According to Henry Manning, Operations Officer for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Military Personnel and Quality of Life, participating in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) once opting into the Blended Retirement System (BRS) is one of the best financial decisions a soldier can make.
While the TSP is similar to the well-known 401k employee sponsored plans offered to many civilians, Manning says that the TSP is even better. The TSP, like the 401K, is a method of growing income that Is tax-deferred. However, unlike some other plans, the TSP requires no management fees, and the contributions to the TSP reduce taxable income. Furthermore, the performance record has remained stable over the years.
Manning goes on to say that one of the biggest, if not the most important, is that a soldier’s TSP contribution is matched by the government (up to 5%). Another perk is the customization options, which can be altered at any time without penalty. Individual needs of each soldier can be met with customization ranging anywhere from a mix of stocks and bonds to the more conservative savings fund.
Soldiers who separate from the TSP before retirement eligibility can be provided with a savings account supplemented by DOD contributions plus any earnings. Soldiers who separate after only two years are entitled to all associated TSP earnings, unlike the legacy retirement system. Manning also noted that he had had a Thrift Savings Plan account of his own for many years. Other army personnel that he knows have also chosen to take advantage of this benefit as well.
Manning recommends that soldiers consult with someone who can assist with the customization of where their TSP funds are invested, such as a Personal Financial Manager at Army Community Service.
Opting into the TSP is not automatic, Manning emphasized. Individual enrollment needs to be completed by each soldier, and they must also specify their contribution percentages.
Soldiers who joined the army on or after January 1, 2018, can have government matched contributions of up to 1% after 60 days of service. The government can then match up to 5 percent of donations after two years of service. Manning also says that for soldiers who entered before January of 2018 can immediately receive up to a 5% match as soon as BRS opt-in and TSP enrollment is complete.
TSP account owner, Sgt. Laura Martin demonstrated just how easy enrollment could be. Upon pulling up her MyPay account, she showed the available TSP option to select that includes instructions on enrolling either in a traditional TSP (tax-deferred), or a Roth TSP (not tax-deferred). Her husband is a TSP holding soldier as well. Both of them took out an interest-free TSP loan to pay cash for a house they want to retire in.
In conclusion, Manning noted that many soldiers do not remain in service for 20 years, where they will have the ability to take advantage of a traditional retirement pension. This is why enrolling in the Thrift Savings Plan makes sense and can be a sage financial move for soldiers.