For millions of investors in the federal Thrift Savings Plan the question is whether you want to pay taxes now, or wait until you start withdrawing money from your account. Most people are currently investing on a pre-tax basis. That means when they begin to cash out, they will have to pay taxes on the entire amount they withdraw at their (then) current tax rate.
Since 2012, TSP investors have also had the option to put some, part or all of their contributions to their TSP accounts in a Roth option later on your investments. Their Roth investments are after-tax money. That means that in the Roth option, none of the money in the account will be taxed at withdrawal regardless of how big the account is.
So do you want to pay Uncle Sam some now, and none later? Or get the tax break while you are investing, then pay the full freight when you start withdrawing money from your TSP account?
There is a major perk for high-income investors in the TSP Roth. As an expert pointed out:
“Roth TSP is not a Roth IRA. Unlike a Roth IRA, there are no income restrictions on contributions to the Roth TSP feature. Any participant who is eligible to contribute to the TSP can make Roth contributions. Also, Roth TSP contributions are subject to different contribution limits than Roth IRAs. In 2016, you can contribute up to $18,000 (plus $6,000 if you are 50 or older) to your Roth TSP,* while you can only contribute $5,500 ($6,500 if you are 50 or older) to a Roth IRA. (If you are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA, making Roth contributions to your TSP account will not affect your Roth IRA contribution limits.)”
There is no one-size-fits all answer. So today at 10 a.m. our Your Turn radio show will talk with financial planner Arthur Stein about the differences in the two types of investment and which one might be right for you. Stein is a well-known Washington area financial planner. Many of his clients are federal workers or retirees. At least one of them is a member of the TSP’s millionaires club.
Obvious questions for Stein include:
What’s the difference between the regular TSP account and a Roth TSP account?
What about having both a Roth and a regular TSP account? How would that work?
What are the pros and cons of each option?
What are the critical decision factors when deciding wither it does/does not make sense to go the Roth route?
What about the Roth TSP once you are retired?
Once you retire or leave government would you be better off leaving your money in the TSP or moving it to an IRA with more investment options?
Those are basic questions. But you must have more. If so, do this: send them to me in advance of the show which starts at 10 a.m. EDT. Email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can call in during the show at 202-465-3080. You can listen online at www.federalnewsradio.com or at 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. area.
While aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor, astronaut John Grunsfeld placed a call to NPR’s Car Talk. He was trying to find out why the government vehicle he was driving shook violently before the engine died.