TSP Participants Are Leaving Money on the Table, Fund Changes, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Officials at the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings plan said Tuesday that some employees are actually investing too much of their paychecks, and as a result they’re leaving money on the table.

Geoffrey Nieboer, the Thrift Savings Plan’s chief of business intelligence, told members of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which governs the TSP, that every year, several thousand federal workers cease contributing to their accounts because they have hit their annual cap on pre-tax investments.

“There are a group of participants who are contributing a high percentage of their income and are reaching their annual contribution limit well before the end of the year,” he said. “While certainly this is well intentioned, they may not understand that by stopping contributions early, they will no longer receive matching contributions and may actually be losing money.”

The federal government provides an employer match for federal employees on the first 5 percent of their paycheck that they invest in the TSP. Officials said those who wish to invest more should still attempt to only hit that cap at the end of the year, so they can continue to receive the employer match.

“We message this regularly, but unfortunately for us, it’s from OPM to everybody, it’s that one-to-many message,” Nieboer said. “Really, in order to address the few thousand people we’re talking about, we need to do a personalized message. Make that phone call, send that email or that letter and say, ‘You’re contributing X, but you really should be contributing Y.’”

The FRTIB board also voted unanimously Tuesday to expand the portfolio of the TSP’s I Fund, which is made up of international investments.

Currently, the portfolio is invested in the Morgan Stanley Capital International Europe Australasia Far East index fund, which makes up about 59 percent of the non-U.S. investment market. But in the coming years, the I Fund will shift over to the MSCI All Country World ex U.S. IMI fund, which encompasses all the entire non-U.S. market.

Consultants with Aon Hewitt recommended the change, and estimated that increases in returns would outpace the increased volatility of expanded foreign investment. In 2017, the I Fund has posted some of the highest growth of the TSP’s various investment portfolios.

Sean McCaffrey, TSP’s director of investment, said plans to shift to the new index fund will be incorporated into an ongoing bid process for a vendor for the I Fund.

“We would look to implement this after the rebid for the I Fund, which is something that should be completed by September of next year,” he said. “Whoever that manager is can take us through the process to move to the new index, and depending on how they feel about working over the holidays, that could start in October or in January [2019].”

The Office of Personnel Management has run into an unexpected hurdle in this year’s Combined Federal Campaign, the federal government’s annual charity giving drive, as retirees have found themselves unable to donate through the program.

Federal News Radio reports that OPM cannot collect the necessary information from former feds to allow them to give to the charity of their choice through the CFC website. A provision of the Paperwork Reduction Act limits what information agencies, including OPM, can collect and the number of people they can solicit at once.

Complicating the website snafu is the elimination this year of cash donations and hard-copy pledge forms, leaving retirees with no avenue to donate. The CFC runs until Jan. 12, but OPM does not have a timeframe for when it will have the issue resolved.