Ask The Experts: Money Matters

By Mike Miles

TSP withdrawal options

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Q. I am under FERS and contribute the maximum amount into TSP. When I am eligible to retire (57-1/2), do I have to immediately start collecting out of my TSP once retired, or can I roll it over into another bank or institution into a 401K without penalty? And how does one receive payments if I can’t roll it over? Read the rest of this entry »

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Withdrawal penalty?

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Q. I recently retired under CSRS. I am 57. I would like to take a partial withdrawal from my TSP. What penalties and taxes will I have to pay on the amount I withdraw.

A. As long as you retired during or after the year in which you reached age 55, there will be no early withdrawal penalty due. There will be 20 percent mandatory withholding taken from your payment, however, unless you roll the money over directly to an IRA.

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TSP rollover

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Q. At age 57, can I pull all my TSP out and roll it over into a primary house without paying tax?

A. No.

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Rollover limit

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Q. I know partial withdrawals are limited to one in retirement under TSP. Does this apply to rollovers as well? I want to top off my marginal federal tax bracket each year until I hit 70-½ by doing a TSP rollover of a varying amount to my existing external Roth account. If I have to use the monthly payment option to do it, it’s just too much trouble.

A. Only one lump-sum TSP withdrawal or rollover is allowed per lifetime.

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Withdrawal plan

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Q. I am a 57-year-old FERS employee with over 38 years of federal service (including seven years of military service which I bought back). I have approximately $470,000 in my TSP account and plan to retire in January 2015. Can I take an immediate one-time-only partial withdrawal when I retire and elect to receive a specific dollar amount of monthly distributions immediately thereafter and, in a few years, halt the monthly distributions and roll over my remaining TSP balance to an outside IRA?

A. Yes

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Roth IRA

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Q. Can you roll an existing Roth IRA into you Roth TSP fund?

A. No.

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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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Roth IRA to TSP

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Q. Can you roll an existing Roth IRA into your Roth TSP fund?

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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Partial TSP withdrawal

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Q. I am 60 and had to retire early due to disability. I am receiving Social Security disability and a small annuity. Can I take a small amount — say, $10,000 — from my account but then start monthly draws when/if it becomes necessary? Should I leave all of my money in this account or do a rollover into a regular or Roth IRA?

A. Yes, as long as you have not previously used your single partial withdrawal. I think you should retain your Thrift Savings Plan account for as long as possible.

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