Ask The Experts: Money Matters

By Mike Miles

TSP allocation

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Q. I have $115,000 in my TSP account. I’m retiring in August, and I plan on using the entire amount to get me through until age 60 when I draw my military retirement. Does it make sense to move my entire account into the G fund now? I’m going to draw the account down to nothing in 54 months, and I need to ensure I have the money during that time.

 Currently I’m 70 percent S fund, 20 percent I fund and 10 percent F fund.

A. Yes. Your current allocation has lost 50 percent of its value twice during the past 15 years.

 

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Transferring spouse’s 401K funds

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Q. I am a federal employee with TSP and I am still working. My wife is retired and on disability. Can she transfer/rollover her employer-sponsored 401K funds to my TSP? If so, what are the restrictions/conditions?

A. No.

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Roth IRA transfers and taxes

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Q. Can one transfer money from CSRS voluntary contribution (post-tax money) to a private Roth IRA without tax obligations? Can the interest be transferred to the Thrift Savings Plan? Is the amount transferred at retirement part of the maximum allowed ($23,000) for someone over 50?

A. Yes, the VC post-tax money can be moved into a Roth IRA without tax. Yes, the earnings can be moved into the TSP, tax-deferred. No, the amount transferred is not considered a contribution.

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TSP, Roth and IRA transfers

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Q. I understand that you can transfer funds into and out of your Thrift Savings Plan from either eligible pretax plans and/or after-tax plans. However, withdrawals (loans, withdrawals and interfund transfers) are made proportionately from both the traditional and Roth. Thus, you cannot specify withdrawals from only the traditional or the Roth. This is seen as a major drawback for some who would like to participate in the Roth option only or make withdrawals from only the traditional or the Roth option.

Would it be possible, at or near retirement, to transfer a major amount of your TSP balance — for example, 90 percent of your TSP (which would take 90 percent of both the Roth and traditional balances on the day of the transfer — leaving 10 percent in each) to a traditional IRA and Roth IRA outside of the TSP, then later transfer from the traditional IRA back into the traditional TSP? This would result in a small Roth TSP balance and restore the traditional TSP balance.

Doing that would provide greater flexibility for accessing the tax-free funds in the Roth (with the possibility of leaving those tax-free funds to your heirs) and still taking advantage of the lower management costs associated with the TSP for the traditional balance.

A. It seems to me that this will work as long as the traditional IRA does not contain any after-tax money when it’s time to move it back into the TSP.

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Converting traditional TSP to Roth 401(k)

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Q. I am an active-duty military officer with 17 years of service. I would like to convert my traditional Thrift Savings Plan account to a Roth 401(k) and pay taxes now. I want to see if it is possible to transfer my balance to a traditional 401(k) with my civilian investment company and then convert that account to the Roth 401(k). Additionally, I want to minimize my taxes by doing this during my deployment this year, because I will be receiving tax-free pay for most of this year. Is this allowed and/or possible? I would love to pay zero or low taxes on the deferred portion of my traditional TSP during this transfer.

A. This might be possible using an age based in-service withdrawal if you’re at least age 59½. Otherwise, it’s not.

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72(t)

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Q. Is it OK to transfer an established 72(t) program from one institution to another?

A. As long as you don’t disturb the series of payments, I believe you can. But you should consult your tax preparer before you do it, to be sure.

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TSP-to-IRA withdrawal

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Q. I retired early with more than 20 years of service due to work-related injuries. I am 50. I have more than $314,000 in my Thrift Savings Plan. I want to withdraw either a partial or full amount but also want to avoid the 10 percent penalty tax. If I transfer my money to an IRA, then make a withdrawal, will I be able to avoid the penalty? What are my options?

A. You should consult IRS Publication 590 for the exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty that apply to IRAs. See Page 7 of the notice at https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tsp-536.pdf for exceptions that apply to withdrawals from the TSP. And consider engaging a CPA for guidance to make sure that you don’t make a costly mistake in getting to your money.

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Taxation on transfers

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Q. I am married, 60 years old and a FERS employee. I am not sure when I plan to retire, but I have a Thrift Savings Plan account and other investments. I would like to transfer as much as I can to the TSP account to have the best return. How will I be taxed on the money if it is going from one investment company to my account and then directly into TSP? Will it be taxable income for 2014 even if it was just a transfer?

A. Transfers from a retirement plan account into the TSP are not taxable.

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Transferring 401(k) post-tax funds from previous employer to Roth TSP

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Q. My previous employer allowed post-tax contributions to the 401(k) plan after the maximum allowed pretax contributions had been reached. Can I transfer the post-tax contributions of my previous employer’s 401(k) plan to the Roth TSP?

A. No.

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TSP

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Q. I’m planning to retire Jan. 2 and would like your suggestions as to what to do with the $165,000 in my Thrift Savings Plan account. I thought about transferring the money from the TSP, buying an IRA and letting it remain there for a couple of years since do not think I will need the money at the present time. I am 63 years old and covered under CSRS. Any suggestions as to what to do with the money and the best company or companies to purchase an IRA would be greatly appreciated.

A. The TSP is the best retirement savings and investment account you’ll find. Leave your money there and manage it for as long as possible. You’ve proposed no good reason to move it away.

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