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Choosing an Investment

How Do I Choose An Investment?

Participation in the 403(b) program is voluntary and each employee is responsible for the selection one or more tax-deferred vendors at any given time. Considerable information about each vendor is available for each employer, please visit your employer's plan information page, linked from the "For Employee" button above or by clicking here. You may also want to consult with your own stock broker, tax advisor, financial consultant, or insurance agent. Neither your employer nor Carruth Compliance Consulting, Inc. can offer any investment advice, promote any one product over another, or evaluate, monitor, or recommend companies to sell 403(b) annuities or 403(b)(7) custodial accounts (mutual funds).

Before contacting companies, you should try to learn about some of the different investment opportunities available. Numerous books about money and investments are available in bookstores, from libraries, and on the internet, including the Wall Street Journal's "Guide to Understanding Money and Investing" and Consumer Reports investment ratings. Also available is Morningstar's "Variable Annuity Performance Report," which evaluates the underlying investments of many annuities and mutual funds. Additional useful web links may be reviewed by clicking here. Learning basic information will help you decide how to invest.

There are some levels of risk in any type of plan you chose. Generally, the more risk you take, the higher the potential return. Make your decision on which type of plan you want and how much risk you are willing to take.

Beware of investments with fees or loads that are excessive or hidden. Many investments have declining fees over time or charge only a low one-time fee each year. Avoid annuities that advertise a high rate of interest that is only good on the money invested initially. After the initial period at the high rate, the money may earn a lower rate.

Positive signs of a good product are ones that have flexible payout policies once you retire. Look for solid ratings for the investment company in A. M. Best, Standard & Poor's, and Moody's. Check to see how well a given investment has performed against the industry average for similar investments. A good company will be proud to show you their performances in these areas.

Before committing to any 403(b) investment, ask the following questions:

  • Will I be penalized for pulling my money out?
  • What are my investment choices within the company?
  • What annual fees will I pay?
  • For annuities, how is the insurance company rated?
  • Does the investment being considered have any restrictions I should be aware of in terms of transaction availability (such as no loans or hardship distributions)?
  • What kind of continuing service can expect from my investment company and how may I access this service (phone, website, in-person)?
  • How does this investment choice fit into my overall retirement-readiness picture?

What If I Need Investment Advice? How Do I Choose An Advisor?

It's been said that some people spend more time on choosing an automobile to purchase than they do on selecting a financial advisor. If that observation has a ring of truth to it, it may be because people are familiar with the daily driving experience and the ease of deciding what they want. In contrast, financial management is a task that, for most people, involves decisions and considerations that they know little about. CCC strongly encourages participants to seek the advice of a qualified and trusted financial advisor and/or tax consultant concerning investment and distribution choices. To assist in the process of selecting a financial advisor, we offer a full page of additional information and helpful links on qualities to look for in an advisor and pitfalls best avoided, click here to learn more.

Choosing a Vendor

Generally, Vendors offer access to their investment products in three different ways, via:

  • In-house financial professionals,
  • Independent financial professionals, and/or
  • Directly to plan participants.

Please review the information below to learn more about these approaches and the vendors using these approaches to market products and provide service.

Vendors selling through In-House Financial Professionals.

The investment products offered by these Vendors are accessed through a financial professional. Typically to access an annuity or mutual fund from the these Vendors you would work with a financial professional that is an employee of the Vendor.

Below is a sampling of Vendors that use In-House Financial Professionals to market their products:

Via In-House Professionals Product Type
Ameriprise Fidelity Annuities Annuities
AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company Annuities
First Investors Corporation Mutual Funds
Horace Mann Annuities
ING Annuities
The Legend Group, Inc Mutual Funds
Lincoln Financial Annuities
New York Life Annuities
TIAA-CREF Annuities & Mutual Funds
VALIC Annuities
Waddell & Reed, Inc Mutual Funds


Vendors selling through Independent Financial Professionals.

The investment products offered by these Vendors are accessed through a financial professional. These Vendors typically do not sell through in-house employees but rely on independent financial professionals to market their annuities and/or mutual fund products. Independent financial professionals often have relationships and experience with multiple, but not all, Vendors.

Below is a sampling of Vendors that use Independent Financial Professionals to market their products:

Via Independent Financial Professionals Product Type
American Funds Distributors, Inc Mutual Funds
ASPire Mutual Funds
AUL/ One America Annuities
Aviva Life Insurance Company Annuties
Commonwealth/ Kemper / Zurich / Protective Mutual Funds
Franklin Templeton Mutual Funds
FTJ Fund Choice Annuities
Great American Financial Resources Annuities
Great-West Life & Annuity Annuities
Industrial Alliance Annuities
Jackson National Annuities
Kansas City Life Annuities
Life Insurance Company of the Southwest Annuities
Lincoln Investment Planning, Inc Mutual Funds
MassMutual Financial Group Annuities
MetLife Annuities
OppenheimerFunds Distributors, Inc Mutual Funds
Pacific Life Annuities
PlanMember Services Corporation Mutual Funds
Protective Life Insurance Annuities
Prudential Annuities Annuities
Putnam Mutual Funds
Standard Insurance Annuities
Security Benefit Annuities & Mutual Funds
Symetra Financial Annuities


Vendors Selling Directly to Plan Participants (Do-it-Yourself).

The investment products offered by these Vendors generally are accessed directly by plan participants. Typically, participants work directly with these Vendors and do not work through a financial professional. These Vendors primarily offer mutual fund products.

Below is a sampling of Vendors that sell products Directly to Participants (Do-it-Yourself):

Direct to Plan Participant (Do-it-yourself) Product Type
American Century Mutual Funds
Fidelity Investments Mutual Funds
The Vanguard Group Mutual Funds