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All About the Thrift Savings Plan

By Ann Wells for LIFELines
(Last Reviewed January 6, 2008)

If you're a uniformed service member, you are eligible to help save for your retirement through the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP — a retirement savings tool formerly open only to federal civilian employees. The TSP allows you to save a percentage of your pretax income, up to a current maximum of 15,500 per year.

The TSP is open to all active-duty and reserve members of the U.S. uniformed services, including:

    • Army

    • Navy

    • Marine Corps

    • Air Force

    • Coast Guard

    • Public Health Service

    • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    • National Guard

Reservists who are also federal employees can participate in the TSP in both capacities, though separate accounts are maintained for each type of contribution. Upon separation or retirement from the service, individuals are no longer eligible to participate in the uniformed services TSP.

When to Enroll
While the TSP is open to all members of the uniformed services, participation is not automatic. If you choose to enroll, you must do the necessary paperwork to become an active participant.

How to Enroll
If you choose to participate, ask your disbursing office or download and print out the TSP Election Form (TSP-U-1). Return the completed form to your service's payroll or disbursing office. You can change the amount of your contribution using another TSP-U-1 form.

There are five investment funds available through the TSP. Initial contributions are automatically invested in the fund with the lowest risk. You must notify the TSP if you choose to invest in another fund. Notification can be made in several ways:

    • Through the TSP website

    • By submitting an investment allocation form (TSP-U-50). This form is not available online, but you can get one through your TSP service office or directly from your service.

The TSP is an easy opportunity to begin or increase your retirement savings. Take some time to learn about the program and how TSP can help you prepare for the future.


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