Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

Regular Air Force: Active Duty

Benefit Fact Sheet

Summary

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a Federal Government-sponsored retirement savings and investment plan. It offers the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under "401(k)" plans.

Blended Retirement System (BRS) Members of the Uniformed Services
If you are a member of the uniformed services who began serving on or after January 1, 2018, your service automatically enrolled you in the TSP (or will) once you had served 60 days and 3% of your basic pay is deducted from your paycheck each pay period and deposited in the traditional balance of your TSP account, unless you have made an election to change or stop your contributions. You can make an election by following the instructions in Starting, Changing, and Stopping Your Contributions .

Non-BRS Members of the Uniformed Services
If you are a member of the uniformed services who is not covered by the Blended Retirement System (BRS), your account is established by your service after you make a contribution election using your service's automated system, if it has one. For example, most members of the uniformed services use myPay. If your service does not use an electronic system, you can complete Form TSP-U-1, Election Form and return it to your service.

Reentering Members of the Uniformed Services

If you were already in the BRS plan before you left the service—whether as a new member of the uniformed services or an opt-in—you will be automatically reenrolled when you reenter. If you were not in BRS but had fewer than 12 years of service when you left, your service may give you the opportunity to opt in when you reenter. In either case, assuming you had served 60 days before leaving, your enrollment will begin with the first pay period after reentering. If neither situation applies to you, you can still start a TSP account or resume contributing to your existing account as a non-BRS member. Follow the instructions in Starting, Changing, and Stopping Your Contributions.

Thrift Savings Plan logo Change in Required Minimum Distribution Age:

The SECURE Act, which passed on December 20, 2019, changes the age at which you have to start taking required minimum distributions from 70 ½ to 72. The law excludes people who turned 70 ½ on or before December 31, 2019. Click here for more information.

Implementation of 5% Automatic Enrollment Percentage for Thrift Savings Plan Participants

On October 1, 2020, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) will increase the automatic enrollment percentage from 3% to 5% of pay for all Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), and Blended Retirement System (BRS) participants who are automatically enrolled in the TSP on or after October 1, 2020, and for BRS participants automatically re-enrolled in the TSP on or after January 1, 2021, per 5 CFR § 1600.34 and 1600.37. The Thrift Savings Plan Enhancement Act of 2009 grants the FRTIB the authority for this change. This change will not affect the contribution rates in place for FERS and CSRS participants who were automatically enrolled in the TSP prior to October 1, 2020, or BRS participants who were automatically enrolled prior to October 1, 2020, and did not terminate their contributions. Click here for more information.

Eligibility

Airmen on active duty are eligible to contribute to the TSP.

Benefit Highlights

Basics: The TSP is a defined contribution plan. This means that the income Airmen receive from a TSP account depends on the amount contributed and the earnings on those contributions. This is unlike the Uniformed Airman counting cashServices Retirement System in which the income received is based on years of service and the rank held at the time of retirement. If contributions from basic pay are made, one to 100 percent of any incentive pay or special pay (including bonus pay) may also be contributed, up to the limits established by the Internal Revenue Code (In 2021, that amount is $19,500). In addition to that amount, " Catch-up contributions " of up to $6,500 for 2021, may be made by eligible Airmen (age 50 or older or turning 50 during the calendar year). All funds contributed belong to the beneficiary, even if they do not serve the 20 or more years ordinarily necessary to receive uniformed services retired pay.

Roth TSP: With the introduction of Roth TSP, Airmen have the potential for two types of balances in the TSP account: TSP and Roth TSP. The Airman's own contributions can be designated as traditional TSP or Roth TSP. Roth contributions are taken out of the paycheck after income is taxed. When Roth funds are withdrawn, they are tax-free. Additionally, there are no taxes on the earnings as long as the Airman is at least age 59 ½ (or disabled) AND the withdrawal is made at least 5 years after the beginning of the year in which the first Roth contribution was made.

The table below compares the treatment of traditional and Roth TSP contributions: The table below compares the treatment of the two different types of contributions.

Treatment of traditional and Roth TSP contributions

The Treatment of...

Traditional TSP

Roth TSP

Contributions

Pre-tax

After-tax1

Your Paycheck

Taxes are deferred , so less money is taken out of your paycheck.

Taxes are paid up front , so more money comes out of your paycheck.

