A few TSP developments hint at what’s coming next for participants

It’s been nearly three months since the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board rolled over millions of Thrift Savings Plan accounts to a new recordkeeping system, and after a rocky start, the board has made some notable improvements.

On the user end, the system update, coined “Converge,” brought participants a TSP mobile app, 5,000 new mutual fund options, a live chat window and new security functions, but along with the new features came a host of...

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It’s been nearly three months since the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board rolled over millions of Thrift Savings Plan accounts to a new recordkeeping system, and after a rocky start, the board has made some notable improvements.

On the user end, the system update, coined “Converge,” brought participants a TSP mobile app, 5,000 new mutual fund options, a live chat window and new security functions, but along with the new features came a host of issues, too.

When the update went live, many participants struggled to access their information, take out loans or change their investments, ultimately flooding ThriftLine, the board’s customer service call center. The record-high call influx caused wait times to skyrocket.

Although starting out at an average wait time of two hours at the beginning of June, the number has since dropped off significantly. Kim Weaver, FRTIB’s director of external affairs, told Federal News Network the average time it takes now to reach a customer service representative is 45 seconds. That means you’d be waiting about the same amount of time as it takes to make your bed, or pour a fresh cup of coffee.

Here are a few other recent numbers from TSP:

More than 2 million participants have successfully set up new logins for TSP’s updated MyAccount.

Over 300,000 participants have downloaded the TSP mobile app.

Since June 1, TSP has processed about 95,700 loans and about 680,000 withdrawals.

Just over 170,000 participants have designated a beneficiary in the new MyAccount system.

Despite the board overcoming some initial challenges, many participants are still sharing frustrations with the system as a whole — particularly over the interface of the new MyAccount website itself.

“My biggest frustration is the lack of sophistication and flexibility that we had in the old software, which proved itself to be more than adequate for several years,” one TSP participant wrote in an email to Federal News Network.

“They replaced a fully functional website with a shiny paperweight,” another participant wrote.

“If the site and correspondence was accurate, it would be great. The new site is not user friendly. Information is confusing,” a third participant wrote.

Another significant part of the update — the mutual fund window — so far has 4,295 TSP enrollees. Of those who have enrolled, 2,140 participants have transferred roughly $92.3 million into mutual funds, Weaver said.

“Based on the usage in private sector plans, we believe eventually roughly 2% of TSP participants will use the mutual fund window,” Weaver said.

On Capitol Hill, though, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently called on the board to “reconsider, reverse or amend” TSP investments in Chinese companies, with the concerns centering on the 5,000 mutual fund options now available to participants.

And other frustrations with TSP are gaining more Congressional attention, too. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) wrote to the Government Accountability Office, requesting a “comprehensive review,” of the major TSP update.

“The members requested the review after hearing from constituents about problems with the system, including difficulties accessing accounts, discrepancies in account balances, missing or incomplete information and hours-long wait times to reach customer service,” an Aug. 8 press release stated. “The GAO review will examine the planning, contract award and implementation, as well as oversight by the FRTIB.”

GAO quickly agreed to look into the problems. Agency staff will be able to start the investigation this November, said A. Nicole Clowers, GAO’s managing director for Congressional relations, in an Aug. 3 letter to Norton and Spanberger.

“We look forward to working with the GAO,” Weaver told Federal News Network.

Later this week, TSP’s board members will hear directly from Accenture, the contractor behind the major update, at its monthly board meeting.

TSP millionaires report

If you’re looking to reach TSP millionaire status, the odds might not be in your favor. FRTIB reported on Aug. 8 that the number of TSP participants with accounts totaling over $1 million dropped significantly since December 2021. Federal News Network’s Mike Causey predicted the plunge in late July.

So-called “TSP millionaires” now make up just 1.7% of TSP accounts, compared with about 3% last year. Currently, there are about 72,000 TSP millionaires, down nearly 36%, from roughly 112,000 in December.

Weaver told Federal News Network that the market is the main reason behind that dip.

“The stock market fell during quarter two of calendar year 2022,” she said. “That’s what drives our participants’ account balances. If the market is down, generally account balances fall.”

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Robert O’Shaughnessy

Neither the order of the stars nor the proportions of the United States flag was prescribed until June 24, 1912. That was when President William Taft signed Executive Order 1556.

Source: Smithsonian Institution

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