Customer Stories

“I don’t feel near retirement, but I’m someone who plans and thinks ahead.”

Karen Hammerness | Educator and educational researcher | 48 years old
Participant since 2012

Get to know Karen Hammerness

Karen works as an educator and an educational researcher

Tell us about your work.

“My research focuses upon how adults and students learn. I also do research internationally, focusing on programs and policies that support teaching and learning, in countries like Finland and Norway.”

What are you passionate about?

“My vision is that students have opportunities everywhere—in school, out of school—to encounter interesting ideas, and to do work that excites their curiosity, sustains their interest, and motivates them to ask deep questions about the world.”

How are you saving for retirement?

“I had a TIAA employer-sponsored retirement account [at a former job]. But because I work outside the country, we set up a SEP IRA [with TIAA] so that I could contribute to it from my consulting work.
“Even though I can’t contribute to the [former employer’s] retirement account anymore, I continue to contribute to the SEP IRA because I continue to do research internationally.”

What does retirement look like to you?

“Some of my mentors have formally retired, but have found smart ways to keep deeply involved in their educational work. They continue to work with faculties. They travel to learn more and to share ideas. They keep writing and doing research.”
“While I’d like to have more freedom, I imagine continuing my research.”
Working Together

How has TIAA helped you?

“I wanted to do work that was meaningful and could have some (even if small) impact. Knowing TIAA was founded to help teachers retire securely is extremely important to me.”
-Karen Hammerness

Parents’ financial stability

Karen comes from a long line of educators. Her parents saved with TIAA and are now enjoying living in retirement.

Saving for her own future

While retirement still seems far away, Karen's been investing and setting aside funds. She has two TIAA accounts, an employer sponsored retirement plan and a SEP IRA
Financial Priorities

Karen is balancing important goals

"[I’m] investing and setting aside funds that will allow me to do the kind of work I want to keep doing and that will help support my girls in leading the kind of lives they want to pursue."
-Karen Hammerness

Short term

  • Saving for her daughters’ education
  • Enjoying today, but saving for tomorrow’s adventures

Long term

  • Managing her retirement savings in a 403(b) and SEP IRA
  • Helping protect her family’s future with the right level of insurance
Karen's Inspirations

“I’ve also been able to combine spending time with my family with the work I do.”

Discover more


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This article/story contains edited excerpts of an interview that describes the circumstances, opinions, and experiences of a specific participant from one or more of the companies in the TIAA organization (“TIAA”).  The circumstances, opinions, and experiences depicted may not be representative of the circumstances, opinions, and experiences of other TIAA customers and are not indicative of future performance or success.  Individual results and experiences will vary.