Yale has consolidated its entire retirement plan — which holds approximately $4.4 billion in assets across 22,000 plan members — into one unified program.
On Wednesday, TIAA-CREF — a financial firm that provides financial advice and money management services — announced that it would become the University’s sole “record-keeping provider,” a move that will enable faculty and staff to access online account information and manage investments from one location. Though faculty and staff members will still have access to alternative investment offerings such as the Vanguard family of funds, all investment results will now be fed through the new Yale Retirement Plan website rather than continue to be displayed across different platforms. According to Michael Peel, vice president for human resources and administration, this consolidation will both increase efficiency and curb management costs.
“The main advantages of having a single record-keeper is that it reduces the fund management costs which are deducted from participant accounts,” Peel wrote in an email. “It [also] allows faculty and staff to monitor all of their retirement assets on a single website, and will greatly upgrade our current web capabilities.”
Though Yale will continue to oversee both TIAA-CREF and Vanguard investment partnerships, TIAA-CREF will now increase their financial counseling resources for faculty and staff. In addition, it will help the University improve its administration and reporting of funds, Peel added.
Under the old system, both Vanguard and TIAA-CREF provided record-keeping services to the University. Now, this integrated model will permit a variety of actions — ranging from managing salary deferral agreements, adjusting contribution limits and performing hardship withdrawals — to occur in a single location.
“By selecting TIAA-CREF as its only record-keeper, Yale has elected to implement a comprehensive approach to retirement planning that will optimize Yale’s employees’ retirement planning experiences,” Teresa Hassara, executive vice president of the Institutional Business at TIAA-CREF, said in a statement. “We’re pleased to be working closely with Yale to offer a refreshed approach that engages employees and gets to the core of effectively preparing for participants’ retirement goals.”
Another change introduced in the updated system is the newly offered “Roth option,” which employees can now elect when selecting their 403(b) plans — a type of retirement option for employees of tax-exempt educational organizations.
Peel explained that unlike traditional 403(b) plans — which require income contributions before paying taxes — the Roth 403(b) plan’s contributions are made after taxes have been paid. This means that retirement payouts from this option for employees over a certain age are likely to be [cut: made] tax-free.
According to Yale’s 2014 Financial Report, retirement expenses for Yale’s defined contribution plans during the 2014 fiscal year totaled $94.3 million, up from $88.8 million in the previous year.
“Particularly for higher-paid faculty and staff, the Roth 403(b) can have some attractive tax planning benefits,” Peel said. “The addition of Roth capabilities is the only material plan change being implemented as part of the conversion to single record-keeper capabilities.”
Yale School of Drama professor Gordon Rogoff ’52 said his retirement funds are already entirely invested with TIAA-CREF, which provides faculty with individualized care and the opportunity to communicate directly with a representative informed about their portfolios.
Rogoff added that though he was unaware of the shift to a sole record-keeper, he is largely in support of having one streamlined system. “I think if [the retirement plans] are consolidated, that is probably better since it is all under one system,” Rogoff said.
As well, this update more closely aligns the University’s system with the standard practice found in the private sector. According to Peel, the reporting for most companies’ 401(k) plans — even across various investment options — are placed on a common website with routinely issued account statements.
He added that single record-keeping in academia is just becoming increasingly common, with such schools as the University of Colorado and University of Maine systems adopting similar practices.
As of December 2014, TIAA-CREF had $851 billion in assets under management.