The $3 Million G-Man

Thursday - 6/17/2010, 4:00am EDT

One of the fastest growing components of the federal civil service is composed of smart employee-investors who have built optional retirement nest eggs worth $500,000 to $1 million.

And would you believe that that there are 75 U.S. Government workers who have socked away $1 million or more in their Thrift Savings Plan. The TSP is the government's in-house version of the private sector 401(k) plan.

One TSP investor has an I-did-it-my-way TSP balance in excess of $3,000,000.00.

That money in their TSP accounts is independent of the lifetime monthly annuity they will receive when they retire.

Currently there are 7,020 federal workers will accounts worth $500,000 to $599,999, and another 2,121 whose TSP accounts range from $600,000 to $600,999.

There are 698 current or former federal investors whose TSP balances are $700,000 to $799,999 and 205 with $800,000 to $899,999 in the stock, bond or treasury securities funds offered by the federal version of a 401(k) plan.

There are 65 account holders whose TSP balances are between $900,000 and $999,999, and another 69 whose accounts are currently valued at between $1,000,000 and $1,999,999.

The average TSP account balance of federal workers under both the old (CSRS) and new (FERS) retirement plans was just over $68,000.

CSRS provides a more generous civil service benefit to retirees than the FERS system that replaced it. But the majority of federal workers who are under the newer FERS plan qualify for a 5 percent government match if they invest 5 percent of their own money.

So how much do federal workers make? And how do they turn that into five and six figure TSP accounts?

Salaries for the vast majority of federal workers range from just over $22,000 to $155,500 spread across 15 pay grades. Members of the Senior Executive Service range from $119,554 to $179,700. The executive levels, which include career feds and political appointees, range from $145,700 to $199,700.

Members of Congress and their staffs also participate in the TSP.

Investors pumped up their account several ways. Some (often successful private sector lawyers appointed to the federal bench) started out with roll-over $1 million accounts. Others transferred tax deferred money from private accounts. In January, February and March of this year, workers rolled over a record $66.4 million from outside accounts into the TSP. For more on that, and on the average balances, click here.

While it helps to start out with $1 million, other successful investors also put in as much as allowed by IRS rules each year and those under FERS took advantage of the tax-deferred government match.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


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