Ask The Experts: Money Matters

By Mike Miles

TSP distributions

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Q. I’m in the FERS retirement plan and will retire March 31 from the Defense Department. At the time of retirement, I will have more than $300,000 in my 401k. I have two multiple-part questions:  1. Can I decide how much I want to take in monthly withdrawals and, if so, do I pay the 20 percent penalty monthly or do they take the 20 percent off the $300,000 before I even start getting my monthly payments? 2. If I leave my money in the TSP, do they continue to invest my money, and will I continue to earn interest off of my money and can I move the money around if I so choose? Read the rest of this entry »

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72t payments

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Q. If I take 5 percent or the maximum interest my retirement plan provides, does this violate the 72t definition of reasonable interest rate, and would I end up paying the 10 percent penalty?

A. 72t distributions must be computed using one of three specific formulas, and the rules are strict. Anything else will not qualify for the exemption. You should work with a qualified tax adviser before initiating any payments.

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TSP withdrawals

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Q. I retired September 2013 in CSRS after 40-1/2 years. I want to take out a one-time distribution equal to about 25 percent of my TSP account. Is is true I can only take out a one-time distribution or payout? I am over 59-1/2.

A. You are limited to one partial lump-sum withdrawal and a full withdrawal, which may be taken in the form of monthly payments. You must take the partial lump-sum withdrawal before beginning monthly payments.

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Lump-sum withdrawal

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Q. Upon retirement, can I elect to take a full withdrawal in the form of monthly payments, and then at some later date choose to take a one-time lump-sum withdrawal? For instance, three years after retiring, can I choose to remove $50,000 if I have never taken a lump-sum amount.

A. Only if the lump-sum is the entire balance remaining in your account.

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Girlfriend on annuity

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Q. I am 63 and will be retiring under FERS probably within the next two years. Am I allowed to have my long-term girlfriend on my TSP annuity?

A. Maybe:

“If you chose a TSP annuity that provides for a joint annuitant other than your spouse, the joint annuitant must be either a former spouse or someone with an insurable interest in you. This means that the person is financially dependent on you and could reasonably expect to derive financial benefit from your continued life.

Blood relatives or adopted relatives (but not relatives by marriage) who are closer than first cousins are presumed to have an insurable interest in you. If you name such a joint annuitant (i.e., a former spouse or someone with an insurable interest) who is more than 10 years younger than you, you must choose a joint life annuity with the 50% survivor benefit. The only exception is for a former spouse to whom all or a portion of your TSP account is payable pursuant to a retirement benefits court order.

If the person named as your joint annuitant is not presumed to have an insurable interest in you, you must submit an affidavit (i.e., a certification signed before a notary public) from someone with personal knowledge that the named person has an insurable interest in you.
The certifier must know the relationship between you and the joint annuitant and must state why he or she believes that the named joint annuitant might reasonably expect to benefit financially from your continued life.”

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TSP transfer

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Q. I have been retired from the federal government for eight years and have worked for a private firm. I have a 401k that I have been contributing to since I started working for this firm. Can I transfer my existing 401k to the TSP when I stop working.

A. Yes, as long as it doesn’t contain any after-tax money. Use Form TSP-60.

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Tax withholding

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Q. I’m 68 and still working, and I started drawing Social Security when I turned 66 two years ago. How do I calculate how much taxes will come out of my Social Security, TSP and FERS retirement checks?

A. You will find the rules for tax withholding from TSP distributions in the table on Page 3 of the notice at https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tsp-536.pdf.

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Annual Leave payout

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Q. I am a federal employee and will retire Jan. 3. I will have about 400 hours of Annual Leave for a cash payout. Am I allowed to request that this monetary amount be directly rolled into an eligible 401K plan and not have any taxes taken out? If I take the cash payout, can I predetermine the tax percentage based on my calculations or does the government tax at the maximum rate?

A. You may not direct the payout into an IRA or 401k plan. Taxes will be withheld according to the W-4 you have on file with your payroll office.

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Revocable trust

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Q. I am federal employee and plan to retire in about six months or a year. I want to leave the money in TSP when I retire, but want to include TSP in a living revocable trust. I read online that it is not a good idea because the IRS considers that as a lump-sum transfer and I will be taxed at almost 35 percent. But when I consulted an estate-planning attorney, I was told that I can include TSP in the trust, and it does not make any difference in how I withdraw the money. I am confused. Please advise me if it is a good idea to include TSP in a revocable trust or not. Read the rest of this entry »

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Withdrawal eligibility

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Q. I was under FERS and I retired after 20 years. I was 55 then, and I am 57 now. When will I be able to withdraw my TSP?

A. Based on the facts you have provided, you may withdraw your funds at any time.

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