The first post in this series looked at the basics of the Thrift Savings Plan and employee contributions. This post will look at your agency contributions and how those affect the total amount you contribute to your TSP account.
Agency Contributions for FERS
FERS employees receive Agency Automatic (1%) and Matching Contributions (on your own TSP contributions).
Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions
These contributions are equal to 1% of your basic pay, beginning the first time you’re paid. Since your agency gives you this benefit, it does not get deducted from your pay. You don’t have to contribute any money to receive it, however, you are subject to vesting.
You’re entitled to keep your automatic contributions and earnings after completing a time in service requirement—3 years for most FERS employees and 2 years for FERS employees in Congressional and certain non-career positions. All federal civilian service counts toward vesting. If you leave government service before satisfying your vesting requirement, your Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions and earnings must be forfeited. If you die before separation from service, you’re automatically considered vested in all money in your account.
Agency Matching Contributions
The first 3% is matched dollar for dollar by your agency, the next 2% is matched at 50 cents on the dollar—meaning when you contribute 5% of your basic pay, your agency contributes another 4% of your basic pay to your TSP account. Together with the Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions, your agency total is 5%. CSRS participants do not receive matching contributions.
Here is a table to better show you how Agency Contributions look (FERS employees):
*Image courtesy of tsp.gov
How Much to Contribute
The IRC elective deferral limit is the max amount you may contribute in a calendar year. This applies to the combined total of your tax-deferred Traditional and Roth contributions.
Note: If you like to contribute large amounts to your account early in the year, be sure not to reach the elective deferral limit too early and miss valuable Agency Matching Contributions.
For members of the armed forces, elective deferrals include all Traditional and Roth contributions from taxable basic, incentive, special, and bonus pay. The elective deferral limit does not apply to Traditional contributions made from tax-exempt pay earned in a combat zone.
The next post will compare and contrast Traditional and Roth TSP accounts.
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