|>||Who is eligible to participate in the TSP?|
|>||What are the basic rules for contributing to the TSP?|
|>||When can I sign up to contribute?|
|>||What if I am a rehired employee?|
|>||How do I start my contributions to my TSP account?|
|>||What if I transfer to another agency?|
|>||How do I change the amount of my contributions?|
|>||How do I stop my contributions?|
|>||What is a contribution allocation?|
|>||How do I make a contribution allocation?|
|>||What if I do not make a contribution allocation?|
|>||What are "catch-up contributions"?|
|>||How do I designate beneficiaries for my TSP account?|
|>||Back to Features Table of Contents|
Who is eligible to participate in the TSP?
Employees who are covered by FERS and CSRS, as well as members of the uniformed services (and certain other employees), can participate in the TSP. FERS employees are generally those hired on or after January 1, 1984. CSRS employees are generally those hired before that date who did not convert to FERS.
If you are a FERS or CSRS employee, you can participate in the TSP regardless of whether you work full time or part time. If you do not know your retirement coverage, contact your agency personnel office. The TSP does not have the authority to make or correct retirement coverage determinations.
Note: If you are a member of the uniformed services, in either active duty or Ready Reserve status, refer to the TSP Features in the uniformed services section of this Web site or read the Summary of the Thrift Savings Plan for a comprehensive discussion of how the TSP works for you. Employees who participate in the TSP as both Federal employees and members of the Ready Reserve should pay particular attention to the Internal Revenue Code limits, as these apply to all contributions made in either capacity.
What are the basic rules for contributing to the TSP?
If you are a FERS employee:
- You can elect to contribute to the TSP at any time; there is no waiting period. The amount you can contribute changes annually. You may elect to contribute any dollar amount or percentage (1 to 100) of your basic pay. However, your annual dollar total cannot exceed the Internal Revenue Code limit, which is $15,500 for 2008 and $16,500 for 2009.
- Your agency will start to contribute Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions to your account after you have completed the mandatory waiting period. See the chart below to determine when you will be eligible.
- If you are contributing your own money, you will also receive Agency Matching Contributions after you have completed the mandatory waiting period. See the chart below to determine when you will be eligible.
If you were hired:
Your Agency Contributions
will begin the first
full pay period in:
June 1, 2006 — November 30, 2006
December 1, 2006 — May 31, 2007
June 1, 2007 — November 30, 2007 June 2008 December 1, 2007 — May 31, 2008
June 1, 2008 — November 30, 2008 June 2009
December 1, 2008
May 31, 2009
If you are a CSRS employee:
- You can elect to contribute to the TSP at any time; there is no waiting period. The amount you can contribute changes annually. You may elect to contribute any dollar amount or percentage of basic pay. However, your annual dollar total cannot exceed the Internal Revenue Code limit which is $15,500 for 2008 and $16,500 for 2009.
- You do not receive any Agency Automatic (1%) or Matching Contributions.
All FERS and CSRS employees:
- You can start, change, stop, or resume TSP contributions at any time.
- Your payroll contributions will begin the first full pay period after your agency accepts your TSP Election Form (TSP-1) (or an electronic version of TSP-1, if your agency uses one).
- You can contribute either a percentage of your basic pay each pay period or a fixed dollar amount. If you make your contributions as a percentage of your pay, the amount of your contributions will automatically increase as you receive pay raises.
- You can change the allocation of your TSP contributions among the different investment funds at any time using this Web site, the ThriftLine, or Form TSP-50, Investment Allocation. (Form TSP-50 is not available on this Web site. If you prefer to change your allocation using Form TSP-50, contact your personnel office.) You can change the way money already in your account is invested by making an interfund transfer using the same methods.
- If you are age 50 or older, you can make catch-up contributions to your account.
- Contributions must be made through payroll deductions. However, you may also transfer or roll over eligible funds from a traditional IRA or an eligible employer plan into your TSP account. See Form TSP-60, Request for a Transfer Into the TSP.
