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September 29, 2016

Free advice available to all Pitt TIAA-CREF participants

“The financial world is changing dramatically,” said TIAA-CREF’s Jay Mahoney, senior relationship manager for institutional relations, in his Sept. 20 presentation at the Senate benefits and welfare committee’s first fall meeting.

But the central question when considering how to save for post-employment years, Mahoney said, remains: “Can the employee replace their working income to live comfortably in retirement?”

The average Pitt employee with TIAA-CREF benefits will have 109 percent of their income upon retirement at age 65, including Social Security payouts, Mahoney estimated. He added that 66 percent of employees are on track for this level of income replacement when they leave work, while another 26 percent are “in range” for achieving this goal.

The remaining 9 percent are going to come up short, he noted, including “some of the higher income folks,” since they are legally limited from contributing enough into their TIAA-CREF accounts to bring their retirement income up to match their current salaries.

Linda G. Pasquini, director of the field consulting group for TIAA-CREF, co-manages the investment advising teams that recently have expanded from three to 19 the number of Pitt locations at which they can meet with employees. The counseling is free.

“There’s always perception that advice is only available if you’ve got certain assets,” Pasquini said, noting that some TIAA-CREF contributors believe counseling is available only to the wealthiest fund contributors. “It’s available to everyone,” she said.

She tallied requests from Pitt employees for information about TIAA-CREF through June 30 of this year, as compared to all of 2015: There have been 11,019 clicks on the fund’s website across the more recent six-month period, for instance, compared to 13,141 in all of 2015. However, the number of phone inquiries declined to 8,909 in the same time period, compared to 22,009 in 2015. She attributes the higher number of telephone calls last year to members’ questions about the merger of TIAA-CREF and Vanguard accounting into one report. (See Dec. 4, 2014, University Times.)

This year also saw 509 advising sessions in the first half of this year, on pace to nearly double last year’s 603 total. Pasquini was particularly pleased with that figure, since such sessions are the most crucial factor in prompting people to make smart changes to their fund accounts, she said.

During the 12 months ending June 30, TIAA-CREF had a 66 percent overall participation among Pitt employees past and present. There were 24,494 total TIAA-CREF members: 11,123 currently contributing (as active employees) and 13,365 no longer contributing (mostly those who have retired, but also those who no longer work here, those still employed here but who no longer have benefits and those who have reached maximum allowed contribution levels).

Pro-tem committee member Harvey Wolfe, a retired engineering faculty member, said Pitt employees need to be better informed about how to seek TIAA-CREF advice: “There needs to be a brochure of some type (concerning) how faculty and staff need to interact with TIAA.”

“And that would have to come from the University,” Pasquini replied.

In other committee news:

• Lori Carnvale, director of Benefits in Human Resources, said her department has expanded its Healthcare 101 presentation, which now is available for Pitt departments. It explores such health insurance basics as the difference between HMOs and PPOs, the definitions of common terms such as co-insurance, what to do when traveling (including available tools to help employees find a health care provider), and when to go to urgent care centers versus the emergency room.

• John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor for Benefits, noted that a multifactor sign-in is available on the MyPitt website as additional security for site users, but has not been launched officially. Multifactor sign-ins add another layer of permissions for website use, such as a sign-in code sent to a cellphone, to the traditional password-only sign-in.

Those using MyPitt can choose applications for which they will use a multifactor sign-in, including TIAA -CREF and MyHealth. Committee chair Sachin Velankar, an engineering faculty member, asked: “Can we make sure that it defaults? Many people are not going to do anything” to choose multifactor sign-ins without being forced to, he believed. Kozar said he would inquire about that possibility.

—Marty Levine

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 3

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