Military Finance Report: Should I Invest in the Traditional TSP or the ROTH TSP

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Should I Invest in the Traditional TSP or the ROTH TSP

Here is some information about the two types of Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contribution options you can invest in.  They are the Traditional TSP and the ROTH TSP (started in 2012/2013).  If you want a short answer in which one you should invest in, then I suggest that people under 50 should do the ROTH TSP.  This is because ROTH accounts aren't taxed when the money is finally withdrawn.  But there are many variables before making this decision.

Traditional - The traditional option takes money out pre-tax and lowers your taxable income for that year.  So if you make $25K a year and invest $5K in a traditional TSP, then you will only have $20K of taxable income.  This benefit can be very useful for people that need to lower their taxable income to qualify for financial aid, have variable student loans or annuities and anything else that benefits you to have a lower taxable income.  Once you invest, then you can choose the fund allocation you want and your money will grow tax free.  Once you withdraw the money, it will be taxed as income that year.  Being taxed in retirement is unfavorable because you need to maximize your income as a retiree.  As time goes by, you will become  more dependent on that income which I why recommend the ROTH option.

ROTH - The ROTH option takes money out post taxes and has no affect on your taxable income.  Your money will also grow tax free and WILL NOT be taxed when you withdraw your money.  This option is amazing for people that start investing early in their career because they are currently at a low tax bracket and will get to be tax free when they are in a larger tax bracket because their money grew so much with so much time.

Both TSP accounts are retirement accounts and act like 401(k)s more than IRAs.  There are no income limits to invest in the TSP like IRAs, but most people in the military or civil service don't have to worry about that.  This is an important choice for anyone.  Seek advice or do your own research before making the final choice; however, most financial advisers will recommend the ROTH option for those under 50.

For more detailed information go here:


  1. I wholeheartedly believe in both forms of saving but in your opinion is it better to put your money into a private bank rather than the government? I'm getting a little anxious about having J's retirement and our private retirement coming from the same place. Your thoughts please.

  2. I wouldn't worry about that too much. The government can't even make small, beneficial changes to the military retirement system because the political pressure is too great. If you are concerned, then you can always open an IRA with a civilian bank to help diversify your accounts.