Just What is the TSP?

We field a lot of questions on the TSP — Thrift Savings Plan.  Here’s a good capsule description and a deep resource of links useful for those who need to drill down to the details:

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan for Federal employees.  Congress established the TSP in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986.  The purpose of the TSP is to provide retirement income.  The TSP offers Federal  employees the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under "401(k)" plans.  TSP regulations are published in title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 1600–1690, and are periodically supplemented and amended in the Federal Register. (On October 30, 2000, the Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act was signed; it extends participation in the TSP to members of the uniformed services, including the Ready Reserve.  More information concerning the TSP for members of the uniformed services can be found in the TSP Features for the Uniformed Services.)

In the civilian component of the TSP, employees covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) can contribute to the TSP.  The participation rules are different for FERS and CSRS employees.

The TSP is a defined contribution plan.  The retirement income that you receive from your TSP account will depend on how much you (and your agency, if you are a FERS employee) have contributed to your account during your working years and the earnings on those contributions.

The contributions that you make to your TSP account are voluntary and are separate from your contributions to your FERS Basic Annuity or CSRS annuity.

TSP Features for Civilians


What is the Thrift Savings Plan?


How does the TSP differ from the FERS Basic Annuity and the CSRS annuity?


Who administers the TSP?


What are the major features of the TSP?


How does the TSP fit into the total retirement plan for FERS employees?


How does the TSP fit into the total retirement plan for CSRS employees?


What if I can’t afford to contribute very much?


Can I withdraw my money while I am a Federal employee?


Return to Features Table of Contents

As always, this information is supplied for general interest only.  be sure to contact a qualified professional for actuarial, legal, accounting or tax advisor advice.

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