Author Topic: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants  (Read 11152 times)

NICE!

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TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« on: December 29, 2014, 01:24:10 PM »
I have a quick question for all the mil/FERS types who use the TSP. They just announced that, starting next month, they will not accept dollar amount contributions into the Roth TSP. They will only accept a % of pay.

This is really annoying because it basically makes it impossible to hit the maximum contribution amount. You are required to use whole numbers for your % of pay that you contribute, so you're either going to overshoot or undershoot. For example, based upon my Base Pay, I will be investing about $6 less than the max. Is this a horrible problem? No. However, base pay goes up based upon longevity and rank (I know, waaaahhhh what a good problem to have), so this is a constantly moving target that you have to try to hit. Add to that the fact that I can't quite figure out how quickly they make TSP changes through MyPay, and you have a recipe for missing the target high or low by a good bit. Obviously, missing high is worse so everyone will try to miss low and therefore lose $$$ in the long run.

Basically my question is - can we find a way around this? Question 2 is, why in the hell do we have a rule like this in the 21st Century/Information Age? That is the part that reallllllyyyyyyyy grinds my gears.

EDIT: 32 views and no response? Come on, team.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 01:50:51 PM by NICE! »

CheapskateWife

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2014, 02:29:40 PM »
Dude, I hear you!  My DH is Active military and we have been playing with his percentage also...its a crappy game and I don't understand the why part either; other than the possibility that there is some sort of new programming/wacky disconnect between DFAS/myPay and TSP. 

So the big take away for me is to make sure you update your TSP contributions in MyPay to reflect the change because the info on the TSP site makes it seem as though they are negating all previous dollar amount allotments and you have to restart them.

As far as the timing piece...that gets interesting too....you get your LES for January in the middle of the month with your first half of pay, correct?  But that TSP contribution doesn't actually hit until the 2nd or 3rd of the following month.  Lets say you make a contribution allocation change in January, it won't reflect until your February LES and won't show up in TSP accounts until early March.  Aggravating, but this is the trade off for the extremely low admin fees.

Just wait until you want to take some funds out of your TSP...all correspondence happens by snail mail.

Mazzinator

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2014, 02:37:15 PM »
My DH is active duty army, and i just "over shoot" it. Like Cheapskate said it's a month delay, so you want to make the change now for january. Basically the month before.

We overshoot it by over 2 months. I do this so the paychecks are "bigger" around the holidays. So, for next year, we are using a % that roughly equals $2k/month. So tsp will be maxed out by Oct. If you overshoot it, they will automatically take out "enough" to max it (and not go over the limit)

So, unless you make less than $18k base pay, there shouldn't be any issues.

Hope this helps!!

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2014, 03:03:29 PM »
Ok, well the contribution is set at $1500 right now, which should be the contribution for January, right? IE Is the next contribution that happens going to be for 2014 or 2015? I am AD Mil.

When do I need to change it to make sure I get the right % for the Feb pay?

Also, thank you very much for sharing my frustration. It initially felt like whining, which I still think it is to a certain extent, but it is good to know others share my opinion. Like you say, may this is our additional administrative fee.

CheapskateWife

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2014, 03:04:27 PM »
What I find interesting in all this discussion is the difference between Army soldiers and Army Employees.  As a civ employee, I request any changes through the Army Benefits Center, not MyPay.  We are still permitted to use exact dollar amounts ($18,000max/26 pay periods = 692 per paycheck) when we request our allotments and if we don't get the amount just right leading to the end of the year (IE overshooting and maxing out before the end of the year), we miss out on the 5% matching funds that happen with each paycheck.  Thustly, I watch my allotments like a hawk so as not to miss out on the free money. 


CheapskateWife

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2014, 03:06:59 PM »
From the TSP website:

Active Military? Your Roth Contributions May Stop Unless You Act— (December 3, 2014) If you are an active duty member of the Army, Air Force, or Navy* making dollar-amount Roth contributions to your TSP account, these deductions will stop on January 31, 2015, unless you act.

How your election requirements will change:
 Starting January 1, 2015, a change in myPay will require you to designate your Roth contributions as a percentage of your pay, not a dollar amount. If you don’t comply with this change, then the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will not be able to process your Roth contributions. This change affects your Roth contributions only; your traditional contributions are already designated as a percentage of pay.

