The new changes to My Account from FRTIB — the agency that manages TSP — come in response to feedback from participants, who have been using the new platform for just about one year since the board rolled over to a new recordkeeper last June.
FRTIB’s tumultuous transition in 2022 quickly led to frustrations from TSP participants trying to use the updated platform. The initial launch was challenging, to say the least, but FRTIB said it has been working since then to try to make things easier and smoother for participants who had initial difficulties.
Along with featuring account balance more prominently, My Account now has a different layout, including an expanded navigation menu, a red alert icon signaling new messages, suggested links to read more about TSP investment options and a personalized “to-do list” for TSP participants. All these tweaks are featured on the front page of My Account, once participants log in.
After the recordkeeping transition, one common pain point from TSP participants was that the website was clunky and difficult to use — the new changes are an effort to address the complaints. Weaver said the goal was to make the layout clearer and easier to navigate.
“The new layout makes it easier to focus on different portions of the page, and different pieces of information,” Weaver said. “Before, there were, in my opinion, so many tiles that it was sort of distracting.”
John Hatton, staff vice president of policy and programs at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association, said he has heard ongoing complaints from members that the new My Account website is difficult to follow, and lacks some of the ease of access they were used to with the old website.
Although the initial rollout was a “complete mess,” Hatton said the board’s response to participants’ frustrations and the steps to address pain points have been positive.
“We’re glad that the TSP has been working on improving the user-friendliness of the site, and hope these new features will continue to do so,” he told Federal News Network.
But website design is far from the only issue that has plagued TSP in the last year. In one other recent challenge, due to a back-end error, some TSP participants did not receive their full required minimum distribution (RMD) in 2022, and instead received it in 2023. The issue impacted roughly 2,400 individuals, or 1.9% of the 126,000 TSP users who had to take an RMD last year.
To address the issue, FRTIB gave the affected participants letters of explanation that they could give to IRS to avoid a penalty. But Hatton said there may be even more long-term impacts for the participants.
“While the TSP has worked with the IRS and provided letters to enrollees to prevent those participants from receiving a penalty for failing to take their RMD, there may be negative financial implications for an individual forced to take two RMDs in one year, such as a higher marginal tax rate and higher Medicare Part B premiums,” Hatton said. “There’s still more to do to ensure all individuals affected by this issue are held harmless from higher tax liability or other financial costs.”
What else is coming to TSP?
For the new TSP, there are still more changes ahead. For one, FRTIB is looking to soon allow participants to adjust their monthly payment amount online. The update is also in response to feedback from participants, but there is not yet a timeline on implementation.
The board also plans to soon let participants opt out of more types of paper documents and instead request to receive electronic copies only.
“Conversely, people like me who like paper, we’re going to allow people to opt in and have their quarterly statements mailed to them. Right now, they just show up in your My Account as an attachment in your secure mailbox,” Weaver said.
The plans for TSP have been, and remain, to listen to participants’ feedback about the platform and make changes along the way. It was never meant to be a static update last summer, Weaver said.
“That’s why there are the surveys on all of the different channels. That’s why we’re offering new channels [for feedback],” Weaver said. “You look at the metrics. Where are people going? Where are they if they’re bouncing back and forth? Does that show that the information isn’t clear? We monitor those kinds of metrics as well.”
Now one year later, Weaver reflected on some lessons learned from the rollout of the updated TSP — one of the biggest challenges during the process was the flood of calls to ThriftLine, TSP’s customer service center. Prior to the launch, the board anticipated ThriftLine would receive about double the normal amount of calls. Once the update launched, ThriftLine ended up with six times its typical number of calls from participants.
“I’m not sure that anyone could have estimated that,” Weaver said. “But it was certainly something that we learned. We need to make sure that our call center reps are fully trained so that they can answer questions.”
In a 2022 survey, 87% of TSP participants said they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with TSP, but that survey last year was conducted prior to the June 2022 update.
The TSP participant satisfaction survey for this year is currently out in the field. The results of the annual survey will be available in the coming months.
“We are always working with the participant in mind, we are always trying to make sure that the participant receives excellent service and in an efficient and effective manner,” Weaver said.