403(b)wise
Wise CracksEducation + Advocacy

California Stars: CalSTRS and Scott Dauenhauer
September 20, 2009

Things are not so good in my former state: Record unemployment, rampant home foreclosures, huge budget deficits, huge cuts to education, raging wild fires, and the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite the grimness, California teachers and school employees have two reasons to be thankful: the California State Retirement System (CalSTRS), and 403(b) advocate and financial planner, Scott Dauenhauer, CFP (fans of the Lakers, of course, have three reasons to be thankful). I was reminded of this again from a Discussion Board post announcing vendor changes in the 403(b) plan CalSTRS operates in partnership with TIAA-CREF: CalSTRS Pension2.

A little history: some of you may know that 403(b)wise was started more than nine years ago when I was an elementary school teacher in Southern California. Together with teacher John Moore, we started the website because of the horrific 403(b) investment choices available in schools, and acute lack of participant-friendly plan information. Fast forward to 2009: California school employees are still plagued by too many poor 403(b) investment choices and lack of clear employer provided plan information. However, thanks to the Herculean efforts of very good people at CalSTRS, the state teacher pension fund, and plan consultant Scott Dauenhauer, many California school employees now have access to superb low-cost 403(b) investment choices from well-respected firms like DFA, TIAA-CREF, and Vanguard to name a few (see investment choices).

Real estate and social choice offerings, and a unique risk-weighted target date approach known as Easy-Choice, are also available in Pension2. Scott Dauenhauer estimates that about 80 percent of California school districts make the plan available. Two questions: (1) Why don't ALL districts make the plan available?; and (2) isn't Seattle looking for a basketball team?

403(b)wise Doings

If you haven't yet had a chance, please take a moment to participate in our short Visitor Feedback Survey. Your input will help us make 403(b)wise even better. Finally, I am thrilled to announce that original 403(b) advocate and now-retired educator, Dr. Steve Schullo, will be writing stories for the site about life in retirement. His insights and expertise should be a benefit to investors at all stages of the savings cycle. Look for Steve's first piece in a few weeks.


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