Roth TSP vs. Roth IRA: What’s the Difference?

How the 5% Company Match Equals the 5% of Worker Contributions
 Worker Contribution  Company Match
3% per pay interval  3% (dollar-for-dollar)
2% per pay interval  1% (matches 50 cents per greenback)
No contribution wanted  1% automated contribution
Supply: Thrift Financial savings Plan

Any worker contributions past 5% of pay won’t be matched by the company. The principles and the matching quantities are barely completely different relying on whether or not the worker is navy or a civilian.

What Is the Blended Retirement System (BRS) for Army Personnel?

Launched in 2018, the Blended Retirement System (BRS) permits navy personnel to hitch a brand new program that blends two vital sources of retirement revenue, the annuity for profession service and the Thrift Financial savings Plan.

The annuity portion is a much-reduced legacy of the outdated Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), which was, till 1984, the one authorities retirement program. The few remaining workers on that outdated legacy plan will get a way more beneficiant annuity, however they are not eligible for the TSP employer match.

Those that have an interest need to choose in to hitch the BRS. It is a moderately complete retirement plan with its personal guidelines and choices.

In contrast, you do not have to choose into the TSP program. After serving 60 days, the navy will routinely begin contributing 1% of your wage. It should routinely start deducting 3% of your base pay to the TSP, though you possibly can choose out of that anytime. The federal government contribution will proceed in the event you’re within the BRS.

Thrift Financial savings Plan Contribution Limits

TSPs have the identical contribution and catch-up limits because the 401(okay) plans accessible to many private-sector workers. For 2022 and 2023, the Thrift Financial savings Plan contribution limits are as follows:

  • $20,500 ($22,500 in 2023) in the event you’re underneath age 50
  • $27,000 ($30,000 in 2023) in the event you’re age 50 or older (together with a catch-up contribution of $6,500 in 2022 and $7,500 in 2023)

What Is a Thrift Financial savings Plan (TSP)?

Many personal employers supply their workers a 401(okay) retirement financial savings plan. The federal government created its personal retirement financial savings plan for its workers and navy personnel and referred to as it the Thrift Financial savings Plan (TSP).

The aim of a TSP is to permit workers to construct a retirement financial savings account over time by setting apart a share of their paychecks to be invested and develop till they retire and are able to spend the cash.

Like 401(okay) plans, TSP plans are available in two fundamental flavors, and the worker can select which to take:

  • When you have a conventional TSP, the cash you pay into the account comes out of your pre-tax {dollars}. That’s, it is taken off the highest of your gross pay, and you do not pay revenue taxes on it till you retire and begin withdrawing cash. At the moment, you’ll owe revenue taxes on each the principal and the curiosity your cash earned. Authorities employers have provided the standard TSP since 1986.
  • When you have a Roth TSP, you may pay in post-tax {dollars}. The taxes owed on the revenue might be withheld that yr. Once you retire, all the proceeds are tax-free. The Roth TSP has been provided solely since 2012.

Abstract of Roth TSP and Conventional TSP Guidelines

Whichever you select, the foundations are just like these for private-sector workers, with some consideration for the wants of federal workers and navy personnel:

  • You possibly can contribute as much as a most annual restrict, which can be adjusted yearly. For the 2022 tax yr, the utmost is $20,500, plus $6,500 in the event you’re age 50 or older. In 2023, it goes as much as $22,500, plus $7,500 in the event you’re age 50 or older. That is for a Roth TSP or a conventional TSP, or perhaps a mixture of accounts if in case you have a couple of.
  • Your federal employer makes a contribution of a minimal of 1% and as a lot as 5% to your account.
  • Your cash might be invested in your alternative of a number of funding funds and “way of life cycle” funds. The latter are funds that regularly scale back danger to your principal as you strategy retirement age.

$1 million

The variety of federal staff and retirees with $1 million or extra of their Thrift Financial savings Plan accounts jumped to 98,523 as of Sept. 30, 2021.

How the Roth TSP and the Conventional TSP Differ

In both case, that is your retirement account, so you might be discouraged from making early withdrawals. However the guidelines are completely different for a Roth TSP and a conventional TSP:

  • You possibly can’t contact the cash in your conventional TSP earlier than you attain age 55 (in the event you retire or separate) or age 59 1/2 (whether or not or not you retire), or you’ll pay a tax penalty. In any case, you may additionally owe revenue taxes on that cash within the yr you withdraw it.
  • You possibly can take the principal in your Roth TSP any time you need. It is your cash, and also you already paid the revenue taxes. However you possibly can’t contact any of the earnings your cash earned with out paying a penalty.
  • Once you attain age 73, it’s essential to take some cash out of your conventional IRA account yearly. That is the “required minimal distribution” or RMD. There aren’t any comparable restrictions on a Roth account. (The minimal age for RMDs was elevated from 72 as of Jan. 1, 2023.)

The Roth possibility will be nice as a result of you’ll not need to pay taxes throughout your retirement. However solely you possibly can resolve whether or not you possibly can spare the larger loss to your paycheck that paying the revenue taxes upfront will entail.

Tax Advantages and Saver’s Credit score

In 2023, the revenue ranges for eligibility to make deductible contributions to conventional Particular person IRAs and Roth IRAs will improve so long as taxpayers meet sure standards.

