Monday, January 14, 2008

Money, Money, Money!

Today I dug down to the bottom of my holiday mail and found my TIAA-CREF statement. I opened it and -- Crap! How did I lose all that money? And then I realized -- oh yeah, the real estate investment option, which allowed me to ride through the last stock market free fall, making money all the way, is currently my doom. And now it seems too late to get out, since there was all last quarter and then half of this one when the envelope was just sitting on my desk unopened. I'm thinking I just hang on for a bit, keep the shares, and eventually TIAA-CREF will figure out a better way to make money from real estate than buying packaged securities from mortgage brokers who trick old people and working stiffs out of their life's saving and equity. All the same, I'm checking in at piggy bank blues to see if she has any advice other than "Open your mail when it arrives, stupid!"

Fortunately, however, if I ever want to send the dog to Harvard I won't have to take out a second mortgage on the house. Their new financial aid policies are shaking up the world of top-rank colleges and universities, private and public. I have run into more than one little huddle of admissions office people and upper-level administrators at Zenith and elsewhere who are worried about what colleges who don't have an endowment worth billions are supposed to do to make students who don't go to Harvard believe that we can't afford to let most of them go to school for the cost of a Toyota Corolla with power windows. I am reminded of this because of historian Anthony Grafton's piece in today's Daily Princetonian, Class Tells. (Hat tip: yes, I know it's a well known conservative website, but Radicals have to stay up to date too, you know.) Tony asks us to think further about Harvard's new financial aid policy, announced in December, that defines families with incomes between $120 and $180K as "middle income." Such families will only be asked to pay 10% of their income. Does Harvard mean such families are "Middle class?" No, probably not, Tony suggests; the phrase is a deliberate sleight of hand. They actually mean people who are wealthy, but not wealthiest. As Tony points out, "only 15.73 percent of households earned more than $100,000 a year, and fewer than a third of them, the top 5 percent, earned more than $157,176. The president of Harvard is saving the dream, in other words — for children whose families earn more than 95 percent or 96 percent of American households."


Please note a newcomer to the Tenured Radical blogroll, although not a newcomer to the world of blogging: Juan Cole, at Informed Comment. Juan is professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan.


The Constructivist said...

Class: why Harvard should be donating a portion of its endowment's capital gains each year to capital-starved institutions doing good work.

anthony grafton said...

Dear TR,

Thanks for the link. As to TIAA, I feel--and share--your pain. When I went for my first campus interview, 34 years ago, I asked an older friend what questions I should have for the committee. He said, "Ask about the pension." I didn't, of course. It's sad to be old enough to see how wise my friend was.

All the best,


Siva Vaidhyanathan said...

I am fairly sure that almost all of the TIAA Real Estate fund is invested in commercial properties, not those sleazy mortgage funds that are causing major collapses everywhere.

Mortgage futures are a different financial instrument.

That does not mean that commercial real estate is a good investment for the short term. In fact, nothing is (or will be for the next four years or so).

Still, staying diversified with a chunk of money invested in the Real Estate fund is a good idea. Ride it out, sister.

Tim Lacy said...


Your post is reminding me that I need to check my most recent TIAA-CREF statement! It's been unopened for a few weeks.

BTW: I'm sorry I missed you and the Cliopatria crowd at AHA. I had other commitments, and came down sick while there.

- TL

PiggyBankBlues said...

but quarterly statements are such page turners!

i think you'll be fine, tiaa-cref has a nice anti-panic letter to alleviate any nervousness. as silva noted, most is commercial, with only 3.1% in REITS (both commercial and residential).

the market itself is treading water (if not drowning), but you will be fine. i assume zenith or some other lucky institution of higher learning has you for at least another ten years. i say buy more, it's on sale right now...