An old friend of mine started teasing me recently about the envelopes I told her that I used to get from the retirement provider and financial services firm TIAA (formerly TIAA-CREF). All I ever did was add them, unopened, onto an increasingly precarious pile. At some point they stopped coming and I stopped thinking about them.
The friend, who now works for TIAA, told me to call the company. Give them your social security number, she advised, and see if they've been holding onto any money for you.
Doubtful, but why not, right? So at 5:40 PM while getting everything together to pick up my daughter from Pre-K, I dialed the help line.
ME: [to myself] I'm on a phone! How old school.
AUTOMATED VOICE: Please press a button that corresponds to your reason for calling.
ME: There is no button for this.
AV: Thank you, please wait.
REAL VOICE: Hi, this is a person! How may I help you?
ME: This is going to sound really silly, but I may have an account with you and I'm wondering if there's any way to check?
RV: Sure! What's your SSN? … Thanks. And can you verify your full name, birthday, and the last pay period during which you might have contributed to this account? … Great! Yes, you do have an account with us. We've been trying to reach out but the only address we have is out of date. Your holdings total just over $11,300.
ME: I'm sorry, what?