The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is the military’s retirement account. Learning how to maximize its utility should be high on your financial priority list. I’m going to create a guide that will show you how to crush it with the TSP. We already showed you step 1 in that guide. Here’s step 2…
The 2nd Step to Crush the TSP – Decide
If you want to crush it with the TSP, you’ve got some decisions you have to make. You have to decide:
- How much you’re going to invest.
- What investments you’re going to use.
Decide How Much You Are Going to Invest
If you want to crush it, you need to invest as much as you can afford. How much can you contribute? Here is the TSP page that lists the contribution limits.
That page may be confusing, so here is the bottom line:
- You can contribute $19,000 in 2019.
- If you are 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,000.
- If you are deployed to a combat zone, you can contribute even more.
- Any matching contributions you get from the DoD due to the Blended Retirement System or BRS (if you’re in it) does not count toward these limits.
How much should you contribute? As much as you can. Period. Even a few hundred dollars is better than nothing.
Decide Which Investments You Are Going to Use
The TSP is pretty simple in this regard. You only really have six options.
The first option is to just let someone else handle this for you by using a Lifecycle fund. According to the TSP:
The L Funds, or “Lifecycle” funds, use professionally determined investment mixes that are tailored to meet investment objectives based on various time horizons. The objective is to strike an optimal balance between the expected risk and return associated with each fund.
Using L Funds is a simple, easy, and effective strategy that is completely fine for most people. If that is how you want to do it, you can just put all your TSP money in the L Fund with the year that is closest to when you want to retire and skip the rest of this blog post. For example, if you want to retire in 2034, you’d invest in the L 2030.
If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, then you have five other investment options besides using a Lifecycle fund. The five investment options are listed in this table from the TSP website. Or you can read this booklet that discusses your investment options.
The Bottom Line – Decisions You Have to Make
Like we said at the beginning, you have to decide:
- How much you’re going to invest. (Hint: as much as you can afford.)
- What investments you’re going to use – Lifecycle vs do-it-yourself with the five other available funds.
If you decided against the Lifecycle funds, the next thing you have to do is determine your asset allocation, which is our next step to crushing it with the TSP.