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One important thing to note is that there are tax implications with respect to retirement savings when you no longer reside in a country. I have been working as a foreigner in the USA, and I will be treated like a US citizen if I retire here (which may require me to get citizenship). But I may be moving soon to another country. So I am in the process of investigating the following: (I) what my country of citizenship will tax me on foreign investments (including retirement money in the USA); (II) what the USA will tax me on retirement savings when I am not a US citizen and will not be in the country; and (III) what my new home country will tax me for retirement savings in other countries (specifically, the USA). Moving is complicated. I already know that if I do not retire in this third country, the taxes on my retirement savings there are quite high.

Shane Wilkins

Just a clarification TIAA-CREF is a 403(b) defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k) plan in the for-profit world, not a defined benefit plan. The difference is that a defined benefit plan guarantees you a certain return independent of how the market performs and without you making any contributions. When most people think of "pensions" they have defined benefit plans in mind. Unfortunately for job seekers, such plans are rare these days. It may be that some professors at unionized state schools would still qualify for such plans, but I'd doubt anybody at a private university would.


Thanks for all the info everyone. I think I am just going to repeat what Shane said, but it is important. My parents work for the federal government and have traditional pensions, which means they get money upon retirement even with putting nothing in themselves. In essence, they continue to get a paycheck at roughly 80% of their normal paycheck for the rest of their lives. Because of this, they had no need to save for retirement. I am getting the impression that this is NOT what universities provide. Rather they provide retirement saving funds much like 401ks, which are very different than pensions because they depend on you putting money in yourself. Retirement plans are far less secure than pensions, and sadly do not at all make up for being so far behind in the savings game.


Let me clarify. I work at a state university (one of the more progressive states). We are required to be part of the retirement plan. We make a small contribution our first 10 years or so, and the state contributes substantially more. After 10 or so years the state covers it all. Most people put it in a TIAA CREF account.
Of course there is no guarantee of return on investments. And yes, you may have to contribute more to your retirement savings. But note: I heard an expert on aging report that most older people get their money these days from the same way older people did in the past: INHERITANCE. Surely you are not counting on the higher ed system to fix America. Our president is taking care of that :}


Thanks Mover that is helpful! What you describe is much more like a traditional pension. Working for a progressive state probably gives you the most security. As for inheritance, that won't be in the cards for me at least, lol. Well, I guess I still have the chance to find that rich partner, or at least a partner with an inheritance coming...


Yeah, if I inherit $0 from my folks I'll consider myself pretty lucky...

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