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Human Resources



Retirement 403(b) Plan

Administered by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA)
Customer Service: 800-842-2252

The University offers a retirement plan under section 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) to enable you to invest in your retirement via the convenience of regular automatic payroll contributions.

Contributions are made on a pre-tax or tax-deferred salary reduction basis, which means that your current taxable income is reduced by the amount of your contributions, and that taxes on those contributions and their investment earnings are deferred until they are paid back to you in the form of retirement benefits or other distributions from these plans. For biweekly-paid employees, retirement contributions will be deducted from each paycheck. Participation in this plan is entirely voluntary.

Questions and answers 

Why did the University move to a sole retirement provider?

In 2012, the University worked with DU's Investment Policy Committee, DU's Fiduciary Delegation Committee, and our independent advisor, The Multnomah Group, to perform a comprehensive review of the Retirement Plan. As a result of the review, changes were made to reflect the trends in the marketplace that enabled the University to more effectively comply with evolving retirement plan regulations and fiduciary responsibilities. More importantly, the changes provided the high-quality investment choices and services needed to help employees achieve their savings goals.

What was the Retirement Plan vendor search process and analysis methodology?

The University's retirement plan vendor search objectives were to engage a vendor that would provide:

  • A dedicated service team that provides daily administrative service, investment advice, participant education, relationship management and a presence at Retirement Plan Committee meetings;
  • Clear and potent multiple channel employee and participant communications and education;
  • Robust participant and Plan sponsor websites, including state-of-the-art educational, savings analysis and Plan data reporting tools;
  • Full fee transparency to participants and the Plan Sponsor;
  • Availability of a best-in-class fund lineup that will allow each participant to invest according to their risk tolerance and time horizon;
  • A simplified administrative process that outsources as many Plan Sponsor responsibilities as possible;
  • Flawless administration, strong internal controls and highly responsive customer service;
  • A strong understanding of the regulations pertaining to 403(b) plans and the culture of higher education institutions.
What were the results of the analysis?

The Board approved the convention of an Investment Advisory Committee to take certain actions related to the Plan and to make recommendations to the Fiduciary Delegation Committee as appropriate. Based on the analysis, the Advisory Committee and the Multnomah Group recommended to the Fiduciary Delegation Committee that TIAA-CREF be selected as the exclusive retirement plan vendor to the Plan for the following reasons:

  • Significant reduction in plan expenses
    TIAA-CREF's current pricing on the University of Denver Retirement Plan amounts to a blended asset based fee of approximately 22 basis points (.22%), which is paid by participants. The proposed pricing moving forward, however, is 13 basis points (.13%). Typically TIAA-CREF will apply a new fee structure prospectively, but in this case, the Multnomah Group negotiated the application of the fee reduction to existing assets as well. All assets at TIAA-CREF as a result will be subject to a 13 basis point asset based fee. The expected annual savings to participants totals 9 basis points. Including current assets at TIAA-CREF and expected asset transfers from other vendors (totaling approximately $399,100,000), this fee reduction is the equivalent of approximately $359,000 in annual savings. The pricing model proposed by TIAA-CREF will reduce expenses further than any other vendor's model would.

    In addition to this substantial reduction in fees, TIAA-CREF will place excess revenue generated by the funds in which participant invest their Plan accounts in an expense reimbursement account to be used to pay certain plan expenses (e.g. consultant, attorney and auditor's fees). Fund revenue in excess of TIAA-CREF's new 13 basis point requirement will be deposited into this expense reimbursement account. Because different funds return varying revenue, the amount of the plan expense reimbursement account will be driven largely by the ultimate fund lineup selected within the Plan. Based on the proposed pricing structure and assuming no changes to the TIAA-CREF investment lineup, the plan expense reimbursement account would amount to roughly $250,000. This amount is included in the $359,000 in annual savings expected from the reduction in fees. As $250,000 is likely to be in excess of projected Plan expenses, the Committee will have the flexibility to identify lower cost investment products to populate the array and further reduce the Plan expenses borne by participants.
  • Compliance with regulations and meeting fiduciary responsibilities
    The University currently offers four investment platforms to participants through TIAA-CREF, Fidelity, MetLife and American Century. As a result of the 2009 403(b) regulatory overhaul, 403(b) plan sponsors are flocking to a consolidated vendor environment in order to ensure compliance with applicable regulations and decrease administrative burdens. For example, 403(b) plan sponsors are now required to oversee the activity of service providers to the plan. Selecting a single vendor in TIAA-CREF will allow the University to oversee the activity of one rather than four vendors to the plan. The selection of TIAA-CREF would also help the Fiduciary Delegation Committee meet other fiduciary responsibilities as described in the attached compliance initiative status report.
  • Improved investment choices and contract structure
    The Plan's current list of available investment options includes the TIAA-CREF lineup, the Fidelity lineup, the MetLife lineup and the American Century lineup (the latter are used on a limited basis). The recommendation to utilize TIAA-CREF's recordkeeping services exclusively means that only TIAA-CREF would provide investment alternatives to the Plan, making fund selection decisions simpler for participants. The Plan's Committee, with the help of the Multnomah Group) will create a comprehensive fund lineup with TIAA-CREF that considers participant investment time horizons and risk tolerance levels. TIAA-CREF is offering an open architecture investment platform prospectively such that funds offered through other investment managers (e.g. Vanguard) are available.

    The current service and investment contract structure with TIAA-CREF mandates that participants direct the movement of assets within the contract. Under TIAA-CREF's prospective proposal, the investment contract control would shift to the University, meaning that the University can direct the movement of assets held in the new contract structure to other vendors prospectively if the eventual termination of TIAA-CREF's services is ever desired. Given the fiduciary oversight of Plan assets required by ERISA, placing this control with the plan sponsor is desirable.
  • Operational continuity and service enhancements
    Since TIAA-CREF is an incumbent vendor and the relationship between the University and TIAA-CREF dates back approximately 90 years, consolidating vendors to TIAA-CREF will allow for operational continuity and participant comfort. In addition, TIAA-CREF is offering enhanced employee education, enhanced website resources and tools, and consolidated compliance services and support. 

Employer Match Feature

Appointed employees are eligible to enroll in the Employer Match feature of the Retirement Plan at any time after completing one year of service with the University. Employees may also waive this service requirement with prior service at another qualified educational institution. This service requirement is defined as one year of service as a full-time, retirement benefits eligible employee. A qualified educational institution (per IRC Section 170(b)(1)(A)(ii)) is defined as an educational organization which normally maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and normally has a regularly enrolled body of pupils or students in attendance at the place where its educational activities are regularly carried on.

To participate in the match feature you must contribute 4 percent of your appointed salary to your account in this plan. You may direct your contributions into a wide array of investment options available through TIAA, the investment company selected by the University to service this plan. Additional contributions are not permitted.
The University will match your 4 percent contributions to this plan with an 4 percent match, for a combined contribution equal to 8 percent of your appointed salary. Vesting of the match dollars is immediate at 100 percent upon enrollment.

Employee Contribution Feature

Both appointed and non-appointed employees may enroll in the employee contribution feature at any time. You may also terminate your participation at any time. A wide array of investment options are available through TIAA.

Note: Contributions under the employee contribution feature are not matched by the University.


Distributions from this plan are available only upon termination of employment from the University, except for a one-time "in-service" lump sum distribution of up to 10 percent of your account, which you can request at age 59 1/2 or older. Any distribution from this plan that does not qualify as a "periodic payment" under the IRC, or as a qualifying "roll-over" or "direct transfer" to another qualifying retirement plan must be "rolled-over" to an IRA, which can then be used as the vehicle for cash withdrawals.