June 18, 2024

The Thrift Financial savings Plan (TSP) is a defined-contribution plan that federal staff and army members can use as one leg of their retirement “stool.” The TSP was established by the Federal Workers’ Retirement System (FERS) Act of 1986. When it comes to the way it capabilities, it’s just like a 401(ok).

Contributing to the TSP can provide some benefits, together with the power to decide on your investments and qualify for an employer match. Here is a more in-depth take a look at the TSP and who can use it to fund their retirement.

How Does the TSP Work?

The TSP permits eligible staff to contribute to their retirement accounts by way of computerized payroll deductions. Employers even have the choice to make matching contributions on behalf of every eligible worker, as with a 401(ok).

Because the TSP is a defined-contribution plan, the sum of money you are in a position to withdraw while you retire relies on three issues:

  • How a lot you contribute throughout your working years.
  • The earnings on these contributions.
  • What quantity of contributions, if any, your employer matches.

When you retire you’ll be able to draw down your authentic contributions, earnings, and any matching contributions you obtained.

The TSP is one a part of a retirement package deal that federal staff can use to save lots of for the longer term. Staff who’re coated by the Federal Workers’ Retirement System (FERS) have entry to the TSP, the FERS fundamental annuity, and Social Safety. People who’re coated by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or are a member of the uniformed providers can use the TSP to complement their CSRS annuity or army retired pay.

Who’s eligible for the TSP?

The TSP is designed particularly for people who’re employed by the federal authorities. Typically, you are eligible to take part within the plan in case you are:

  • Coated by the FERS and have been employed on or after Jan. 1, 1984.
  • Coated by the CSRS, have been employed earlier than Jan. 1, 1984, and didn’t convert to the FERS.
  • An lively obligation or Prepared Reserve member of the uniformed providers.
  • A civilian in sure different classes of presidency service, which might embody congressional or judicial positions.

You have to be actively employed and dealing full or half time with a pay standing to be able to contribute. In case you’re not sure whether or not you are eligible for the TSP, you’ll be able to examine along with your personnel or advantages workplace to confirm your standing.

Execs and cons of the TSP

The TSP affords each benefits and disadvantages to federal staff on the subject of retirement financial savings. These embody:


  • Excessive annual contribution limits, with catch-up contributions allowed for savers 50 and older
  • Automated payroll deductions and computerized enrollment for many staff
  • Selection between making conventional and Roth IRA contributions
  • Employer matching contributions permitted as much as a specific amount, offering free cash for retirement
  • Skill for workers to roll over cash into their TSP from different retirement accounts
  • In-service withdrawals and loans are allowed, underneath sure situations


  • Skill to make the complete annual contribution can rely in your revenue
  • Must allocate not less than 5% of your pay to obtain the complete employer matching contribution
  • Funding choices probably much less sturdy in contrast with a 401(ok) plan
  • Loans and in-service withdrawals solely out there in restricted circumstances
  • Early distributions can set off tax penalties.

Benefits of the TSP

There are various good causes to think about contributing to the TSP should you’re eligible to take action. Just like a 401(ok), a TSP can yield tax advantages in addition to flexibility on the subject of accessing your retirement financial savings. And employer matching contributions present free cash.

Conventional or Roth choices

The TSP means that you can select between making conventional or Roth contributions. In case you select a conventional TSP, your wage deferrals go into your account earlier than tax withholding. This can decrease your revenue tax fee, however you will be answerable for paying common revenue tax on any withdrawals you make in retirement.

In case you decide to make Roth TSP contributions, you will obtain no up-front tax profit. Nevertheless, you’ll make certified withdrawals tax free while you retire. It is also attainable to separate contributions. Observe that any matching contributions made by your company are mechanically counted towards your conventional TSP stability.

Excessive annual contribution limits

The Inner Income Service (IRS) imposes limits on annual contributions to a TSP. For 2024 that restrict is $23,000. There’s an extra $7,500 catch-up contribution restrict allowed for savers who’re age 50 or older. The restrict on annual additions, which incorporates worker contributions and company contributions, is $69,000. You possibly can probably put aside a considerable sum of money for retirement should you’re in a position to max out the annual contribution restrict every year.

Company contributions

A TSP permits for 2 varieties of employer contributions: company/service computerized contributions and company/service matching contributions.

In case you’re coated by the FERS or the Blended Retirement System (BRS) for uniformed service members, your company or service mechanically contributes 1% of your fundamental pay to your TSP every pay interval. You needn’t make any contributions your self to obtain these contributions.

