I currently work for a non-profit and have a TIAA-CREF 401k benefit. In a few months I will be leaving this position (and the workforce) when my husband finishes grad school. What is the best way to carry that account though considering that I will not be transitioning to another employer?
The account that you have at TIAA-CREF is considered to be a "qualified account" meaning that it falls under the same rules as an IRA- if you take the money out, it will be taxed as ordinary income, along with a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are under the age of 59 1/2 in the year in which you withdraw it. Assuming you are not of retirement age yet, you may rollover your accumulatd benefits into an IRA rollover account with no penalties into the qualified retirement vehicle of your choice. Be aware though, that the ability to withdraw your benefits differ between the TIAA side and the CREF side, so consult with your benefits coordinator at TIAA-CREF to get the full picture. I have found that they are very helpful to their participants.
I was a long time employee of TIAA-CREF. You can leave your accounts with TIAA-CREF or you can complete a rollover to an IRA. Neal is correct that certain types of accounts, the TIAA Traditional is only available through a Transfer Payout Annuity (TPA) or what used to be a series of 10 payments over a 9 year period. This would be true if your account is considered an "RA". If it is TIAA Traditional money you put in yourself (no employer match) on a pre-tax basis and it is in a GSRA, then you can roll it in a lump sum. CREF and mutual funds should be available for you to rollover in a lump sum no matter what contract.