Withdrawing from Your TSP

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Hello, I have 31k in my TSP. Is it possible to withdraw the total amount at one time? ” – Bill.

Demystifying TSP Withdrawals

TSP withdrawals are a crucial aspect of managing your retirement savings. It’s important to comprehend the various withdrawal options and the implications they have on your financial landscape. Here, we break down the most common types of TSP withdrawals:

A. Full Withdrawal or “Lump Sum” withdrawal.

B. “Rollover” your TSP to an IRA.

C. Monthly payments from the TSP.

C. Single Partial Withdrawal from the TSP.

D. Annuitizing the TSP.

Every investment that you have is a tool in your greater financial planning toolbox. Be careful which you reach for: a hammer doesn’t do the same job as a screw driver.

Full Withdrawal or “Lump Sum” withdrawal from your TSP
Some Pros of Full Withdrawal or "Lump Sum" Withdrawal from the TSP that probably aren’t worth it.

Immediate Access to Funds: Opting for a Full Withdrawal provides you with immediate access to your entire TSP balance. This can be advantageous if you have specific financial goals or require a significant sum of money for personal reasons. With a lump sum withdrawal, you have the freedom to utilize the funds as you see fit.

Simplified Financial Management: By withdrawing the entire TSP balance, you simplify your financial management. You no longer need to monitor or make decisions regarding your TSP account since you have withdrawn all the funds. This can alleviate stress and simplify your retirement planning, especially if you prefer a hands-off approach to managing investments.

Potential for Investment Opportunities: A Full Withdrawal grants you the opportunity to explore alternative investment options outside of the TSP. If you have a solid investment plan or business opportunity, accessing your entire TSP balance as a lump sum can provide the necessary capital to pursue these ventures. It offers the potential for higher returns or diversification in your investment portfolio.

Some SERIOUS CONS of Full Withdrawal or "Lump Sum" Withdrawal from the TSP

Tax Implications: A significant drawback of a Full Withdrawal is the potential tax implications. Withdrawing a substantial sum of money in one go can push you into a higher tax bracket, resulting in a higher tax liability. It’s crucial to consult with a tax advisor to understand the tax consequences and plan accordingly. Especially if you make a lump sum distribution before you have reached age 55.

Limited Lifetime Income: By choosing a Full Withdrawal, you forego the opportunity to receive a consistent stream of income during retirement. Unlike annuities or periodic payments, which provide a

steady income stream, a lump sum withdrawal requires you to manage your funds to ensure they last throughout your retirement years. This responsibility can introduce financial uncertainties.

Loss of Investment Growth Potential: Withdrawing the entire TSP balance as a lump sum means you lose the potential for further investment growth within the TSP. The TSP offers low-cost investment options and has the potential for continued growth over time. By withdrawing all funds, you forfeit the opportunity to benefit from potential market gains and compounding returns.

Risk of Poor Financial Management: Managing a large lump sum of money can be challenging, particularly if you lack experience or knowledge in financial management. Without proper planning and guidance, there is a risk of mismanaging the funds, resulting in financial instability or depletion of the retirement savings prematurely. Seeking professional financial advice can mitigate this risk.

“Rollover” your TSP to an IRA

Pay Attention Here: not all words mean the same thing. Yogurt is not the same as ice cream. Rollover is not the same as “transferring” your TSP to an IRA.

The words will matter especially if you are planning for your retirement by yourself. You will want to get this right because as Micah illustrates in our video above, the tax consequences are significant if you get this mixed up.

A rollover and a transfer are two different methods for moving funds from your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to another retirement account or financial institution.

While they both involve transferring funds, key distinctions exist between the two processes


A rollover involves moving funds from your TSP account to another eligible retirement account, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) but there is a HUGE hiccup when you perform a Rollover.

Rollover: When you ask the TSP office to perform a rollover, they will disburse your TSP via check made out to you personally. You have 60 calendar days from when the CHECK WAS ISSUED to deposit these funds into your qualifying retirement account. If you wait 61 days, the funds are considered a TAXABLE distribution.

Tax Implications: If for any reason you are not able to deposit the funds into your qualifying retirement account, like an IRA, within the time period specified you will be taxed on the distribution. This amount is ADDED to your taxable income thus propelling most individuals into a significantly higher tax bracket considering the last year they are working is normally, one of their High-3 years.

Eradicate Rollover from your vocabulary. We have seen rollover’s happens successfully but we have also seen, more than we care to, when they do not. The risk is significant.


A transfer involves moving funds directly from your TSP account to another eligible retirement account or financial institution. Unlike a rollover, a transfer does not send the funds to you directly. Rather they are sent directly to your new custodian in a new or existing qualified account like an IRA.

Direct Transfer: Similar to a direct rollover, a transfer involves directly moving funds from your TSP account to the receiving institution or retirement account. The funds are not distributed to you personally.

Tax-Free Transfer: Transfers are generally tax-free and do not incur tax consequences. The funds maintain their tax-advantaged status, allowing for continued growth within the new retirement account without immediate taxation.