- You must be in pay status (that is, receiving basic pay) to make contributions and to receive agency contributions for a pay period. Therefore, if you are not in pay status, your contributions (and your agency contributions, if you are a FERS employee) will stop until you begin receiving pay once again.
Basic pay for TSP purposes is defined by law. It consists of the same elements of pay used to calculate the deduction for your FERS or CSRS annuity. The definition does not include awards, bonuses, buyout incentives, or many forms of premium pay. Contact your personnel office if you have questions about your basic pay for TSP purposes.
Note: As a result of Public Law 103-353, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), Federal civilian employees may make up contributions missed due to military service. However, certain restrictions apply if you are contributing to the TSP while performing military service. See our Fact Sheet: TSP Benefits That Apply to Members of the Military Who Return to Federal Service and your agency for more information about this opportunity.
When can I sign up to contribute?
You can sign up to contribute to the TSP at any time. Your contributions will begin no later than the first full pay period after your agency accepts your election. If you are a FERS employee, your agency contributions will begin once you satisfy the mandatory waiting period.
What if I am a rehired employee?
If you are a rehired FERS or CSRS employee who had a break in service of 31 or more full calendar days, you can sign up to contribute to the TSP immediately upon reemployment. If you are a rehired FERS employee, your Agency Automatic (1%) and Matching Contributions (if you are contributing your own money) will begin as follows:
- If you were previously eligible to receive agency contributions, your agency contributions will begin immediately.
- If you were not previously eligible to receive agency contributions, your agency contributions will begin according to the chart above.
If you are a rehired employee who had a break in service of less than 31 full calendar days and you were previously contributing to the TSP, your employee contributions and, if you are FERS, your agency contributions will resume upon rehire. To ensure that your contributions resume properly, you should tell your new agency that you were previously contributing to the TSP. If you were not previously contributing to the TSP, you may elect to contribute at any time. You can also change the amount of your contributions at any time.
You should also inform your new agency if you have any outstanding TSP loans so your loan payments can resume. You must make up, from your own funds, any loan payments you have missed.
If you are rehired as a CSRS employee and you choose to change your retirement coverage to FERS, your Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions will begin the same pay period the transfer to FERS becomes effective. You may elect to contribute your own money at any time. If you do, your employee contributions and your Agency Matching Contributions will begin no later than the pay period that begins after your agency receives your election.
How do I start my contributions to my TSP account?
To start contributing to the TSP, ask your personnel office for the TSP Election Form (TSP-1), download the form from this Web site, or use your agency's electronic version if one is available. Complete the form to show whether you want to contribute a percentage of your basic pay or a fixed whole dollar amount each pay period.
Your agency will deduct the amount you choose from your pay each pay period and will continue to do so until you submit another election to stop or change the amount.
What if I transfer to another agency?
If you transfer to another agency, your new agency should continue your contributions and loan payments, if any, without interruption. To avoid any delay, you should notify your new personnel office that you have been contributing to the TSP; you should also notify them if you have a loan.
How do I change the amount of my contributions?
If you want to change the amount of your TSP employee contributions, submit Form TSP-1 to your agency (or use your agency's electronic version, if your agency has one).
How do I stop my contributions?
You can stop contributing your own money to the TSP at any time by completing the appropriate sections on Form TSP-1 and submitting it to your agency. Your contributions will stop at the end of the pay period in which your agency accepts the form. You may resume contributions at any time.
If you are a FERS employee, your Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions will continue, and will be invested according to your last contribution allocation on file with the TSP. Agency Matching Contributions will end when your contributions end. Even if you are not contributing, you can change the way your future Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions are invested by making a contribution allocation on this Web site, the ThriftLine, or Form TSP-50 at any time.
What is a contribution allocation?
A contribution allocation specifies the way contributions to your account will be invested among the TSP funds. The contribution allocation applies to all future contributions, as well as loan payments and transfers (or rollovers) of funds from other plans into the TSP. It does not affect the money already in your account. (To change the way your existing account balance is invested, you must make an interfund transfer.)
