Ask The Experts: Money Matters

By Mike Miles

IRA rollover

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Q. I retired in December at age 60 under FERS and my TSP is in the L fund because I plan to start drawing down to supplement my pension. My plan is to withdraw 4 percent per year based on a rate of return of 4.46 percent.
The amount of my account is $249,972, which has not been touched yet. I’ve sought the advice of several financial planners who have consistently advised me to roll over my account into a self-directed IRA due to the risk of interest/inflation’s effect on the bonds in the L portfolio, as well as the limitations of the diversification of all the TSP funds themselves. I’ve used the TSP calculator many times using different scenarios with favorable results, but I’m no financial whiz and not confident in my results. Should I move my savings into an IRA or is it better to stay where I am? These financial planners often cite the advantages of rollovers that include accessibility, more control, financial support and more diversification. I just want to be able to supplement my income without too much exposure, which is why I chose the L Fund. What are your thoughts on this? Read the rest of this entry »

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Beneficiary IRA account

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Q. My mother recently passed away and left me $30,000 from her traditional IRA. Can I transfer this to my TSP? Would there be any penalties or tax hits?

A. Special distributions rules apply to a Beneficiary IRA account, and it is not eligible to be transferred into your TSP account.

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TSP contribution

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Q. Since catch-up contributions must be renewed each year, is it possible to make non-payroll cash contributions? Or are all non-IRA rollovers required to be payroll contributions?

A. You may not make direct contributions to your TSP account. The only way in is through payroll deferral or transfer from an eligible retirement account.

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What’s considered earned income

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Q. Can you please provide a citation to your assertion that an annual leave payout is not considered earned income and cannot serve as the basis for IRA contributions?

A. See the sections on what is, and what is not, compensation on Page 8 of IRS Publication 590. I believe it is considered deferred compensation, but in the end, how you should proceed is a question for your tax preparer.

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Withdrawals and tranfers

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Q. I plan on retiring with 31 years of service at age 57. I have both the Regular TSP and the Roth TSP. I plan to withdraw my Thrift Savings Plan in a single payment. Can I transfer 100 percent of the Regular TSP to a Traditional IRA, but take the Roth TSP funds as a direct withdrawal without penalty?

A. I believe so, as long as you have held the Roth account for at least five years. You should consult a tax adviser for specific advice before you proceed.

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IRA requirements

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Q. I have three IRA accounts and I turned 70 in March. Do I combine the three to figure the required withdrawal? What would the tax  be if I do a lump-sum withdrawal from all three?

A. You must obey the aggregations rules for calculating your IRA RMD spelled out in IRS Publication 590. The taxable portion of each withdrawal will be added to your tax return as ordinary income for the year, where the tax you owe on the withdrawal will be calculated. Whoever prepares your tax return for the year of the withdrawal is responsible for making sure that it is done right.

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TSP to IRA

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Q. Can I take my money out of the TSP and pay the penalty? Is there any way to get all my money out without having to retire or quit? If so, can I then move it into another self-directed IRA?

A. The only ways to remove money from your TSP account before reaching age 59-1/2 while you are still a federal employee are: a loan and/or an in-service financial-hardship withdrawal. Neither of these may be rolled into an IRA account.

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Roll IRA to TSP?

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Q. I am a 55-year-old Postal employee planning to retire sometime in the next year under CSRS. Many years ago, I purchased a $2,000 Vanguard IRA that has grown to more than $40,000. I also have a separate similarly valued Roth IRA. I know that I can begin penalty-free withdrawals from TSP after separation, but can I roll my Vanguard IRA into TSP?  I also know that I cannot roll my Roth into TSP. My desire is to have the money accessible before 59-1/2 and to avoid having three pots to withdraw MRDs when I’m 70-1/2. Any suggestions?

A. You may transfer the IRA money into the TSP any time, as long as it contains no after-tax contributions.

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TSP rollover

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Q. I am almost 57-1/2 years old, and I have more than 30 years with the Defense Department. Can I roll my TSP into a self-directed IRA now without retiring or quitting? I want control over where it is and how it grows, and I am concerned about the government taking it to pay its debts before I can remove it normally at 59-1/2.

A. No.

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TSP catch up contributions after IRA rollover

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Q. Yesterday, I read your article dated May 20, 2013, “How to be a good pension fund manager.” I wish I had read it before I moved money from my TSP to an outside IRA last year. I wish I had taken some other steps as well. I now want to add back cash to my Thrift Savings Plan before I retire. I could retire at the end of November 2014. Can I do that with catch up contributions?

My major disappointment is with the TSP staff and the absence of an onsite adviser in human resources. Does it benefit the TSP not to go an extra step to inform investors? For those of us who, as you say, are “unsuspecting” and naïve and succumb to IRA sales people, we need a little more hand-holding. I did get a phone call from the TSP, but they never mentioned anything about the impacts of reducing my TSP through an in-service, age-based withdrawal. How can this be changed?

A. If you’re age 50 or over, you may make catch up contributions to the TSP. You may also move the IRA money back into the your TSP account. The TSP, like most employer sponsored retirement plans, does not give investment advice to its participants because it doesn’t want the liability associated with this activity. One of the reasons employers shifted from defined benefit pension to plans to defined contribution plans was to reduce their liability.

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