Transfers In

Transfers allowed from eligible employer plans and traditional IRAs

Transfers allowed from Roth 401(k)s, Roth 403(b)s, and Roth 457(b)s

Transfers Out

Transfers allowed to eligible employer plans, traditional IRAs, and Roth IRAs2

Transfers allowed to Roth 401(k)s, Roth 403(b)s, Roth 457(b)s, and Roth IRAs3

Withdrawals

Taxable when withdrawn

Tax-free earnings if five years have passed since January 1 of the year you made your first Roth contribution, AND you are age 59½ or older, permanently disabled, or deceased

1 Roth contributions are subject to Federal (and, where applicable, state and local) income taxes, while traditional contributions are not taxed until withdrawn. However, both Roth contributions and traditional contributions are included in the amount of wages used to calculate payroll taxes (e.g., Social Security taxes).
2 You would have to pay taxes on any pre-tax amount transferred to a Roth IRA.
3 Transfers to a Roth IRA from a Roth TSP are not subject to the income restrictions that apply to Roth IRA contributions.

How to Contribute: Airmen are eligible for this benefit as soon as they join the uniformed service. Participation in the TSP is optional. To start contributing to the TSP, complete the TSP Election Form (TSP-U-1). The form can be downloaded from https://www.tsp.gov/making-contributions/start-change-stop-contributions/.

On this form, indicate the percentage of basic pay, incentive pay, special pay, or bonus pay to be contributed. Airmen may also contribute to the TSP by signing up through the myPay website (https://mypay.dfas.mil/#/). Some percentage of basic pay must be contributed in order to contribute from incentive or special pay.

Tax Benefits: TSP contributions are "tax-deferred" from taxable pay, meaning that they are deducted before Federal and, in almost all cases, state income taxes are withheld. eggs in a basket with Roth, TSP, TAX, Traditional, and RetirementTherefore, taxable income is smaller and less is paid in taxes. In addition, Federal taxes are not paid on the money contributed until it is withdrawn from the TSP account. Any money earned over the years is also tax-deferred. This means that no income taxes are paid on TSP account contributions and earnings until the money is received - usually after retirement. The longer money is invested, the greater the benefit of tax-deferred earnings will be.

Flexibility: TSP offers a choice of funds in which to invest. For a description of these funds, including key features, historical returns, and a detailed description, please see https://www.tsp.gov/index.html. The TSP allows the investor to allocate contributions among the different funds based on the investor's personal preferences. It also allows the investor to change contribution allocations and transfer money between funds on a daily basis.

Withdrawing Funds: Airmen are eligible, but not required, to withdraw from the TSP account as soon as they separate from the uniformed services. Service members should be aware that there may be tax penalties for withdrawing funds prior to age 59 ½. For more information please consult the IRS TSP fact sheet. Previously, the law required that you make a full withdrawal election once you turned 70½ and were separated from federal service. If you failed to do that, we would initiate an account “abandonment” process. The new law that began September 15, 2019 does away with this requirement. You will never be required to make a full withdrawal election, and we will no longer abandon accounts as we have in years past. If your account has already been abandoned, you’ll be able to restore the account without making a full withdrawal election. Your restored balance can remain in the plan (subject To RMDs) with all the new withdrawal options available. Active Airmen are not required to make withdrawals, regardless of age. Payments can be deposited directly into checking or savings accounts. The TSP can also transfer all or part of any single payment or, in some cases, a series of monthly payments, to a traditional IRA or eligible employer plan. As of September 15, 2019, you now have more options for how and when you can access money from your TSP account. These options fall into the following categories:

  • After you separate from service, you can take multiple post-separation partial withdrawals

  • If you're 59½ or older and still working in federal civilian or uniformed service, you can take up to four in-service withdrawals each year

  • You’ll be able to choose whether your withdrawal should come from your Roth balance, your traditional balance, or a proportional mix of both

  • You will no longer need to make a full withdrawal election after you turn 70½ and are separated from federal service (You will still need to receive IRS required minimum distributions (RMDs))

  • If you're a separated participant, you'll be able to take monthly, quarterly, or annual payments

  • You’ll be able stop, start, or make changes to your installment payments at any time

  • You'll have enhanced online tools to help you make withdrawals in the My Account section of https://www.tsp.gov/index.html.

For more information on change to TSP Withdrawal options visit: https://www.tsp.gov/publications/tsplf15.pdf

Regulations: TSP regulations are published in title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 1600 - 1690, and are periodically supplemented and amended in the Federal Register.

Additional Information

For more information, please visit the Thrift Savings Plan webpage maintained by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board:
https://www.tsp.gov/index.html

Thrift Savings Plan Calculators:
https://www.tsp.gov/calculators/

myPay website:
https://mypay.dfas.mil/#/

Office of the Secretary of Defense, Military Compensation website:
https://militarypay.defense.gov/

Summary of Thrift Savings Plan:
https://www.tsp.gov/publications/tspbk08.pdf

Document Review Date: 31 March 2021