You can too obtain matching contributions on the primary 5% of your pay out of your company or service every pay interval. The primary 3% is matched on a dollar-for-dollar foundation, with the remaining 2% matched at 50 cents on the greenback. Thus, should you put in 5% of your pay, your company can match 4% of that quantity, along with the 1% computerized contribution.


In case you want money, it is attainable to borrow towards your TSP stability. You will get a TSP mortgage to purchase a house or for common functions. You may pay a one-time price for a mortgage ($50 for a common function mortgage and $100 for a house mortgage) and curiosity on the stability. Nevertheless, rates of interest are low and stay mounted for the lifetime of the mortgage. Reimbursement phrases for general-purpose loans vary from 12 to 60 months, whereas major residence loans could be repaid over 61 to 180 months.


When you have cash saved in different retirement accounts, you’ll be able to roll over these funds into your TSP account. Eligible accounts embody 401(ok) plans, 403(b) plans, and conventional IRAs. Rollovers do not rely towards your annual contribution restrict, and you’ll select the way you need to make investments these funds as soon as the rollover is full.

TSP Issues

Whereas there’s loads to love a couple of TSP, it is necessary to know its limitations. They middle totally on how one can entry your funds.

Mortgage eligibility is proscribed

A TSP does enable loans however solely when sure situations are met. To qualify for a mortgage, you need to:

  • Have not less than $1,000 of your individual contributions and related earnings in your account.
  • Be at present employed by the federal authorities, both as a civilian or a member of the uniformed providers.
  • Be in pay standing to ensure that mortgage funds to be deducted out of your earnings.
  • Haven’t repaid any kind of TSP mortgage in full inside the earlier 30 enterprise days.

There are further necessities should you’re getting a TSP mortgage to construct or purchase a major residence.

Loans are repaid by way of computerized payroll deductions, and you’ll proceed making common funds should you separate from service. If, nevertheless, you fail to repay a TSP mortgage. any taxable portion of the stability and accrued curiosity is handled as a taxable distribution by the IRS.

Hardship withdrawals could also be taxable

Along with getting a TSP mortgage, you may additionally be capable to make in-service withdrawals within the case of economic hardship. Chances are you’ll withdraw your individual contributions and any earnings on these contributions, with a minimal withdrawal of $1,000. To qualify for these withdrawals, you need to be capable to show a monetary hardship, which might embody:

  • A recurring unfavourable month-to-month money circulate.
  • Medical bills not coated by insurance coverage.
  • Private casualty losses not coated by insurance coverage.
  • Authorized bills associated to a separation or divorce.
  • Catastrophe losses.

Hardship withdrawals are taxable at your odd revenue tax fee. In case you’re underneath age 59½ on the time you’re taking a hardship withdrawal, you will even be topic to a ten% early withdrawal penalty. Solely tax-exempt Roth contributions and certified Roth earnings are exempt.

Minimal distributions are required

The IRS requires TSP savers to take minimal distributions from their plan starting at age 73 (75 for these born after Dec. 31, 1959). Beginning in 2024 required minimal distributions (RMDs) apply to conventional TSP balances solely; Roth balances are exempt.

Understanding RMD guidelines is necessary, as failing to take these distributions on time may end up in a steep tax penalty. The IRS can cost a penalty that is equal to 50% of the quantity you have been required to withdraw.

How are TSP funds invested?

TSP funds are invested in accordance with the choices you make. The TSP affords quite a few funding choices, however it’s finally as much as savers to determine the place they’d wish to hold their cash.

The way you select to speculate can rely in your timeframe, objectives, and threat tolerance. Chances are you’ll select a extra conservative strategy should you’d desire to reduce threat or have a shorter window till you retire. Alternatively, if retirement is a long time away or you’ll be able to abdomen extra threat, you may take a extra aggressive strategy.

If you would like to vary your funding combine, you are able to do so by updating your funding election for brand new contributions, reallocating present funds in your account, or transferring cash between funds. The TSP means that you can replace your funding choices month-to-month, inside sure limits.

TSP funding choices

The TSP affords three approaches to investing for retirement. Savers can select from:

  • Lifecycle funds. These funds alter their asset allocation to handle threat primarily based on while you’ll have to entry your retirement financial savings.
  • Particular person TSP funds. Particular person TSP funds can provide publicity to quite a lot of investments, together with short-term U.S. Treasurys and index funds composed of shares and bonds.
  • Mutual fund window. The mutual fund window affords entry to a choice of out there funds, which can put money into shares, bonds, and short-term debt. Charges and eligibility necessities apply.

You will not be capable to put money into particular person securities; all TSP investments are packaged inside a mutual fund. Every fund has its personal expense ratio and costs to think about, together with totally different threat and efficiency profiles. The prospectus for every fund is on the market for evaluation on-line.

