Q: I work for HHS and am getting conflicting information from within my agency and your recent article on the extra pay period, so now I am confused as to whether or not I should plan for 26 or 27 pay periods in 2015 for the purposes of planning my TSP contributions. I hate to second guess, and certainly trust your research, but are you absolutely certain it’s right?
A: Yours is not the first query I received about the number of pay days in 2015. I understand your confusion, especially that two different sources within your own agency have given conflicting information. The DFAS memo I received was explicit that there would be 27 pay periods in the year. It referred to the fact that the salary for the January 1, 2016 pay day would be paid on December 31, 2015. That payment is for the pay period from 12/13/15 through 12/26/15.
The key as to the number of pay days should be the day that your payment for the last full pay period of 2015 is scheduled to be paid. If your normal payday is January 1, 2016, then you will get paid on December 31, 2015 and will have 27 pay days. If it happens to be a week earlier (December 25, 2015 – another holiday), you will have 26 pay days.
There is some good news hidden here. You are able to change your TSP contributions every pay period, so if you start off expecting 26 pay days, and you later discover there are 27, you can change your contributions so that you will still max out in the last pay period.