When the change will take place:
 The new requirement will take effect January 1, 2015. You will have 30 days to change your Roth election from a dollar amount to a percentage of your pay. If your new Roth election is not received by January 31, 2015, then DFAS will not be able to process your Roth contributions until you update them.

How to make the change:
 Log into myPay starting January 1, 2015. You'll see a special TSP section called “Traditional TSP and Roth TSP”—click there. Then, in the “Contribution from Roth TSP” section, you can enter the percentage of your pay that you’d like to contribute (10%, for example). Finally, click “Save” at the bottom of the screen.

*Includes Navy Reserve component who serve more than 30 days on active duty



Looks like you make your change in January to avoid the break in contributions!


Mazzinator

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2014, 03:17:47 PM »
Nice- yes, the $1,500 is for jan 2015.

December contribution is already taken out (in MyPay) but will not show (in TSP) until ~Jan 3.

Your next paycheck, in a few days, is still Dec. (EOM pay) Your Dec 2014 LES shows your total contribution amount for 2014 now. If you log into mypay now you can see this.

If you want more taken out for Jan 2015, change it before dec 31.

Any changes you make in Jan will be reflected in Feb paycheck.

Cheapskate- i did not know this was the case for civilan employees!! Thanks, i'll need to adjust my advice accordingly to a different post.

Leave it to the big gubmint to make things nice and confusing!!!

CheapskateWife

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2014, 03:20:29 PM »

Cheapskate- i did not know this was the case for civilan employees!! Thanks, i'll need to adjust my advice accordingly to a different post.

Leave it to the big gubmint to make things nice and confusing!!!

DH and I struggle with our TSP's because of just such an occurance...there are different rules depending on who's account we are looking at :)  Funny thing is that DFAS processes both of our paychecks.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2014, 03:56:50 PM »
I knew it was "EOM" pay I just didn't know if the December contributions are actually invested in that calendar year (2014, in this case). Just to be clear, you're saying that they are? I don't know this for sure since explanations are never good with the TSP and I've only just begun to get to the point of maxing it (yes, I've been slow to come around to MMM ways).

So, this TSP changes on the $ to % front is really an almost completely 2015 change, right (all months except Jan)? They're saying we have all of Jan to change it, though. I find that confusing as well. You certainly can't start using % in MyPay yet, I've checked. The TSP website confirms this (Jan 1, 2015 is when that starts).

If this is true, it will actually make it easier for me to close the gap between the IRS limit and what I can actually achieve via % of Base Pay.

Mazzinator

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2014, 05:50:09 PM »
Quote
I knew it was "EOM" pay I just didn't know if the December contributions are actually invested in that calendar year (2014, in this case). Just to be clear, you're saying that they are? I don't know this for sure since explanations are never good with the TSP and I've only just begun to get to the point of maxing it (yes, I've been slow to come around to MMM way]


Yes...i would say i'm 99% sure...hey, i'm human too...

I just logged in to see the whole year of mypay les and tsp account. And it matches correctly. Because dfas already took the money from you in dec, and you will get your entire dec pay in dec (even if tsp doesn't update as quickly) you have already contributed as much as you can for 2014.

So to be clear.. Yes..

Quote
So, this TSP changes on the $ to % front is really an almost completely 2015 change, right (all months except Jan)? They're saying we have all of Jan to change it, though. I find that confusing as well. You certainly can't start using % in MyPay yet, I've checked. The TSP website confirms this (Jan 1, 2015 is when that starts)

Yes...unless jan 2015 they are making the changes immediate (which i doubt) (does the military do anything quickly!?!)

Just keep checking up on it in jan..


Quote

If this is true, it will actually make it easier for me to close the gap between the IRS limit and what I can actually achieve via % of Base Pay

How?? I don't understand?

ETA: you can check out my journal, if you want...so you can see how the numbers are reflected with us..see reply #60....and if you want to see just how bat shit crazy i really am ;-)

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/everything-in-one-place-from-negative-to-positive/msg342018/#msg342018
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 05:58:02 PM by Mazzinator »

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2014, 02:59:14 AM »
How?? I don't understand?

ETA: you can check out my journal, if you want...so you can see how the numbers are reflected with us..see reply #60....and if you want to see just how bat shit crazy i really am ;-)

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/everything-in-one-place-from-negative-to-positive/msg342018/#msg342018

Nevermind, my brain was broken. Good post - your style of thinking about this stuff is similar to mine. However, I've been intentionally blind to the overall #s in the past because they exposed my profligate spending on things like travel.

