Author Topic: TSP Heeeellllp!  (Read 3434 times)

oldfierm

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TSP Heeeellllp!
« on: July 07, 2017, 01:08:59 AM »
Anybody have a good contact number for someone at DFAS or TSP who can fix my my pay so it will keep withdrawing money from  paychecks and putting it in TSP? I had contributed about 26k total (traditional and Roth) in May when  just .....stopped...and no amount of messing around in my pay on my own will start it up again.  I'm in a combat zone.  My local PSD told me to call TSP, TSP told me to call DFAS.  DFAS told me to call TSP.  When I finally got someone on the phone at DFAS she was rude and told me to change my percentages and wait another month.  Surprise, it didn't work!  Meanwhile time goes by and I'm missing out on some serious retirement contributions.  Anyone have a good contact or tips for fixing this??

Can't Wait

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2017, 04:35:33 AM »
Do you work for the DoD? If so, you make contribution changes through EBIS.

wenchsenior

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2017, 07:44:38 AM »
Did you by chance do the boneheaded move I did last year of confusing the roth option of the TSP with a roth IRA? 

Last year I started the year not paying great attention, and thought: WOOHOO, TSP is now offering a roth IRA option!  We can now contribute 18000 + 6000 to the regular TSP, and an ADDITIONAL 6500 to the roth.  And I dutifully set the withdrawal up for $1173/pp rather than our usual  $923/pp.  In reality (of course), the TOTAL limit was still 18000 + 6000 regardless of how it was divided up, so we maxed out our total several months before the end of the year, and as a result missed out on about 2k of federal matching. 

I was so dumb, I couldn't figure out what happened when the contributions stopped being deducted. I actually called the TSP people thinking they were screwing up.  Finally, one of them realized the problem.

Ugh, I want to punch myself again just remembering. 


MommyCake

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 09:16:14 AM »
You probably maxed out your contributions and they won't start back up again until January.  Wench senior is right, you miss out on federal matching by not spreading your contributions out through 26 pay periods.

Catbert

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 05:07:18 PM »
You might try PMing Nords.  He's kinda the military guru around here.

I doubt that the problem is at TSP.  Contributions are "pushed" to them by DFAS rather than "pulled" by them.  I'm sure that somewhere along the line a box didn't get checked (or got checked by accident) so that the system doesn't recognize that you're in a combat zone. (I'm assuming that you're right that in a combat zone you can contribute more.)  Mistake could be at the PSD (even if they deny it) or DFAS.

For those who wonder, military TSP works a bit differently than civilian.  I'm pretty sure that there is no government match and there may be an exception to the limits for being in a combat zone.   

kendallf

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 05:31:20 PM »
I'm a civilian DOD employee, so I don't have direct experience, but looking at the combat zone pay rule here:

https://www.tsp.gov/PlanParticipation/EligibilityAndContributions/contributionLimits.html

leads me to ask, have you hit the $18k limit in Roth contributions already?  Read the note about further contributions having to be traditional, even from tax exempt pay.  If your attempted further contributions are not 100% traditional, they may be stopping them because you've hit the Roth limit.

oldfierm

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2017, 12:23:38 AM »
I am military, and in a combat zone my cap should be 18K Roth (it's actually 18K tax exempt, apparently, because even though only 13K made it into the Roth, the other 5K apparently went into traditional as "tax exempt").  I should be able to contribute more (up to 54K total) as long as  put it in traditional.   Which is what I tried to do in My Pay. 

The money stopped coming out in the same month I got a bonus pay ( which is subject to tax, even in a combat zone) and I haven't been able to sort it out since, even though my total contributions up to this point are only 26K, close to 15 of which was the bonus.  There's so much weirdness I feel like I need a DFAS expert on the phone, and my chances of getting one by calling the help line are pretty slim.   Thanks everyone, maybe I'll PM Nords.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2017, 12:29:20 AM by oldfierm »

oldfierm

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2017, 12:27:59 AM »

I doubt that the problem is at TSP.  Contributions are "pushed" to them by DFAS rather than "pulled" by them.  I'm sure that somewhere along the line a box didn't get checked (or got checked by accident) so that the system doesn't recognize that you're in a combat zone. (I'm assuming that you're right that in a combat zone you can contribute more.)  Mistake could be at the PSD (even if they deny it).

This is my fear.  Our PSD is THE WORST and I have a sinking feeling they could fix it with the click of a button but never will because they don't even know it's possible. 

