Thrift Savings Plan
HRA-360 Total Compensation
Dr. James Waters
2 March 2010
Every successful organization depends on the abilities of a good workforce. The United States Government is no different. One of the major concerns of most employees is receiving fair compensation for the work performed, even after retirement. In 1920 the U S Federal government provided retirement, disability and survivor benefits for most civilian employees. The plan continues to provide benefits to those still covered under the plan. Employees covered under CSRC were not covered by Social Security. However, realizing a need for change, the United States Congress designed a new program, the Thrift Savings Plan, which was enacted 6 June 1986 and became effective 1 January 1987 in the Federal Employees Retirement Act of 1986. The Thrift Savings Plan is meant to operate like a 401(k) retirement savings plan. The plan permits employees to defer paying taxes on the money saved until they retire, at which time they may be in a lower tax bracket because they are no longer earning a full time income. The Thrift Savings Plan is one of the three parts of the Federal Employees Retirement System, and is the largest defined contribution plan in the world with assets worth over $210 billion dollars. The Thrift Savings Plan has the over 3.7 million participants who contribute to the plan on a voluntary basis. Some these civilian participants included: Individuals on approved leave without pay to serve as full-time officers or employees of certain unions or other employee organizations Individuals assigned from a Federal agency to a state or local government under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment who choose to retain FERS or CSRS coverage Individuals appointed or otherwise assigned to one of the Cooperative Extension Services, as defined by the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 Federal justice and judges, certain Federal bankruptcy judges and magistrate judges, Claims Court judges, and Court of Veteran Appeals judges Nonappropriated Fund employees of the Defense Department or the U.S. Coast Guard who have chosen to be covered by FERS or CSRS. According to an article in the Business Source Complete, participants in the TSP are disproportionately male, higher earners, older, full-time workers, and either white or nonblack minorities compared with the population at large. I expect this number to continue to grow as people’s concerns increase about Social Security’s existence further down the road. Employees in the Federal Retirement System are limited to contributing 10 percent of their earned income to the program and the federal government will match up to 10 percent. Employees who fall under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) who are not covered by Social Security may invest up to 5 percent of their earnings to the TSP. The federal government contributes 1 percent to TSP accounts for all employees covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System. Many government employees obviously consider this program an important compensation and they continue to increase their contributions as their earnings increase. Data collected by the Department of Labor, the Employee Benefit Research Institute, and the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board for 1992, 1993, and 1997 noted that the TSP had a participation rate of 79 percent, which is more than the 68 percent eligible workers utilizing 401(k) plans, and 8 percent participating in IRAs. A contributing factor to the differences in the number of employees participating in the different programs may be the fact that government employees have a wealth of knowledge available to them on the TSP. They are able to monitor their accounts daily on the internet. In addition, changes may be made on how much is contributed and they may borrow from the account when necessary with minimal penalties. Although, they are...
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