Paycheck Chronicles

From The Mailbag: What To Do With Old TSP Balances

You know those announcements about “find lost money” and “unclaimed property?” They’re kind of cool. I once discovered that my brother-in-law had an unclaimed utility deposit from college. While not really free money, it sure seems like free money.

I wonder how long the list would be if there were an “unclaimed Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)” website?

Dear Kate,

I was in the Navy a couple of years back, and I think I may have contributed to the TSP. How do I find out, and how can I get that money?

Dan

It’s sort of like a treasure hunt!

Dear Dan,

Well, first I’d start at the TSP website, www.tsp.gov. If you remember any of your log-in credentials, or you can even guess, you might be able to log into your account.

If you can’t log in, then you’ll need to gather some information.

If you need to change your mailing address with TSP, use TSP Form 9.

If you need to find out your account number, you request it at this page: https://www.tsp.gov/tsp/forgottenAccount.html However, this will mail your account number to the last address on file. See the step above to first change your mailing address if you think it is wrong.

Once you have your account number, you can try to reset your password online, or call the ThriftLine at 877-968-3778.

These steps should get you into your TSP account.

Now, to the second part of your question, “How can I get the money?” TSP is a tax-advantage retirement savings program, meaning that the money in it receives tax-advantages in return for rules about what you can and can not do with the money.

In general, you can move tax-advantaged balances to a similar account without penalties or taxes. A straight-up withdrawal may incur both a 10% penalty plus you’ll pay regular incomes taxes on the taxable portion of the balances, depending on whether the balances were within a traditional or a Roth TSP account, and if any of those balances included money earned in a tax-exempt combat zone. I’d recommend a thorough reading of the TSP publication Important Tax Information About Payments From Your TSP Account and a sit-down with your tax advisor or tax-savvy friend before making any decisions. Depending on the type of money being withdrawn and your tax bracket, you could lose a substantial portion of your balance to penalties and taxes.

I hope that helps,

Kate

For most folks, the short right answer is to leave their balance in their TSP account. It has incredibly low fees. At some point, some more advanced investors may want to roll that money over to other tax-advantaged accounts, but that would be handled with the help of a professional tax advisor or financial planner. As with many things financial, it takes a lot of learning to know the best way to handle each individual situation.

Show Full Article

More from Paycheck Chronicles

View more

Most Recent Military Pay Articles

View more