaranteed income sources, like Social Security. Variable annuities, on the other hand, offer the opportunity for growth to help investors cope with rising costs over the length of their retirement and provide payments for life. 

From 2020-2021, for example, variable annuity income payment increased by over 60% for annuitants who receive income from equity accounts, like the CREF Stock account— the highest year-over-year increase since CREF’s inception. The recent market swings highlight the importance of a well-diversified asset allocation strategy that can help give people the confidence to remain invested in the market, even during times of increased volatility, and help outpace inflation over the long term.

CREF accounts offer:

  • Opportunity for growth - Professionally managed investment options designed to provide long-term performance and opportunity for growth through equity exposure.
  • Lowest fees in the industry - CREF accounts have the lowest expenses among all variable annuities, and even offer expense ratios lower than the average mutual fund.1
  • Lifetime income - CREF annuitants typically receive monthly income that has been historically higher than the “rule of thumb” withdrawal rate of 4%.2 Also, payments can increase over time to help address the rising costs of living.3 This benefit has provided a secure retirement to millions of customers over the last 70 years.

“Seventy years on, CREF continues to be an important part of helping people enjoy a secure retirement,” said Narcisse. “With inflation threatening to eat away at the value of savings, CREF is reassuring to our millions of participants, who know they can count on lifetime income.”

About TIAA

TIAA is a leading provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions to millions of people and thousands of institutions. It is the #1 not-for-profit retirement market provider4, paid more than $6.4 billion in lifetime income to retired clients in 2021 and has $1.3 trillion in assets under management (as of 3/31/2022)5.

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TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, Member FINRA, distributes securities products. Annuity contracts and certificates are issued by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) and College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF), New York, NY. Each is solely responsible for its own financial condition and contractual obligations.

This material is for informational or educational purposes only and does not constitute fiduciary investment advice under ERISA, a securities recommendation under all securities laws, or an insurance product recommendation under state insurance laws or regulations. This material does not take into account any specific objectives or circumstances of any particular investor, or suggest any specific course of action. Investment decisions should be made based on the investor’s own objectives and circumstances.

You should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses carefully before investing. Please call 877-518-9161 or go to for current product and fund prospectuses that contain this and other information. Please read the prospectuses carefully before investing.  

Any guarantees under annuities issued by TIAA are subject to TIAA’s claims-paying ability.

The income payments from the variable annuity accounts vary with current market conditions and are not guaranteed. They will rise or fall based on investment performance. There are risks associated with investing in securities including possible loss of principal. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Investment, insurance and annuity products are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed, are not deposits, are not insured by any federal government agency, are not a condition to any banking service or activity, and may lose value.

Source: Morningstar Direct, March 31, 2022. The CREF variable annuity accounts have expense ratios that are in the bottom decile (or 100% below median) of their respective Morningstar variable annuity sub-account category. Our variable annuity accounts are subject to various fees and expenses, including but not limited to management, administrative, and distribution fees; our variable annuity products have an additional mortality and expense risk charge. Please see CREF prospectus for other fees or expenses.

2 TIAA Actuarial, Morningstar from inception May 2021: When compared to a theoretical 4% systematic withdrawal, CREF has historically paid more; as of May 2020, the payout rate for a CREF annuity at age 65 ranges from 5.9% (Joint Annuity with 20 years guaranteed) to 6.7% (Single Life Annuity). There are material differences between mutual funds and CREF variable accounts. Mutual fund capital-gain distributions or dividends paid are added to the number of shares owned (number of shares increase). CREF account capital-gain distributions or dividends are added to the unit value (number of units stay constant). Mutual fund withdrawals are only available as one-time or systematic withdrawals. CREF accounts include the right to receive an income stream (a binding decision to receive annuity payments) from all or part of an account’s accumulation. CREF accounts deduct a mortality and expense-risk charge of 0.005%

3 Payments from the CREF variable annuity accounts are not guaranteed and will rise or fall depending on investment performance compared to a 4% AIR (Assumed Interest Rate).

4 As of Dec. 31, 2020. Based on data in PLANSPONSOR's 403(b) Market Survey, which published in August 2021.

5 As of March 31, 2022 assets under management across Nuveen Investments affiliates and TIAA investment management teams are $1.321 trillion.

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