Are You Able to Claim Some of the $88 Million in Abandoned TSP Funds?

By on April 12, 2015 in Current Events with 4 Comments

A reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, made an article suggestion recently. The suggestion reads, in part:

“The federal Thrift Savings Plan has tens of millions of dollars in unclaimed funds; and although it used to publish the listing of unclaimed account holders, it has stopped making the list of unclaimed fund holders available for searching….I suggest you do a story on this unclaimed money, which is just waiting for people (or their heirs/children) to get it.”

The TSP previously provided lists of unclaimed property holders or searching by abandoned accounts by name. The list of unclaimed property holders is no longer available but that does not mean those with unclaimed accounts are out of luck.

According to Kim Weaver, Director of the Office of External Affairs for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), “Having people scroll through a list of names of people who may have unclaimed money seemed unwise in this day and age of identity theft and hacking.  If a participant or possible beneficiary believes there is money in a TSP account, they can contact us through our call centers to get further information.  We would provide account information to participants and beneficiaries only after they provide appropriate information to validate their identity.”

There is currently $88,463,201.65 in abandoned funds in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

The total amount abandoned in the TSP between 2010-2014: $262,351,230.43. Out of this amount, $193,788,972.57 was reclaimed by the investors who had been out of touch. The result is that there is still $68,562,257.86 in unclaimed TSP accounts from 2010 – 2014.

Two Categories of TSP Investors With No Activity

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board maintains information on two categories of TSP investors who may not be paying much attention to their investment in the TSP funds.  The TSP tracks abandoned accounts (people over 70 ½ who have not made a withdrawal election) and inactive participants.

Inactive participants are those with no activity in their account. This includes active CSRS and military participants who have terminated contributions or had them suspended because of hardship withdrawal, participants whose employing agencies have not submitted their separation status, and beneficiary participants.  An account without contribution activity is not unusual and does not result in an account being changed to the “abandoned” classification.

The most common reason money has not been claimed is that separated TSP participants fail to provide their latest address to the TSP.

Abandoned accounts arise for different reasons. The regulations of the FRTIB require participants who have not yet made a withdrawal choice by age 70 ½ to make a choice.  If the Board does not hear from a participant (after sending them letters telling them of the need to act), the account is considered “abandoned” and the investor is sent a letter to that effect.

Not surprisingly, the letter informing a participant that an account has fallen into the  abandoned category often prompts a response. The account is normally reclaimed and the account is fully restored.

About That $88 Million

$88 million is a great deal of money. To put this amount into perspective, there is now more than $450.6 billion in the Thrift Savings Plan. But, for someone living on an income that is relatively fixed, an extra few thousand or a few hundred dollars is worth taking the time to reclaim the money. It is not hard to track down the information if you think you may have unclaimed money in an abandoned account.

To contact the TSP, there is a toll-free number (1-877-968-3778) or 1-877-847-4385 for anyone with a hearing impairment. International callers can call (404) 233-4400 but this number is not toll-free. Additional contact information is available from the TSP website.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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