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20,000 TSP participants open Roth accounts

Aug. 27, 2012 - 04:03PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments

About 20,000 Thrift Savings Plan participants have opened Roth accounts since the program’s launch in May, the board governing the plan said Monday.

About $13 million has so far been deposited in TSP Roth accounts, or roughly $650 per participant on average, Renee Wilder, director of research and strategic planning at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, said at the board’s monthly meeting.

This represents a small fraction of TSP’s total $316 billion fund balance. And the 20,000 accounts represent less than 1 percent of TSP’s 4.5 million participants. But the Roth option has steadily gained in popularity since it was launched May 7. By the end of that month, the board said 3,860 participants had allocated $855,000 to a Roth account.

The new investment option allows participants to invest after-tax earnings into funds that will grow without tax liability on future earnings. This differs from the standard TSP plan, where before-tax dollars are invested and taxed when they are withdrawn.

Adding the Roth option is only one of several changes that have complicated TSP operations in recent years. To help handle those changes, Executive Director Greg Long is pushing the board for budget and staffing increases.

Long in June asked the board for a 33 percent budget increase in fiscal 2013, and said he wants TSP’s budget to increase 77 percent overall by fiscal 2017. The board’s budget — now $143 million — comes out of the TSP’s fund balance, not appropriations from taxpayer dollars.

Long also wants to nearly double TSP’s staffing by the end of 2013, from roughly 100 employees now to nearly 200.

Last year, TSP was only able to hire 10 new employees. Gisile Goethe, acting director of the board’s new Office of Resource Management, attributed the low number to two main bottlenecks in the hiring process: Hiring managers were often too overwhelmed to create position descriptions for vacant jobs and to review and rate dozens of applications for each vacancy.

But the office earlier this year hired a contractor to write position descriptions, and enlisted the Office of Personnel Management’s help with other parts of the hiring process.

Goethe said TSP has so far this year hired 21 new employees and, beginning next year, will likely be able to hire between 30 and 32 new employees each year. With attrition, that hiring capacity could increase TSP’s staff by 20 to 25 new employees each year.

Long said that the increased capacity does not necessarily mean TSP will hire that many people each year. He said the board will discuss his requested budget and hiring increase at the September meeting.

“We have had, for several years, a logjam — an inability to fill open positions,” Long said. “With Gisile’s help, that logjam is now broken. Whether it’s wise [to hire 30 to 32 people a year] is a different story, but I wanted to make sure that we had the capacity in the HR staff.”

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