How to get your TSP questions answered

Monday - 6/14/2010, 6:27pm EDT

Penny Moran, director of the Office of Participant Services, TSP

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Have you ever had a question about your TSP and not known where to turn?

Look no more!

Penny Moran is director of the Office of Participant Services for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and says there are a lot of resources out there available to you.

"Everything you ever wanted to know about the TSP is out on our website -- www.tsp.gov. We've got information out there. We also have calculators that can help you decide how to maximize your contributions. We have links to other websites that can help you with your retirement planning, like the Ballpark Estimator."

She says this should be your first stop if you're looking for info.

This is also where you can find descriptions of all the different funds that are in the TSP, although Moran reminds participants that the Board and the website do not give investment advice.

"We provide information about all of our 5 individual funds, and, of course, we have our lifecycle -- or L funds -- for those people who don't have any experience in investment, or maybe they don't have the time to manage their own accounts. . . . All they have to do when picking an L fund is decide when they think they're going to need the money."

But what if you're having a problem with an investment or withdraw from your paycheck?

Moran says the first step is to figure out whether or not you're actually dealing with a situation where a correction is needed.

"If you aren't certain [about] what your contribution allocation is, where you're having your new money invested or perhaps with an interfund transfer, you can always check where you are currently by going to the website and [looking] in the My Access section. Or, you can always call us. If you have a question about a transaction with the TSP -- not your contributions or loan payments -- but actually a transaction, you can give us a call at 877-968-3778, or TSP-YOU-FIRST."

So, if you do happen to have a problem with a loan or loan payment, Moran says you must remember that you are ultimately responsible for paying back the money, no matter what.

"When we issue a loan, we contact the payroll office and say, 'This participant has taken a loan, these are what the loan payments are, please start loan payments'. If, for some reason, those loan payments don't start coming out of the paycheck, the participant needs to go to the payroll office and ask what's going on and get them started. In addition to that, they need to make sure that any missed payments are taken care of. They have to send a check directly to us and we'll apply it against the missing payments. If they don't keep their loan payments current, they may actually have a taxable distribution of a loan, which means that any outstanding balance and accrued interest becomes taxable income, and they may have to pay the 10 percent early withdraw penalty tax."

Basically, the last thing you want to do is blame the payroll office for not taking the payments out of your paycheck.

But say you already know all about the options available to you through the TSP's different funds and you have no loan. You just have a question about a transaction and want to speak to a human.

This is where the call center comes in: 877-968-3778.

If you need to change your address, there are actually different steps you need to follow, depending on whether you are retired or an active employee.

"If you are an active employee, you have to change your address through your agency. Many of the agencies have automated self-service, and they can change their address there, or they can go through their personnel office or go to payroll. Once you're separated {from the federal government}, then you can change your address directly with us, either on the website, sending us a letter or calling the call center."

Learn more about changes coming to the TSP this year by listening to this week's For Your Benefit.

Email the author of this post at dramienski@federalnewsradio.com