Starting in 2 days (Jan 1, 2015) I will cease this nonsense and track everything. I'm even removing all of the old transactions from Mint so that I can start with a fresh slate. Speaking of which, it is quite annoying that you can't easily delete things from Mint - you have to mark them as duplicate as far as I can tell.

I'm scared but excited; I think it will make me reduce spending because I'll see how much I'm actually spending in certain areas.

DoNorth

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2014, 06:01:07 AM »
yeah...I generally just average it out and then make a change two months before the year's end to get as close as i can to the max.  I wasn't paying attention this year and really undershot it because I retired from the military in May (but forgot they stopped TSP for the whole last month) and when I switched to GOV, I didn't set the contribution to account for that month I didn't contribute, so I'm just over $16,000 for the year.  I made the last adjustment to my civilian pay account on 1 December and it took effect for the pay period ending 27 December, but really applies to 2015 since the pay date isn't until 2 january.

Anyway, are you going to retire from federal service or are you looking to jump early with FIRE and do the deferred retirement.  You may want to reconsider traditional TSP and then do a Roth conversion ladder if you're going to FIRE.  If that's the case, you can do whole dollar amounts.

Vilgan

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2014, 10:19:25 AM »
A slightly different POV on why they might be doing this: While this is annoying for you, it is generally to the benefit of the "average" contributor. Something like 98% of people set their contribution at X and then leave it at X for years. I see this at my company all the time, even though they are generally well above average in intelligence and in compensation. By moving to %, you insure that people continue to increase their contribution as they get raises and promotions.

Sucks for you, is annoying for you, but is generally a "good" thing for the silent majority that would screw this up. I realize this doesn't help with the problems at hand, just wanted to share the perspective from someone that has to think about the inactive majority rather than the interested/active minority.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2014, 12:09:44 PM »
Vilgan - Word, I'm down with that. I still think that we're in the 21st Century and that they could at least add a "MAX" option for people like us. Doesn't surprise me with our massive, bloated bureaucracy. But, as previously noted, I can't complain too much due to the unmatched quality of the TSP.

DoNorth - I'm military and I don't know my future plans. As time goes on, it looks more and more like a 20 year career/immediate pension. I think that I will, at the very least, go Reserve or Guard. Ultimately this decision will probably be made by the sequence of my upcoming assignments. If I get 2 in a row that are just bad, I will probably bounce and I may not look back. If we go to war in some ridiculous place for some ridiculous reason, I might get out just on principle.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 12:11:29 PM by NICE! »

DoNorth

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2014, 12:24:57 PM »
I retired from the military (Army FAO); went into Federal service and despise it.  Nords got me thinking about bridge careers etc. and then I just realized I was going through the motions and really could retire if i wanted to and focused my efforts a little better.  I made it to 13 and was medically retired, but I definitely would have gone to 20 if it hadn't happened that way.  the assignments definitely do make the difference. Many of my good friends have gone guard reserve and really enjoy it.  $1000/month as  O-4s for drill isn't bad for extra income.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2014, 02:42:00 PM »
I retired from the military (Army FAO); went into Federal service and despise it.  Nords got me thinking about bridge careers etc. and then I just realized I was going through the motions and really could retire if i wanted to and focused my efforts a little better.  I made it to 13 and was medically retired, but I definitely would have gone to 20 if it hadn't happened that way.  the assignments definitely do make the difference. Many of my good friends have gone guard reserve and really enjoy it.  $1000/month as  O-4s for drill isn't bad for extra income.

DoNorth, is there any chance that you're willing to correspond over email? I'm in the Air Force and am currently in the FAO training pipeline. I'd love to discuss the FAO experience with you.

Also, you're totally right that drill pay of $1k/month is pretty solid. I could be completely comfortable as a SAHD raking that in once a month to kill the 2 IRAs based upon my #s.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2014, 03:11:28 PM by NICE! »

DoNorth

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2014, 06:03:09 AM »
sure thing--I sent you a PM with my email. 

NewStachian

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2014, 01:11:50 PM »
Since TSP doesn't match, I just overshot by a bit to make sure I maxed it out. My December contribution was always low. They automatically stop your contributions once you hit the cap. But, I was still adjusting it periodically as the numbers creeped a bit.