It’s important to note that both rollovers and transfers have specific rules and requirements set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the TSP. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor or tax professional to ensure compliance with the regulations and to make informed decisions regarding your retirement savings.

Monthly Payments from the TSP
Pros of Monthly Payments from the TSP

Regular Income Stream: Opting for monthly payments from the TSP provides you with a consistent income stream during retirement. These regular payments can help cover your day-to-day expenses, ensuring financial stability and peace of mind. Knowing that you will receive a fixed amount each month allows for better budgeting and financial planning.

Flexibility in Payment Amounts: The TSP offers various options when it comes to the amount of monthly payments. You have the flexibility to choose the payment amount based on your needs and financial goals. Whether you require a higher income to support your lifestyle or prefer a more modest payment to preserve your TSP balance, monthly payments can be tailored to your specific requirements.

Tax Planning Opportunities: Monthly payments from the TSP provide opportunities for tax planning. You can elect to have federal income taxes withheld from your payments, which can simplify your tax obligations and help you avoid a large tax bill at the end of the year. Additionally, by managing the amount of your monthly payments, you can potentially control your tax bracket and optimize your overall tax liability.

Potential Investment Growth: By selecting monthly payments from the TSP, you can maintain your investment in the TSP funds. While receiving payments, your remaining TSP balance continues to be invested, providing the potential for growth over time. This allows your retirement savings to continue working for you, potentially generating additional income through investment returns

Cons of Monthly Payments from the TSP

Lack of Flexibility in Payment Timing: Monthly payments from the TSP come with a fixed schedule. Once you initiate the payments, the timing is predetermined, and you may not have the flexibility to adjust the schedule to accommodate unforeseen circumstances or changes in your financial needs. It’s essential to consider your cash flow requirements and financial stability before committing to a specific payment schedule.

Risk of Outliving the Funds: While monthly payments provide a steady income stream, there is a risk of outliving the funds. If you live longer than anticipated or encounter unexpected expenses, the monthly payments may not be sufficient to sustain your lifestyle. It’s crucial to carefully assess your retirement needs and estimate the duration for which your funds will last to mitigate this risk.

Potential Impact of Inflation: Monthly payments from the TSP may be susceptible to the erosive effects of inflation. If the rate of inflation exceeds the rate of return on your TSP investments, the purchasing power of your monthly payments may diminish over time. It’s important to consider inflation and incorporate strategies to protect against its impact, such as diversifying your income sources or investing in assets with inflation-hedging characteristics.

Limited Access to Lump Sum Funds: Once you opt for monthly payments from the TSP, your access to the remaining funds in a lump sum form becomes restricted. Depending on the specific payment option you choose, the ability to withdraw a significant portion of the remaining TSP balance may be limited or subject to penalties. This reduced liquidity can affect your ability to respond to unexpected financial needs or investment opportunities.

Single Partial Withdrawal

Some Pros of Single Partial Withdrawal from your TSP

Flexibility: One of the significant advantages of a Single Partial Withdrawal is the flexibility it offers. Unlike a full withdrawal, you have the option to withdraw only a portion of your TSP funds, leaving the rest untouched. This can be particularly useful if you don’t need immediate access to your entire savings and prefer to manage your withdrawals strategically.

Supplemental Income: By choosing a Single Partial Withdrawal, you can create a supplemental income stream without depleting your entire TSP balance. This can be beneficial if you’re transitioning into retirement and require additional funds to cover specific expenses or fulfill financial goals.

Tax Planning: With a Single Partial Withdrawal, you have more control over your tax liabilities. By withdrawing a smaller amount, you may be able to manage your tax bracket more effectively, potentially reducing the overall tax burden on your retirement savings. It allows for better tax planning, especially if you have other sources of income or investments.

Investment Continuity: By opting for a Single Partial Withdrawal, you can continue to keep a portion of your TSP funds invested. This maintains the potential for growth and ensures that your savings continue to work for you, potentially generating returns over time. It can be an advantageous strategy for individuals who wish to maintain a balanced investment portfolio during retirement. Some Cons of Single Partial Withdrawal from your TSP

Limitations on Future Withdrawals: While a Single Partial Withdrawal offers flexibility, it’s important to note that once you withdraw a portion of your TSP funds, it may limit your future withdrawal options. For example, if you choose an annuity or elect a full withdrawal later, you may not have access to the funds you previously withdrew.

Administrative Complexities: Managing multiple partial withdrawals can introduce administrative complexities, particularly if you plan to take them at different intervals or for varying amounts. Keeping track of your withdrawals and coordinating them with your overall financial plan requires careful attention and organization.

Potential Account Maintenance Fees: Some TSP account providers may charge maintenance fees or impose penalties for partial withdrawals. It’s crucial to review the terms and conditions of your TSP account to understand any potential fees that may reduce the overall value of your funds.

