Ask The Experts: Money Matters

By Mike Miles

TSP early withdrawal penalties

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Q. I just turned 57 in January and am planning on retiring on June 1, 2014. I am CSRS and currently working with the U.S. Postal Service. I was hired by the Postal Service in March 1982 and have met my minimum retirement age and time in service. I also have 4 years prior military service in the Navy from 1976 to 1980 on active duty. Will I be penalized if I make a TSP withdrawal prior to turning age 59 1/2 years of age?

A. No. You will have retired after the calendar year in which you reached age 55 and, therefore, qualify for one of the exceptions to the early withdrawal penalty.

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TSP stock shares

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Q. I am a Postal employee contributing to the 2030 Life Cycle Fund. I would like to know when my stock market shares are purchased. Is it before the market opens on payday Friday, during that day or after the market closes that Friday?

A. The purchased is made using the end of day valuation on the day the contribution is received by the TSP. Ask your payroll office when their TSP contributions are processed.

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TSP payouts after disability retirement

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Q: I am 53 years old, and I was a U.S. Postal Service employee with 20 years of service under the Federal Employees Retirement System. I took disability retirement from the USPS in March after suffering injuries in Iraq as a reservist. If I take a full withdrawal from my Thrift Savings Plan account, will I pay a penalty to TSP, and at what percentage? How much will I have to pay in taxes? Will the USPS match my TSP balance? And how long must my money stay in a TSP account before I can make a full withdrawal without a penalty?

A: For the rules covering withdrawal taxes and withholding, see the TSP notice here. The TSP does not levy penalties against withdrawals; that’s a matter for the IRS. Whether you may withdraw your funds without penalty will depend upon the way in which you take the withdrawal and the extent of your disability.

While I’m not an expert on USPS-specific benefits, I don’t know why they would double, or otherwise increase, your TSP balance beyond what has already been contributed to your account. Because you are separated from service, your vested TSP balance is available to be withdrawn immediately.

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USPS retirement and leave rollover

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Q: I plan to retire from the U.S. Postal Service on Dec. 31. Any word on the proposal to roll over terminal annual leave into the Thrift Savings Plan?

A: Not that I’ve heard.

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TSP contributions and active-duty service

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Q: I am currently on military leave without pay from the U.S. Postal Service and have been on active duty with the Air Force for about 12 months. When I was with the USPS, I was contributing 5 percent to the Thrift Savings Plan and receiving the available agency matching funds. During my period of active duty, I have been contributing 10 percent to the TSP with no matching funds.

What are the rules or regulations with regards to agency matching funds upon my return to the USPS? Specifically, would I be eligible for any agency matching contributions during the military LWOP period? Could you please also cite the publication or reference that would address this?

A: Depending upon your circumstances, you may be able to make up some or all of your civilian TSP contributions and receive corresponding matching contributions on those deposits. See this fact sheet at the official Thrift Savings Plan website for more details.

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Incentive payments and tax filing

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Q: I retired from the U.S. Postal Service on Oct. 31 and received a $10,000 incentive payment in December that was counted as part of my 2009 earned income. As part of the incentive package, I will receive another $5,000 this October. This has nothing to do with my retirement annuity, so will it again be counted as earned income for 2010? If so, I will be able to contribute it to my Roth IRA, correct?

A: This is really a question for your tax preparer, but I expect that income to be reported for tax year 2010.

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Early TSP withdrawal

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Q: If I retire from the Postal Service this next year, can I draw monthly payments from my TSP account before I am 59 1/2 without penalty?

A: Yes, if you: 1. Retired during or after the year in which you reached age 55; or 2. Take them as series of Substantially Equal Periodic Payments under IRS rules; or 3. Meet one of the other exceptions to the penalty outlined in the notice you’ll find at www.tsp.gov/forms/octax92-32.pdf

— Mike Miles

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TSP monthly withdrawals

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Q: I just retired under the early out option from the U.S. Postal Service, and want to start regular monthly withdrawals from the Thrift Savings Plan, until the MetLife annuity index rate goes up somewhat. Can I, at that point, change from monthly payments to an immediate annuity option, without any kind of penalty? I am 52 years of age.

A: Yes.

— Mike Miles

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