Thrift Savings Plan sees uptick
- By Chase Gunter
- May 29, 2019
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board faces a busy summer of security, technology and business updates as well as legislative activity that could affect the way the agency invests.
At the May 29 meeting of the board, Director of Participant Services Tee Ramos said that since the agency rolled out its voluntary two-factor authentication feature in mid-April, about 133,000 have opted in to using it. By comparison, only 10,000 have opted out, the board's Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director Suzanne Tosini pointed out.
Ramos said the expectation is to eventually have one-third of the more than 5.6 million Thrift Savings Plan participants using two-factor authentication to access their accounts.
Tanner Nohe, project manager supervisor at FRTIB, said new options, as mandated by a November 2017 law, would increase TSP participants' flexibility in withdrawing from their accounts and eliminate the requirement that employees no longer in civil service must make a full withdrawal after turning age 70-and-a-half.
All these changes are expected to go live by mid-September, and the "high-risk" area in completing the updates is the deployment of online wizards aimed at walking users through the process.
During the most recent shutdown, the number of TSP withdrawals spiked as participants dipped into their savings plans to cover their extended interruption in pay. In the event of another lapse in appropriations, the board is more prepared, Ramos said, noting that it has since drafted regulations to change its communications and business process in a shutdown.
The loan program "was not flexible enough" during the last shutdown, he said. "We are now fully capable of supporting individuals with loans should something occur that's similar."
Legislation was recently introduced to allow federal employees to divest their TSP investments from the fossil fuel industry and to waive early withdrawal penalties in the event of childbirth or adoption. The board is likely to push back on a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) to prohibit the TSP's international stock index investment fund from investing in "peer or near-peer nations," which would include countries such as China and Russia, FRTIB Director of External affairs Kimberly Weaver said.
Weaver explained that the TSP does not currently invest in China or Russia, but "coming next year," the board will be "shifting" to a new index in determining its international investments -- the Morgan Stanley Capital International All Country World Index Ex-U.S. -- that would include, among others, those two nations.
"We would oppose the bill," she said. "The bill is trying to prevent us from going to that new index, and we believe that index is appropriate."