It's a bit more of a pain for my civilian employer since they only match on a per-paycheck basis. I can get 6% out of them, but if I cap too early, my contributions toward the end of the year are 0 and I'm leaving money on the table. Of course, complaining about a company match is stupid, but there you go.

Bottom line - it's still a bit of pain with TSP, but overshooting by a little bit will solve your problem.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2014, 01:32:46 PM »
Since TSP doesn't match, I just overshot by a bit to make sure I maxed it out. My December contribution was always low. They automatically stop your contributions once you hit the cap. But, I was still adjusting it periodically as the numbers creeped a bit.

It's a bit more of a pain for my civilian employer since they only match on a per-paycheck basis. I can get 6% out of them, but if I cap too early, my contributions toward the end of the year are 0 and I'm leaving money on the table. Of course, complaining about a company match is stupid, but there you go.

Bottom line - it's still a bit of pain with TSP, but overshooting by a little bit will solve your problem.

Varsity, are you 100% sure that they cap you? Do you have any way to confirm this (ie a policy document or something)? Can anyone else confirm this?

If true, this makes things much easier. I could just set it a bit high and forget it.

CheapskateWife

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2014, 01:50:11 PM »
Again, from the TSP website:

Regular Employee Contributions

You can begin making regular employee contributions at any time. These are payroll deductions that are made from your basic pay. Each pay period, your agency or service will deduct your contribution to the TSP from your pay in the amount or percentage that you indicated when you submitted your contribution election information.

Your agency or service will continue to deduct your contribution until you:
Make a new election changing the amount, or
Elect to stop your contributions, or
Reach the IRS contribution limit, or
Take a financial hardship withdrawal.

So if you are uniformed service, overshoot a little each month and you will guarantee reaching your max. 

Travis

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #20 on: December 31, 2014, 03:28:09 PM »
What actually happens if you overshoot? Does DFAS take out the limit or does it pretend  you didn't make a contribution that month?  If I choose 20% for TSP I'll end up about $500 short by the end of the year.  If I choose 21% I'll be $500 over.  Will my December LES simply show my 21% contribution minus that $500?

Mazzinator

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2014, 04:12:19 PM »
I set my dh traditional tsp to 25% which is ~$1600/month, the last month they automatically ONLY took out about $1500. I didnt do a thing. They did it.

For 2015, i'm setting it at 30%, so it will be maxed much earlier in the year.

My advice, set it as high as you can "afford" and forget it.

My husband is active duty army.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2014, 05:30:30 PM »
Mazz and Cheapskate, thanks for your inputs. I will probably bump my contributions up to max the TSP earlier in the year, as Mazz suggested.

Travis

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2014, 11:25:04 PM »
I set my dh traditional tsp to 25% which is ~$1600/month, the last month they automatically ONLY took out about $1500. I didnt do a thing. They did it.

For 2015, i'm setting it at 30%, so it will be maxed much earlier in the year.

My advice, set it as high as you can "afford" and forget it.

My husband is active duty army.

That doesn't sound bad at all.  It'll make my December/January budget a little unpredictable, but I can live with having too much in the bank on New Years.

Nords

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2014, 11:42:45 PM »
Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
Vilgan - Word, I'm down with that. I still think that we're in the 21st Century and that they could at least add a "MAX" option for people like us. Doesn't surprise me with our massive, bloated bureaucracy. But, as previously noted, I can't complain too much due to the unmatched quality of the TSP.
It looks like your questions have all been answered. 

I can vouch that the TSP will only take out your deductions to their limit and stop when they reach it-- we used to do this with spouse's TSP contributions and they'd cut hers off at the max in November or December. 

Every new feature added to the TSP costs money for software, installation, testing, staffing, maintaining, upgrading, tracking, auditing... so while a "MAX" button would be nice, I'm not willing to pay for it!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #25 on: January 01, 2015, 12:25:24 PM »
Happy New Year, all!  Has anyone had any luck updating their Roth TSP to the % amount yet?  I am still somewhat new to TSP contributing, but every time I click on the "Traditional TSP and Roth TSP" link in MyPay, I get an error message that says "Our records indicate that you are not eligible for TSP or we did not receive your entire TSP record."  Anyone else having this same issue?  Thanks for the help!