If both the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s partner is roofed by a retirement plan at work, the deduction could also be decreased or phased out relying on revenue ranges. As of the 2022 tax yr, the quantity is $214,000 for a married couple who file joint taxes and $144,000 for people. In 2023, these quantities are $228,000 for married {couples} submitting collectively and $153,000 for people.

To assert a saver’s credit score and take a tax credit score for making eligible contributions to your IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan, sure standards additionally apply. The saver’s credit score matches as much as 50% of $2,000 for single filers or $4,000 for married {couples} submitting collectively. Qualifying people can obtain as much as a $1,000 tax credit score and {couples} can obtain as much as $2,000.

Nevertheless, the saver’s credit score phases out as revenue stage will increase. People making greater than $36,500 in 2023 and married {couples} submitting joint returns who make greater than $73,000 in 2023 are now not eligible for the credit score. 

Fight Zone Tax Exclusion

For those who’re a member of the navy, TSP taxes may fit in a different way due to the Fight Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE). The revenue you earn whereas deployed in a fight zone is excluded out of your taxable revenue.

Fight zone pay is tax-free and doesn’t depend towards the saver’s credit score phase-out limits for eligible people. When contributing to a Roth IRA in a tax-free fight zone, navy members who’re deployed can divert cash right into a Roth IRA and by no means pay tax on the contributions or earnings.

How Do Roth TSPs and Roth IRAs Evaluate?

Whereas Roth TSPs and Roth IRAs are wonderful retirement-savings automobiles, they’ve completely different traits and advantages. Right here’s a comparability.


Each are after-tax retirement accounts. You pay taxes in your contribution the yr you make them (until you qualify for tax-exempt contributions). Contributions and earnings develop tax-free, and certified withdrawals are tax-free, as nicely (apart from matching contributions).

Each are topic to the five-year rule. To take tax-free distributions, you should be a minimum of age 59½ or have a everlasting incapacity, and a minimum of 5 years will need to have handed since Jan. 1 of the yr you first contributed.


Solely the TSP is a payroll deduction. With a Roth IRA, you’d open an account and contribute to it straight. Roth TSP contributions come out of payroll deductions.

Solely the TSP has no revenue limits. Roth IRAs are topic to revenue limits, however you possibly can contribute to a Roth TSP irrespective of how a lot you earn.

You possibly can’t withdraw cash early from a TSP. You possibly can withdraw your Roth IRA contributions at any time, with no tax or penalty, however this isn’t an possibility with a Roth TSP.

You need to make minimal withdrawals from a Roth TSP. Roth IRAs don’t have any required minimal distributions (RMDs) throughout your lifetime. However it’s essential to begin taking RMDs from a Roth TSP at age 73 (until you are still working at your federal job).

Roth IRA vs. Roth TSP: Which Is Higher for You?

There’s an essential query to ask earlier than you resolve: Do I qualify for matching funds? For those who’re a civilian worker and qualify, you need to contribute a minimum of as much as the federal match first since you’re routinely incomes 100% on matched cash (assume: free cash).

However, a Roth IRA has the identical wonderful tax advantages plus freedom from required minimal distributions later in life. No RMDs imply you possibly can go away your financial savings untouched in the event you do not want the cash, and your beneficiaries can take pleasure in years of tax-free progress and revenue. 

Then, if in case you have extra cash left to contribute, take into account both an everyday or Roth TSP contribution, relying on whether or not you need a tax deduction now or later.

What Are the Variations Between a Roth TSP and Roth IRA?

There are some key variations. The TSP is funded solely by payroll deduction and has no revenue limits. You can’t withdraw cash early from the TSP, and it’s essential to make minimal withdrawals from a Roth TSP.

Is Roth IRA or Roth TSP Higher?

It relies upon, however most individuals ought to contribute to their TSP a minimum of as much as the matching funds restrict (3% of your wage). Past this, the TSP is best in case your taxes are excessive right this moment and also you anticipate them to be a lot decrease in retirement. It’s higher to make use of your deduction towards the upper tax charge. The Roth IRA is best the additional away you might be from retirement.

Can You Contribute to Each Roth TSP and Roth IRA?

The contribution limits do not overlap between TSPs and IRAs. In consequence, every greenback that you just contribute to a TSP would not scale back the contribution restrict for IRAs. Nevertheless, the bounds are cumulative between Roth and conventional TSPs, and between Roth and conventional IRAs.

The Backside Line

Roth TSPs and Roth IRAs are wonderful methods to avoid wasting for retirement. For those who qualify for federal match funds, you need to contribute to your TSP a minimum of as much as this restrict (3% of your wage). Past this, it may make sense to have a Roth IRA alongside your Roth TSP: No guidelines stop you from contributing to each. Ideally, you could possibly max out each accounts to spice up your retirement financial savings.

Roth IRAs are significantly helpful in case you are saving greater than you may assume you may want for retirement as a result of there aren’t any required minimal distributions (RMDs) for these accounts. This implies you could go away your Roth IRA to your heirs, and so they can entry this tax-free.

Earlier than making any choices about your retirement financial savings accounts, it is useful to debate your choices with a trusted monetary planner or advisor.

Correction—Dec. 19, 2022: This text has been edited to outline the revenue standards for deductible contribution ranges for a conventional IRA, Roth IRA, and the saver’s credit score. The Fight Zone Tax Exclusion for navy members definition has been corrected to incorporate the advantages of contributions made to a Roth IRA.

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