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Optional Retirement Program

Under the Optional Retirement Program, full-time faculty and professional employees (and part-time professional employees having a 'term' appointment) electing this option purchase retirement annuity contracts from Teachers Insurance Annuity Association (TIAA) and College Retirement Equities Fund (CREF). Membership is effective upon entry into state service provided you made your election within the first thirty (30) days. TIAA is a nonprofit, legal reserve life insurance and annuity company that provides retirement annuities based mainly on investments in bonds, mortgages and direct loans. CREF is a separate nonprofit corporation through which you may invest your retirement plan contributions in five distinct investment accounts:

  • Stock account based on investments in common stocks and other equity securities.
  • Global Equities account based on investments in a broadly diversified portfolio consisting primarily of foreign and domestic common stocks.
  • Money Market account based on investments in short-term debt securities.
  • Bond Market account based in investments in a broad range of investment-grade fixed-income securities.
  • Social Choice account based on investments in a diversified portfolio of equity securities, fixed-income securities, money market securities and other short-term debt securities.

The services of TIAA and CREF are available only to public and private colleges and universities, independent schools and certain other nonprofit and tax exempt educational and scientific institutions, and to their employees.

You can currently allocate your premiums, including SUNY contributions, between TIAA and the five CREF accounts in any proportion you wish, including full allocation to any one of them. You can also change your allocation at any time for future premiums. You can also transfer funds among the CREF accounts and from the CREF accounts to TIAA as often as you wish.

Current contributions for new enrollees:

Employee contribution: 3% of gross calendar year earnings

State contribution: 8% of gross calendar year earnings for the first seven (7) years of employment; 10% of gross calendar year earnings thereafter.

Upon completion of 13 months service, all your and the colleges contributions to date, plus interest, is sent to TIAA-CREF and applied to your TIAA contract or CREF certificate as indicated in your initial application. Thereafter, regular biweekly contributions will be made directly to TIAA-CREF.

You may begin to receive your TIAA-CREF annuity income at any age. However, you must begin receiving payments by April 1, following the year in which you reach 70 1/2.

Employees who have vested in their retirement plan and who terminate their employment on or after age 55, have the option of receiving their CREF accumulations in a lump sum cash payment. There are several retirement income options available to you, and just prior to your retirement you will be asked to select the option that is best suited to your circumstances. In general, all the options provide a lifetime of income for you, all but one provides income for your beneficiary in the event of your death.

Representatives of TIAA-CREF can be reached by telephone at (800) 842-2733, extension 8106.

Alternate Funding Vehicles

Three additional firms - ING Life Insurance and Annuity Company. (ING), Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (MetLife), and Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co. (VALIC) - provide alternate funding vehicles into which employees may transfer their CREF accumulations. Employees enrolled in TIAA-CREF may continue all investments in TIAA-CREF or may chose to transfer all or a portion of their CREF accumulations to one or more of the alternate funding vehicles. Future contributions must be remitted to TIAA-CREF and may not be remitted directly to one of the alternate funding vehicles.

Information concerning any of the retirement systems may be obtained from the Human Resources Office or directly from the specific retirement system. Representatives from each of the retirement systems are available periodically to discuss your retirement program and benefits available to you. You may also communicate with retirement system representatives directly by telephone or by letter.


Human Resources
SUNY Canton
34 Cornell Drive
Canton, NY 13617

(315) 386-7325
Fax: (315) 386-7064