I recently retired from the Foreign Service (coincidentally, at 52) with almost 31 years of service.
If you're maxing out your TSP and a Roth and presumably living well below your income, you've laid the groundwork for your retirement from the Foreign Service. The FSPS retirement system is pretty generous and geared toward people retiring relatively early, with the basic minimum for immediate retirement being 20 years of service and 50 years of age. If you joined at 26, you should be able to retire as early as 46 and draw a full pension. At that point, you'd get a pension of about 34% of your high three years average salary (with COLA) plus the snnuity supplement (no COLA and comes with an earned income limit at a certain age) and FEHB for life. If you retire at 52, you'll get about 40% of your (presumably higher) high three salary, a bigger Annuity Supplenent, and FEHB.
I don't understand your question about TICing out to avoid a reduced pension. If you voluntarily leave the service before 20/50, you'll get whatever pension you qualify for, but not until way down the road when you reach a regular retirement age. I'm not sure what happens if you TIC out before 20/50, but I suspect it is the same. You can ask RNET. In any case, to TIC out requires 22 years overall or 15 in a single grade. By the time you reach those numbers you would be close to regular retirement age.
To my knowledge, the exception to the 20/50 rule is opening your window for the Senior Foreign Service. If you open your window and aren't promoted into the Senior Service within six boards (effectively five years), you must immediately leave the Foreign Service. If you don't have 20/50, you will still immediately collect your pension at whatever level you have earned without any penalty. If you joined at 26, you could get promoted to FO-1 in time to open your window before age 45, so this would be a possibility.
If you are planning on retiring at 52 (or even earlier), you might want to think about your TSP contributions. I find myself in the position of having a lot of money in the TSP that I can't withdraw until 59-1/2. This isn't a problem for me, and the money is growing in the meantime. If your pension and supplement, Roth, and whatever other resources you have will allow you to bridge the gap between retirement and when you can access your TSP funds, I would fully fund the TSP. If you can't cover the gap, you might consider funding the TSP up to the level of match and then investing the other money in ways that will give you access.
A few other thoughts geared toward early retirement:
--While you are overseas, save the amount of money you think you'd have to pay in monthly rent in DC. When you go back to DC you'll have a pile of cash or the downpayment on a home. Remember that DC is one of the nation's most expensive real estate markets.
--Avoid serving in DC. Financially, being overseas is generally much more attractive.
--Consider serving in danger and/or hardship posts. If you save and invest your differentials, it can add up to a lot of money. Of course, this has to be balanced by family considerations and the possibility of being shot, blown up, or dying of some horrible tropical disease. You generally get danger and hardship pay for good reasons.
Good luck in your Foreign Service career. I had a lifetime of adventure and hope you do, too. Keep your head down and be safe. Most people think we spend our careers wearing dinner jackets and attending cocktail parties. They have no idea of the lives we and our families actually lead.
Wow, hello future me. I'm 28. 2 years into my first post. Maxing out TSP and a Roth for a total of 23.5k/yr plus state matching. Hoping to retire at 52. What tips do you have for yourself 20 years ago? Anything you'd do differently? Do I have to TIC out to avoid the reduced pension?