By Mike Miles
May 13th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I borrowed $50,000 from my Thrift Savings Plan two years ago and have been paying it back biweekly. Will I be taxed on the money I borrowed? If so, when and how much?
Also, I’m looking at retiring in three years. I will be 59 and have 33 years on the job. How much risk should I take in my TSP account?
A. A loan is not taxable unless you fail to repay it on time. The amount of risk you take with your TSP assets should be matched to your specific financial goals and life circumstances. The right risk level can’t possibly be determined using only your age and years of service. In fact, your years of service have nothing directly to do with it.
April 29th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I am a 48-year-old GS-14/7 with about $240,000 in my Thrift Savings Plan (I have a little more in a prior 401(k), and my wife makes more than I do but does not have a 401(k) plan…I am willing to take reasonable risks).
I have contributed the maximum at 43 percent C, 22 percent S, 25 percent I and 10 percent F for several years and rebalanced each year. Indeed, I stubbornly left it like that during the crash but have recovered nicely.
I recently borrowed $30,000 (yes, I know, that is not the best course), at the G rate of 1.5 percent. It seems to me that that is akin to putting more than 10 percent of my savings in the very safe G Fund. So, while I left my existing F Fund balance alone, this “new” G money (interest on my loan repayments) plus the “bond bubble” threat convinced me to stop putting new money into either bond fund. I now contribute 48 percent C, 25 percent S and 27 percent I. (Yes, I tweaked the ratio a little due to lackluster I Fund performance and good S Fund performance).
Is it correct/smart to treat the interest I am paying myself as a sort of surrogate G Fund investment? Secondarily, are these ratios out of whack for a (moderately) aggressive portfolio?
A. Your loan balance and the G Fund differ in a big way: The G Fund guarantees the principal and the interest on your investment with them; you do not provide the same guarantee. Your asset allocation is “out of whack” in that it is risk-inefficient. For the same risk you are taking, you could achieve a higher expected rate of return by adding allocations to the remaining TSP funds.
March 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I just finished paying off a Thrift Savings Plan loan, and the last loan payment was greater than the necessary last payment. Apparently, the difference will be sent to me by check. Does this count as a disbursement? Will I have to pay a penalty on this money? How can I just put it back into the TSP where it belongs?
A. It doesn’t belong in the TSP. It’s an overpayment and will be refunded to you with no distribution or tax liability accruing.
March 19th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I am below the age for Thrift Savings Plan withdrawal without penalty (soon to be 50), but it looks like I will be out on workers’ compensation under permanent disability shortly. Due to the impact on my income and an ongoing issue, I need to make a withdrawal or close my TSP to continue meeting my obligations. I have thoroughly researched the issue of using a TSP but have little choice. A loan is not an option (I’m paying one off and, if I’m on disability, I can’t take one out). And I’ve looked into other avenues, to include financial planners, with no success. Without focusing on the 10 percent penalty, how can I submit for my account funds? Although I am vested with more than 22 years, do the age criteria prohibit access to any funds that are not your own contributions? Due to the previous loan, is it impossible to access these funds to avoid a more onerous financial situation? I have an amount that would make us able to live on the disability funds. Is this a simple matter of age and letter of the law?
A. As soon as you are separated from federal service, you may request a distribution of some or all of your TSP funds. Before you separate, you may request a hardship withdrawal if you can qualify, or you could take a loan and then fail to pay it back, which will result in a distribution.
February 20th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I am an air traffic controller who is retiring in two months at age 48. I have an outstanding Thrift Savings Plan loan for about $9,000. What happens if I don’t pay this off before I retire? Do I pay the 10 percent penalty, along with it being shown as income? Does this affect my monthly withdrawal from TSP using the 72(t) rule? Also, can I take a one-time partial lump-sum withdrawal and pay the 10 percent penalty without it affecting my monthly withdrawal?
A. If you don’t repay the loan within the grace period after you retire, it will be declared a taxable distribution and you will owe penalty and taxes on the income. This does not affect your ability to initiate monthly distribution payments to satisfy the 72(t) rules on the remaining balance. Taking a partial withdrawal does not impair your ability to take automatic monthly distributions, which are considered a form of full withdrawal.
January 21st, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I recently took out a $40,000 Thrift Savings Plan loan so I could refinance my house. I had a first 4.875 percent and a second 8.5 percent. This lowered my monthly house payment by $1,000. I am paying it back over five years at $309 per payment. Would it be better to lower the amount I contribute from 10 percent to 5 percent and put that amount toward the loan? I did a quick calculation, and the taxes would be an additional $1,250 a year (approximately) since I would lose the pretax exclusion on the $5,000.
A. I think I’d stick with the loan repayment and maximum TSP deferrals.
January 14th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. What would be the tax rate on a TSP taxable distribution due to an unpaid loan stemming from a transfer of function/work? My human resources office did not make appropriate change in time and left me with a balance amount (lump sum) I could not afford to pay back in order to continue loan payment. Now I’ll have to pay taxes on a taxable distribution of $11,680. Just trying to figure out how much I’ll owe. I’m hoping my refund will cover the taxes due.
A. The distribution will be included on your tax return as ordinary income, and the amount you’ll owe can only be determined by completing your return.
October 24th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am 59 and am going to retire next year. I am in CSRS. I have a loan on my Thrift Savings Plan, which, if I retire next year, won’t be completely repaid. Do I have to repay it, since it’s my money and I can withdraw all of my money from TSP when I retire?
A. No. If you don’t repay it, the outstanding balance will be declared a distribution and will be reported to you as taxable income. Since you are retiring after the year in which you reached age 55, there will be no early withdrawal penalty.
October 17th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I have a Thrift Savings Plan loan that I would like to pay off and was wondering if there was a way to do it by transferring funds from my personal IRA.
First, would a direct transfer work at all? Is there any way to designate that transfer to count against the loan?
Second, since I should pay back the loan with post-tax funds, if I do a rollover from a Roth IRA, can I then put it in the TSP as a loan payment?
Because I’m under 59½, will I get the early withdrawal penalty, even though I am rolling it into the TSP?
A. You may not use a rollover, from any account, to repay a TSP loan.
October 15th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am retired (68 years old) under CSRS. We are thinking of refinancing our home and paying off the line of credit. If we include the settlement fees, we will be saving $5,474 per year, recouping our settlement fee within 1½ years. However, if we refinance without including the fees, we will be saving $5,916 per year. My husband wants to draw $8,000 from either his 401(k) (he is 68 also), or draw $4,000 from his 401(k) and my Thrift Savings Plan. I don’t want to touch these for a $42 a year savings. Are there drawbacks at our age to taking money out of these accounts?
A. You should be careful not to diminish the liquidity of resources that might be needed for cash flow in the future. From the facts you provide, I see no other inherent drawback to withdrawing the money.