Thanks for the advice so far; we are going to go ahead and request these companies send us the list of investment alternatives and fees so we can see what the options are. What really puzzles me is why her employer (a state university) has selected different providers for the different retirement plans.
The university does not participate in Social Security. Instead, 8% from each paycheck will be met with a 9% contribution, and deposited into a "DCP" account. We can choose between Valic, Fidelity, and TIAA-CREF to manage that account. From my reading, it appears that Fidelity and TIAA-CREF both offer some good choices and low fees.
So it is puzzling that for the 403(b) they went with Valic, FNIC, and Smith Barney.
Even more confusing; we could start a 457 with Great West Financial.
So many choices, but none of the ones outside the DCP look that appealing.
Our plan for 2006 was to make a maximum allowable contribution to her 403b, and try to reduce our tax bill by not realizing that income. Our alternative would be to realize the income, fund two Roth IRAs, and sock away a little more in a regular brokerage account. But in the big picture, we'd really like to get this money saved before taxes, which leads us back to wanting to go with the 403(b) or 457.
Thanks again for the advice so far... If we learn anything interesting, I'll post it again.