TSPs vs. IRAs

A person retirement account (IRA) can be a tax-advantaged technique to save and make investments. Whereas theTSP is an employer-sponsored retirement plan, an IRA shouldn’t be. As a substitute, you’ll be able to open an IRA at a brokerage, financial institution, or credit score union.

When it comes to funding choice, IRAs also can provide entry to a variety of various mutual funds and index funds. An IRA could, nevertheless, mean you can put money into different autos, relying on the brokerage that provides it.

You’ll be able to open a conventional or Roth IRA, each of which observe the identical tax guidelines for contributions and withdrawals because the TSP. Conventional IRAs have RMDs; Roth IRAs don’t.

Observe that the contributions you might be allowed to make to an IRA are significantly decrease than for the TSP. The annual contribution restrict for all IRAs is $6,500 in 2023 and $7,000 in 2024, with an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution restrict for savers 50 and older.

The excellent news: When you have the funds, you’ll be able to contribute to each an IRA and a TSP. You simply have to observe the restrictions about whether or not your revenue allows you to contribute to a Roth IRA and the way having a TSP impacts the deductibility of your annual contribution to a conventional IRA.

TSP vs. 401(ok)

The TSP is actually the equal of a 401(ok) for federal staff. Each have the identical annual contribution limits and permit for conventional or Roth contributions.

The place they differ: Matching contributions for 401(ok) plans should not necessary. Employers can determine whether or not to match worker contributions or not and, in the event that they select to take action, in what quantity.

A 401(ok) plan also can provide a special number of funding choices, which can embody target-date funds, conventional mutual funds, index funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Must you open a TSP?

TSP enrollment is computerized for many staff, so there’s nothing to open. Here is the way it works.

  • In case you’re a FERS, CSRS, or BRS participant who started or rejoined federal employment on or after Oct. 1, 2020, you are mechanically enrolled with a 5% wage deferral fee.
  • In case you’re a FERS or CSRS participant who started or rejoined federal service between Aug.1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2020, or a BRS member who started or rejoined service between Jan. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2020, you are mechanically enrolled at a 3% deferral fee.
  • In case you’re a FERS worker who was employed earlier than Aug. 1, 2010, or a BRS “opt-in” member and do not make any contributions to your account, you will nonetheless obtain the automated 1% company/service contribution.

If none of these conditions apply to you, you’ll be able to contact your company or service to ascertain and contribute to the TSP.

There’s actually no cause to not contribute not less than the minimal quantity to the TSP, as you’ll be able to develop retirement financial savings on a tax-advantaged foundation. The automated match and employer match may also help you pile up much more cash for the longer term with out having to make further contributions above 5% of your pay.

You’ll be able to change your election fee at any time if wanted and even halt contributions briefly. Nevertheless, doing so might imply lacking out on the potential to earn extra compounding curiosity on the cash you’d ordinarily contribute.

If you want to get in contact with TSP directors, you’ll be able to name ThriftLine at (877) 968-3778. You’ll want your six-digit ThriftLine PIN to entry your account. You can too direct common inquiries to [email protected].

Cellphone assist is on the market Monday by way of Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST. In case you’re exterior the U.S., you’ll be able to name (404) 233-4400 as a substitute. When you have a listening to or speech incapacity, you’ll be able to dial 711 from any telephone to attach with TSP directors.

TIME Stamp: The TSP may also help federal staff construct a safe retirement

When you have entry to a TSP, you could have a worthwhile instrument for retirement financial savings. Understanding the assorted fund choices provided—and calculating how a lot of your pay you’ll be able to afford to contribute—may also help you create your financial savings technique.

Often requested questions (FAQs)

Is a TSP various to a 401(ok)?

The TSP is sort of a 401(ok), however they are not the identical factor. The TSP is an effective various to a 401(ok) should you’re a federal worker or member of the uniformed providers, which supply this retirement plan as a substitute of a 401(ok). TSPs can provide a number of tax benefits, together with the identical excessive annual contribution limits as a 401(ok), plus employer-matching contributions.

Is a TSP higher than an IRA?

A TSP is likely to be higher than an IRA with regard to annual contributions, as you’ll be able to put more cash into the plan every year. A TSP additionally affords a chance to earn computerized and matching contributions out of your employer, whereas an IRA doesn’t.

What occurs to my TSP if I give up my job?

Your TSP would not go away simply since you change jobs. It will keep the place it’s till you both withdraw the funds or roll them over to a different eligible retirement account. For instance, should you begin a job with a brand new employer that provides a 401(ok) that allows rollovers, you could possibly roll your TSP cash into that plan.