Travis

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2017, 10:20:19 PM »
Double check which pots you're set up to contribute to. You're still maxed at $18k for Traditional for the year, but the extra can go into the Roth. I don't have MyPay in front of me to confirm if there are blocks to check, but it's possible MyPay simply thinks you're done (or possibly you put in too much).

Nords

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2017, 08:57:12 AM »
You might try PMing Nords.  He's kinda the military guru around here.
Thanks, Mary, you mentioned my name and I saw it during my weekly search!

I am military, and in a combat zone my cap should be 18K Roth (it's actually 18K tax exempt, apparently, because even though only 13K made it into the Roth, the other 5K apparently went into traditional as "tax exempt").  I should be able to contribute more (up to 54K total) as long as  put it in traditional.   Which is what I tried to do in My Pay. 

The money stopped coming out in the same month I got a bonus pay ( which is subject to tax, even in a combat zone) and I haven't been able to sort it out since, even though my total contributions up to this point are only 26K, close to 15 of which was the bonus.  There's so much weirdness I feel like I need a DFAS expert on the phone, and my chances of getting one by calling the help line are pretty slim.   Thanks everyone, maybe I'll PM Nords.
We've seen this problem before, oldfierm, and here's a few things to check:
1.  Are you still considered to be in a combat zone?  The Navy is particularly notorious about "forgetting" to send off the message that tells DoD (and DFAS and the TSP) that you're in a combat zone or direct support area.  Here's the list that DoD sends to IRS:
https://www.irs.gov/individuals/military/combat-zones
and if your location is still on your list then your ship (or PSD) might need to check that DFAS has the locator message.  It's some sort of POSREP or diary entry, but I'm not familiar with the latest system.

2.  If you've contributed $18K to your Roth TSP then not only should all subsequent contributions go to your traditional TSP, but DFAS might have shut you down for hitting the $18K Roth TSP limit.  (We don't know that this is a rule, but anecdotal evidence indicates that reaching $18K in the Roth TSP can stop all subsequent contributions.)  You could try setting all of your Roth TSP contribution percentages in myPay to zero and jacking up your traditional TSP contributions to compensate.  I'm not sure whether that will work.

3.  How did you have your bonus pay set for TSP contributions?  It's quite possible that you have a different percentage setting (in myPay) for bonus pay, which tried to send it to the Roth TSP, which slammed into the $18K limit and shut you down.  Check the boxes in myPay for all of your special/bonus pays, both Roth TSP & traditional. 

I share your concerns about PSDs.  You could try talking with a smart E-6 or the CPOIC... or asking them to take it up with their regional PSA.  Unless the PSD OIC is a Mustang, I doubt they'll have enough knowledge or experience to be able to help.

And finally, congratulations on making the most of your TSP contributions during a deployment!  We don't see that happening anywhere near as often as it should.

Footsore Rambler

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2017, 09:21:25 AM »

I was so dumb, I couldn't figure out what happened when the contributions stopped being deducted. I actually called the TSP people thinking they were screwing up.  Finally, one of them realized the problem.

Ugh, I want to punch myself again just remembering.

You aren't dumb.  This element of how the TSP is structured is dumb and confusing!

oldfierm

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2017, 02:03:33 AM »
You might try PMing Nords.  He's kinda the military guru around here.
Thanks, Mary, you mentioned my name and I saw it during my weekly search!

I am military, and in a combat zone my cap should be 18K Roth (it's actually 18K tax exempt, apparently, because even though only 13K made it into the Roth, the other 5K apparently went into traditional as "tax exempt").  I should be able to contribute more (up to 54K total) as long as  put it in traditional.   Which is what I tried to do in My Pay. 

The money stopped coming out in the same month I got a bonus pay ( which is subject to tax, even in a combat zone) and I haven't been able to sort it out since, even though my total contributions up to this point are only 26K, close to 15 of which was the bonus.  There's so much weirdness I feel like I need a DFAS expert on the phone, and my chances of getting one by calling the help line are pretty slim.   Thanks everyone, maybe I'll PM Nords.
We've seen this problem before, oldfierm, and here's a few things to check:
3.  How did you have your bonus pay set for TSP contributions?  It's quite possible that you have a different percentage setting (in myPay) for bonus pay, which tried to send it to the Roth TSP, which slammed into the $18K limit and shut you down.  Check the boxes in myPay for all of your special/bonus pays, both Roth TSP & traditional. 