Before you decide how to allocate your contributions, read “Your Investment Options.”
How do I make a contribution allocation?
To specify the way you want your contributions to be invested, use this Web site or the ThriftLine, or submit Form TSP-50, Investment Allocation, to the TSP. (Do not submit Form TSP-50 to your agency.) If you have not previously invested in the F, C, S, I, or L Funds, you must acknowledge the risk of investing in these funds before you can proceed with your contribution allocation. To request a contribution allocation, follow the instructions and enter the percentages you want invested in each fund each pay period. Percentages must be stated in one percent increments and must add up to 100 percent. Whether you are using the Web site or the ThriftLine, be sure to follow the instructions to confirm the percentages or your allocation will not be effective.
The Web site and the ThriftLine are the most efficient ways of making a contribution allocation. Contribution allocations generally will become effective within 2 business days of the date the TSP receives your request.
What if I do not make a contribution allocation?
All contributions, including your agency contributions if you are FERS, will be invested in the G Fund until you make a contribution allocation on this Web site or the ThriftLine or submit Form TSP-50 to the TSP.
What are "catch-up contributions"?
Catch-up contributions are supplemental tax-deferred contributions available to TSP participants age 50 or older who are already contributing the maximum amount of regular TSP contributions for which they are eligible, up to the maximum IRS elective deferral limit of $15,500 for 2008 and $16,500 for 2009. Catch-up contributions have their own annual limit of $5,000 for 2008 and $5,500 for 2009. Increases are indexed to inflation.
If you are eligible, you can submit an election at any time to make these contributions. Use Form TSP-1-C, Catch-up Contribution Election, available in the Forms and Publications section of this Web site or from your agency. Some agencies may use an electronic version of the form. Check with your agency for guidance.
Your contributions are invested in the TSP funds according to your most recent contribution allocation. You can change, stop, or restart your catch-up contributions at any time. Your contributions will automatically stop at the end of the calendar year or when you reach the maximum dollar limit for the year. You must make a new election each calendar year. Agencies do not match catch-up contributions.
Your catch-up contributions are deducted from your basic pay each pay period; therefore, you must be currently employed by the Federal Government and receiving pay. In addition, you may not be in the 6-month non-contribution period following receipt of a TSP financial hardship in-service withdrawal. For more information, read the TSP Fact Sheet “Catch-up Contributions.”
How do I designate beneficiaries for my TSP account?
To designate beneficiaries to receive your account in the event of your death, download Form TSP-3, Designation of Beneficiary, from this Web site, or ask your personnel office for it. If you have left Federal service, you can also obtain the form from the TSP. If you do not file Form TSP-3 with the TSP record keeper to designate beneficiaries for your account, your account will be distributed after your death according to the order of precedence required by law.
Submit Form TSP-3 to the TSP at the address on the form. Do not submit Form TSP-3 to your agency. Your beneficiary designation will not be valid unless it is received by the TSP record keeper on or before the date of your death. Follow the instructions on the form carefully. The TSP may not be able to honor an improperly completed form; mistakes may make your form invalid.
Mention of your TSP account in your will (or another document, such as a prenuptial agreement) has no effect on the disposition of your account after your death. A will is not a substitute for Form TSP-3. However, you can use Form TSP-3 to designate your estate or a trust to receive your TSP account.
You should review your designation of beneficiary whenever your personal situation changes (for example, as a result of marriage, birth or adoption of a child, or divorce). Your participant statement will show whether you have a designation on file and the date of your most recent designation. To cancel or change your designation of beneficiary, submit another Form TSP-3 to the TSP. (Form TSP-3 applies only to your civilian account. If you have a uniformed services account and you would like to designate a beneficiary or beneficiaries to receive money from that account, you must submit Form TSP-U-3, Designation of Beneficiary, to the TSP record keeper.)
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