LALALA

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2015, 06:16:48 PM »
Government civilian employees who get paid on the first Friday following the end of the pay period will have 27 pay periods in 2015. Take that in account when calculating the dollar amount you send to TSP biweekly.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2015, 11:10:13 PM »
Happy New Year, all!  Has anyone had any luck updating their Roth TSP to the % amount yet?  I am still somewhat new to TSP contributing, but every time I click on the "Traditional TSP and Roth TSP" link in MyPay, I get an error message that says "Our records indicate that you are not eligible for TSP or we did not receive your entire TSP record."  Anyone else having this same issue?  Thanks for the help!

zman, I'm getting the same error. I'm glad to hear that it isn't just me. TSP is a big operation, I imagine we'll need to give them a few days to iron out the changes.

Travis

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #28 on: January 03, 2015, 01:22:10 AM »
Mypay just rejected my attempt to go over on the TSP allocation.  I tried doing 21%, but it's forcing me to do 20%.  I guess I'll need to go talk to Finance.

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #29 on: January 03, 2015, 02:27:10 AM »
Travis,

Let us know what they say, i dont have a finance office here.

dhlogic

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #30 on: January 03, 2015, 11:08:41 AM »
...
« Last Edit: April 06, 2017, 03:40:04 PM by dhlogic »

zman1621

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #31 on: January 03, 2015, 01:15:34 PM »
For those of you who are still having issues, I just recently received this email from MyPay..."We are experiencing a temporary problem that may prevent you from re-starting your Roth TSP contribution.  We apologize for this inconvenience.  Once the problem is resolved, you will receive another Smartdoc notifying you that you may now go into myPay to re-enroll."  Hopefully the issue clears up soon!

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #32 on: January 03, 2015, 01:51:20 PM »
zman, I'm having some difficulties with my official email address now. Will you please check back into this thread and let us know if/when it is fixed? I tried again today and received the error message you referenced earlier.

zman1621

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #33 on: January 04, 2015, 01:38:07 PM »
Hey all!  Seems like MyPay fixed the bugs and the TSP site is back up and running...it allowed me to elect and save a % amount today, effective 1 February.  Anyone still having issues?

NICE!

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #34 on: January 04, 2015, 04:03:22 PM »
Mine worked today, too. It even let me shoot slightly high on the year, so I shouldn't have any problems with the system letting me max out.

QUESTION: I still don't get the way the dates work with MyPay/TSP and I am trying to confirm with you smart people. It says this change is effective 1 Feb, so does that mean my Jan pay (15th and EOM) will be based upon the dollar amount I had set up before ($1500) they changed to a percent system? That is to say my election of x $ will occur this month, but the election of % of pay will begin in Feb?

Travis

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #35 on: January 06, 2015, 12:53:57 PM »
Travis,

Let us know what they say, i dont have a finance office here.

I won't be able to get over to finance until sometime Thursday, but I just got an email from DFAS saying whatever website problems they've been having have been fixed.  That being said, I went into MyPay and it said I was set up for 21%.  I went into my profile to poke around and when you get to the screen that breaks down base pay, specials, bonuses, etc, it showed me at 20%.  I'm going to try my best to talk to someone in person this week, but I might have to wait until the 1st to see what they actually take out.

Edit: I just remembered that I'm still getting CZTE and associated pays this month which may affect the outcome of my personal situation. MTF.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2015, 12:56:26 PM by Travis »

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Re: TSP Question...Mil/FERS/Nords? Slightly Complainy-Pants
« Reply #36 on: January 07, 2015, 04:08:01 PM »
Mine worked today, too. It even let me shoot slightly high on the year, so I shouldn't have any problems with the system letting me max out.

QUESTION: I still don't get the way the dates work with MyPay/TSP and I am trying to confirm with you smart people. It says this change is effective 1 Feb, so does that mean my Jan pay (15th and EOM) will be based upon the dollar amount I had set up before ($1500) they changed to a percent system? That is to say my election of x $ will occur this month, but the election of % of pay will begin in Feb?

I'll try to answer your question.

Yes, Jan pay will be the dollar amount. ($1500)
Yes, Feb pay will be the percentage amount.

Think of it this way. Dfas takes out your Jan (1500) tsp contribution, and deposits it into your tsp account, on Jan 31. If you logged into your tsp account, on jan 31, it "should" be there, but there is a day or three delay in viewing it (technology is not fast enough) that's why you don't "see" it until Feb.

You have not got paid for Jan yet.

I'm guessing the issue might be that you are treating your Dec 31 pay to pay Jan bills??