Military and Mid-Career? It’s Never Too Late to Start Saving

By Kisha A. Taylor, Writer/Editor, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board 

At some point in your military career you may have heard about the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and some of its advantages, but perhaps saving for retirement wasn’t a priority. Then one day, you realize you’re closer to retirement age than you thought and discover that you won’t have enough saved to live comfortably once you leave the workforce. You may wonder what your choices are and if it’s too late to begin planning for retirement. Don’t panic! There’s still time to accumulate money in your TSP account.

Start Now

If you believe you’re behind on saving for retirement, signing up for the TSP is one of the best things you can do to secure your financial future. As a service member, you’re not automatically enrolled in the TSP, so you’ll need to sign up.  Just log into myPay, select the “Thrift Savings Plan” option, and choose your contribution type: traditional (pre-tax), Roth (after-tax), or both. Then choose the amount you want to contribute from each type of pay you receive (basic, incentive, special, and/or bonus). If you don’t have access to myPay, you can complete Form TSP-U-1, Election Form, and return it to your finance office.

Make a Choice

You can contribute a percentage of your basic pay to your TSP account—10%, for example—then increase your contributions as you get pay raises and promotions. Even small amounts can add up to big savings over time.

Already signed up for the TSP? Find ways to make the most of your contributions. If you’re age 50 or older, you can make catch-up contributions once you’ve reached the maximum Internal Revenue Code’s (IRC) elective deferral limit

In addition to how much you contribute, your investment mix is an important factor affecting the savings in your TSP account. At this stage in your career, be sure you have a balance of risk versus reward. Choosing our Lifecycle (L) Funds could give you an optimal mix of our five core funds based on when you’ll need to start receiving income from your savings. Use this chart to see which L Fund might be best for you:

Fund                      Consider If You…

L 2040                Were born 1973 – 1982 or plan to need your savings from 2035 – 2044

L 2030                Were born 1963 – 1972 or plan to need your savings from 2025 – 2034

L 2020                Were born 1954 ­– 1962 or plan to need your savings from 2016 – 2024

To choose how the money coming into your account is invested, make a contribution allocation by visiting

Keep Us With You

If you decide to leave military service before you’re eligible for a military pension, you can keep your TSP account, even if you find other employment. Plus, if you take a Federal job, you can keep contributing to the TSP. Even if you don’t take a Federal job, you can manage your investments at low cost while your savings grow.

Act Today: Time is of the Essence

If you’re a late saver, don’t procrastinate further—you may still have time to build your retirement savings. Log into myPay today to increase your TSP contributions. The older you are when you start saving for retirement, the harder it will be. It may require some sacrifice, but remember, it’s never too late to start saving.



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