So after doing some extra math, I [sort of] figured out what happened.  My contribution totals read as thus:

YTD Deductions:  26,165.10
YTD TSP Deferred:  4125.2
YTD TSP Exempt:  8165.1
YTD Roth:  13874.8

So I had my bonus set to go into traditional, on the thinking that it is taxable, so I should be contributing as much tax free pay as possible to the Roth.  BUT, if you add YTD TSP deferred and YTD Roth, you magically get exactly $18,000.  So I think this caused me to hit and 18K cap and everything went all stop.  I should still have plenty of room to contribute to regular TSP, though, because my YTD deductions are only 26,165.1 (and I should be able to go up to 54K).  So last month I changed all Roth contributions to 0 and set my traditional contributions to 60% of base pay.  When I look at my paycheck for the first two weeks of this month, I can say with confidence that something is coming out, but that's it's nowhere near 60%.  I won't really know the whole story for this month until the end of the month when I see the full LES - I guess I'll wait until then and then just hand carry the damn thing over to PSD and try and re-engage.  If they won't fix it...back to DFAS.  Or you never know, maybe by the end of the month it will have corrected itself. 

Thanks everyone!

Nords

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2017, 09:34:09 AM »
So I had my bonus set to go into traditional, on the thinking that it is taxable, so I should be contributing as much tax free pay as possible to the Roth. 
You're a trailblazer.

On one hand, it makes sense to put as much tax-free pay in the Roth as possible.  On the other hand, your taxable pay is now so low that it's quite possible for you to pay no taxes at all.  This is especially true after tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit at lower pay scales, plus Childcare Tax Credits or other programs).  Even if you're paying "some" taxes, it's still at an extremely low rate. 

When there are no longer taxes to pay (or defer), then the issue becomes stuffing the money anywhere you can enjoy low expense ratios and tax-free gains.  The traditional TSP funds are taxed on withdrawal, true, but in this case your traditional TSP contributions are untaxed (because CZTE) and only the profits are taxed.  TSP RMDs would be taxed proportionally (pro rata between contributions & gains), and even if you did a Roth IRA conversion you'd still have a very small tax bill because only the gains are taxed.  I think that it's a good compromise to enter December with $36K in the traditional TSP and just under $18K in the Roth TSP, because only the Roth TSP contribution limit seems to trigger the TSP's computers with a hard stop.

Some of us milbloggers sit around all day trying to reverse-engineer the TSP stories to figure out how the heck the TSP computers are programmed, because it sure isn't on their website or any other documents.  One of these people is a CFP and the spouse of a very senior officer in a combat zone, and even that LES looks screwed up.

Another issue is that there seem to be very few people (under a dozen) who have the financial commitment to contribute more than the $18K limit during the deployment.  Even when the Army was sending soldiers into the desert for year-long deployments, we bloggers never heard of anyone trying to reach the IRS 415(c) additional limit with tax-free pay.  Now that DoD and the IRS have widened the definition of a combat zone (including direct support areas) and now that some servicemembers are actually stationed in them (Qatar) we're seeing more of this situation. 

One milblogger is transferring to a combat support zone with plans to contribute 3 x $54K over the three calendar years that they're in an area.  This will probably include opting in to the DoD Blended Retirement System in 2018, where DoD's matching contributions to their traditional TSP will become part of the annual $54K limit.  We should have this process figured out by the end of 2018.

One of our ideas for that milblogger's transfer was to contribute just under $18K to the Roth TSP before they arrived, and then switch everything to the traditional TSP.  It looks like your large contribution to the Roth TSP (for the right reasons) might have triggered the stop.  Again, not that the TSP explains it via e-mail or even letter.

Thanks for keeping us posted on how it goes.  Eventually enough people will be asking these questions for the TSP to start answering them.

mgnpttr

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2017, 10:01:09 AM »
Not sure if you have solved the problem yet but check out this post as well:

https://mccareer.org/2017/07/09/guest-post-maximizing-tsp-contributions-during-deployment/

Good luck!

oldfierm

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Re: TSP Heeeellllp!
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2017, 07:22:54 AM »
Wow...thanks everyone - I really think it was that bonus that messed me up.  I'll keep you updated on this month's pay (like I said, I can tell something came out, I just don't know what yet).  Next year, I will only be in the combat zone until around mid-year, so my goal will be to front load as much as possible.  With no bonus to confuse things, my intention is to contribute rrrrright up to that 18K mark to the Roth and then switch to traditional for my remaining time in the combat zone.  Hopefully at 100% of my base pay, which won't get me quite to the 54K, but it will get me close enough to be proud of myself. 

Nords - very interesting discussion of the combat zone stuff.  I really thought it would be easy for me to "max" this middle year at 54K, since I'm here the whole year.  I didn't realize how hard it would be to control the percentages and foresee where my money would end up.