After years of procrastination, today I finally sent in the necessary papers to enroll in the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College Retirement Equities Fund, commonly known as TIAA-CREF. The university will match my contributions up to 6% of my salary, so if I was feeling particularly masochistic, I could calculate how much money I threw away over the past four years (since I became eligible) by not enrolling before now.
I can pick how I want TIAA-CREF to invest my money, so I called my dad the other night and asked his advice. He doesn’t know much about mutual funds, but he does know the stock market. He recommended putting 100% into growth stocks. I was a little surprised at that, since those represent the greatest risk. But Dad said that “the blood has been let” from the market over the past few years, and he’s confident that stocks remain the best long-term investment. Since this is a retirement fund, long-term thinking seems appropriate.
I followed my father’s advice and put 75% into growth stocks and 25% into the Social Choice fund. According to TIAA-CREF, this is a fund “holding stocks, bonds and money market instruments issued by companies… that pass two sets of social screens,” but they don’t say what they are screening for. I did find some information at BusinessWeek Online that indicates it
does not invest in tobacco, alcoholic beverages, weapons, gambling, nuclear energy, companies that significantly damage the environment, or those operating in Northern Ireland without hewing to certain labor standards
…which sounds good to me. I have no moral problem with alcohol, but I’d just as soon not invest in it. Not sure why Northern Ireland gets special mention, though. Does that mean union-busting in the rest of the world is A-OK?
Anyway, this whole thing makes me feel very bourgeois, in a good way; that is, it makes me feel like a member of the middle class. Just so long as I’m not marked by conformity to the standards and conventions of the middle class, as long as I’m not preoccupied with respectability and material values, I’m happy to be bourgeois. In my fantasy of a classless society, we’d all be bourgeois.