Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA)

The Tax-Deferred Annuity (TDA) plan offers eligible employees a way to save more for their retirement income. Endowed and contract college employees who are on the University payroll with FICA deductions are eligible to participate in the TDA Plan. Employees elect the amount that will be contributed to their account directly from their paycheck, before tax. All participants are fully and immediately vested in their account balance upon enrollment. 

Contribution Limits

Generally, participant contributions cannot exceed the annual dollar limitation ($18,000 for 2017; $18,500 for 2018). This limitation is determined by the federal government and may change annually.

If the participant will be at least age 50, additional money may be contributed (see chart below). A participant of any age who has at least 15 consecutive years of service with the university may be eligible to contribute up to an addition $3,000 and should check with HR Services & Transitions Center.

2017 Annual Limits        


Annual Limit

Salaried Employees per paycheck

Hourly Employees per paycheck

Under Age 50





Age 50 and Older






2018 Annual Limits 


Annual Limit

Salaried Employees per paycheck

Hourly Employees per paycheck

Under Age 50






Age 50 and Older




How to Enroll and Change Contribution Allocations

Enter a Workday election to let Cornell know the amount of your contribution and which direction to allocate your money.

Log onto Workday> click on the Benefits button> Change: Benefits > choose Retirement Savings from the drop-down menu, enter today’s date to hit the next possible paycheck (it may take 1-2 pay periods to settle in) > click Submit at the bottom > Open > Enter the amount or percentage you would like deducted from your paycheck (Note: do not enter 100% in this section) and which direction you would like Cornell to send your money (TIAA and/or Fidelity) > click Continue > review your elections, click Submit.

Set up formal account(s) for your Tax Deferred Annuity (TDA) on the TIAA and/or Fidelity websites to designate beneficiaries and investment fund allocations.

What if a participant fails to set up an account? If a participant fails to set up an account with the investment vendors (TIAA and/or Fidelity),  then contributions made on their behalf will automatically be split evenly between a TIAA lifecycle fund and a Fidelity Freedom lifecycle fund, both based on the participant's date of birth.


Contributions are deposited with TIAA and/or Fidelity Investments on a per pay period basis for each participant. Each participant selects the investment funds into which these contributions are deposited. Currently, TIAA and Fidelity Investments offer a number of funds. Quarterly statements are mailed directly to the participant’s home or sent electronically by the vendor.

A participant may change their investment selection for their current account balance at any time by contacting either TIAA or Fidelity by phone or online. A participant may also change their investment vendor allocation for future contributions by entering a Workday election (see How to Enroll section above).

Investment Menu: You may choose to invest your funds in one or more of the following tiers:

Tier One: Lifecycle Funds

Also known as target date funds, lifecycle funds are designed to be a one-stop solution for retirement investing. Their investment strategy is linked to the investor’s date of birth and expected date of retirement and grows more conservative over time. Lifecycle funds will be the default selection for employees who do not make an investment election when they enter the plan. These funds are monitored by Cornell.

Tier Two: Core Funds

Core funds are building blocks for investors interested in creating their own investment strategies. Cornell monitors and reviews these funds to help ensure they remain competitive and cost-effective. Cornell may modify the funds in the Core menu based upon the results of these reviews.

Tier Three: Non-Core Funds

These funds are currently available to participants for investment but will not be monitored or reviewed by Cornell. It will be the participant’s responsibility to determine if these funds are appropriate for his or her retirement account. From time to time Cornell may modify or remove non-core funds to the fourth tier described below.

Tier Four: Self-directed mutual fund brokerage account

Allows confident and knowledgeable investors to build a customized investment strategy using a broad array of mutual fund choices that are appropriate to retirement plan investing. Investments held in a self-directed brokerage account will not be monitored by Cornell.

Rolling Over Other Retirement Plans

Participants in the TDA Plan may be able to rollover their account balances from other retirement plans into their TDA Plan account. Rollovers can be accepted from 401(k), 401(a), 403(a), 403(b) governmental 457(b), profit sharing, and stock bonus plans. In addition, account balances in a personal Traditional IRA may be able to be rolled over into the TDA plan account.For more information or to obtain a rollover application, contact the investment vendor directly.


A participant is eligible to withdraw from their TDA plan accounts upon one of these events:

  • Retirement: At least age 55 and at least 10 years of credited service
  • Minimum Distribution: Age 70 1/2 and has not begun benefit distributions
  • Death: Paid to designated beneficiary
  • No longer employed by Cornell.


  • Active Employee: Age 59 1/2
  • Minimum Distribution: Age 70 1/2 (optional)
  • Disability: On approved University long-term disability program
  • Phased Retirement: Faculty and staff
  • Loans: Available from all vendors
  • Hardship: Withdrawals only available for certain financial hardships

Resources and Tools