Market Timing Risks: When executing a Single Partial Withdrawal, you must consider the potential impact of market timing. Withdrawing funds during a market downturn could result in selling assets at a lower value, reducing the overall growth potential of your TSP balance. It’s important to assess market conditions and consult with a financial advisor before making withdrawal decisions.

Evaluating the Annuity Options in the TSP

Words matter, especially in financial planning. If you have listened to our podcast, youtube videos or been a long time learning through our online classes, you know that we are very deliberate about making a distinction regarding your TSP: Annuity vs. Pension.

OPM often times refer to your FERS Pension as an Annuity. We NEVER do. It’s a pension. We call it a pension so that it is not confused with insurance products, which are genuine annuities.

Annuities are not good or bad. They are tools. You must know which tool you need from your retirement toolbox to help you plan.

When the TSP calls it an “annuity,” is just that – an annuity with MetLife. The TSP Office uses Metlife to service all annuities for federal employees.

Be very careful before you invest in an annuity. Normally, once you have invested in an annuity, there are no “undo” buttons. This does not make annuities bad; it just means that you need to make an informed decision about what is right for you. If you have ever wanted a sounding board to bounce this idea off of, we offer federal employees one on one consultations to go through their options.

Some “eh” Pros of Annuitizing your TSP

Guaranteed Income: One of the primary advantages of annuities is the guarantee of a consistent income stream. By converting a lump sum or making regular contributions, you can ensure a reliable source of income

throughout your retirement years. This financial stability can provide peace of mind, allowing you to meet your day-to-day expenses and fulfill your lifestyle goals without worrying about market fluctuations.

Long-Term Financial Security: Annuities are designed to provide long-term financial security. By opting for an annuity, you create a stream of income that can last for a specified period or even throughout your lifetime, depending on the type of annuity chosen. This ensures that you have a source of funds that won’t deplete, regardless of how long you live or how the financial markets perform.

Diversification and Risk Mitigation: Annuities offer diversification benefits to your overall investment portfolio. By allocating a portion of your retirement savings to an annuity, you balance your risk exposure. While other investments may be subject to market volatility, an annuity provides a stable income foundation, minimizing the impact of economic fluctuations on your retirement income.

Really Big Cons of Annuities in the TSP you should be aware of

Limited Liquidity: Annuities typically come with limited liquidity. Once you invest your funds in an annuity, access to the principal amount becomes restricted. While annuities may offer some withdrawal options, early withdrawals or accessing more than the allowable percentage may result in penalties and fees. It’s crucial to carefully consider your liquidity needs before committing a significant portion of your retirement savings to an annuity.

Complexity and Fees: Annuities can be complex financial products, with various types, features, and riders available. Understanding the terms and conditions, fees, surrender charges, and potential limitations can be challenging. It’s important to review the contract thoroughly and consult with a financial advisor who specializes in annuities to ensure you fully comprehend the implications and costs associated with your chosen annuity.

Potential for Inflation Risk: Annuities may be vulnerable to inflation risk. While they provide a stable income stream, the purchasing power of that income may erode over time due to inflation. It’s essential to consider the potential impact of inflation on your future expenses and assess whether the income generated by the annuity will be sufficient to cover your needs in the long term

Loss of Control and Flexibility: When you purchase an annuity, you surrender control over the invested funds. Unlike other investment options that allow for adjustments or reallocation, annuities typically lock in your investment decisions. This lack of flexibility may limit your ability to respond to changing financial circumstances or adjust your retirement strategy accordingly.

Decoding Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs)

RMDs are a mandatory aspect of retirement accounts, including TSP, IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts), and 401(k)s. It’s essential to understand the key components of RMDs to avoid penalties and maximize your retirement income. Here’s what you need to know:

a. Age Requirement: Generally, RMDs must begin by April 1st of the year following the year in which you turn 72. However, if you continue working beyond 72 and don’t own more than 5% of the company you work for, you may delay RMDs from your employer’s plan until retirement.

b. Calculation: Calculating your RMD involves dividing the account balance by a life expectancy factor. This factor depends on your age and is determined by the IRS. Failing to withdraw the correct amount can result in substantial penalties, so accurate calculations are vital.

c. Tax Considerations: RMDs are typically subject to income tax. Being aware of the potential tax implications and incorporating them into your financial strategy can help you optimize your retirement income.

Exploring Annuities for Financial Stability

Annuities can be a valuable tool for retirees seeking financial stability. By exchanging a lump sum or periodic payments, you can receive a fixed income stream for a specified period or even throughout your lifetime. Here are some key aspects to consider:

a. Immediate Annuities: With immediate annuities, you start receiving payments soon after making a lump-sum payment. This can be an attractive option for those looking for immediate retirement income.

b. Deferred Annuities: Deferred annuities allow you to make regular contributions over time, building your retirement savings. Payments typically begin at a future date you choose, ensuring long-term financial security.

c. Annuity Types: Annuities come in various forms, including fixed, variable, and indexed. Each type offers distinct advantages, so it’s essential to explore and understand the specifics to determine the best fit for your financial goals.

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