How Can You Save More in the TSP?

Federal employees are often told it is important to invest in the TSP to have a secure retirement, but where can they get the extra money to put into savings?

As regular readers of FedSmith, you’re used to having authors tell you how important it is to have a robust Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account by the time you retire and need the money. 

You’ve been told that FERS and Social Security will keep body and soul together; but that you will need your TSP in order for you to have the type of retirement of which you’ve dreamed.

You’ve been presented with calculations that show you how a consistent savings plan can leave you with enough money in your TSP to be able to support you and help you whittle away at bucket list items.

You’ve been advised on the best ways to withdraw from your TSP so that you can both enjoy your retirement and still have money left when you head for the last roundup.

But you were rarely told where you were going to get the money to fund your TSP so that there will actually be enough money in it so that you can truly enjoy your retirement. Believe it or not, throughout history everyone from philosophers to money managers have been giving us hints as to how to build up our savings. Here are a few examples:

  • Economy is a great source of revenue. Seneca (1 BC – 65 AD)
  • Frugality is a handsome income. Erasmus (1466 – 1536)
  • A penny saved is a penny earned. Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

Here are some more modern adages:

  • If you want to be wealthy, live below your means. From the book, “The Millionaire Next Door”
  • Save a lot and save often. Richard Bernstein
  • When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep becomes your downfall. Rick Rule

What can you realistically do to build up your TSP? Here are some thoughts, many of which you might have read in FedSmith and other sources.

  • “Strive for five.” Commit to setting 5% of your income aside in the TSP each pay period. This way you receive the entire government match. Nothing beats free money.
  • Put a part of each pay raise into the TSP and part of it into your pocket.
  • Consider increasing your contributions a little each year; say from 5% to 6% to 7%.
  • Save for your children’s education through a 529 Plan or a Coverdell ESA, so that college costs don’t sneak up on you and derail your retirement savings plans.
  • Set up a budget. Ideally you can use your budget to manage your expenses and cut down in areas where you are wasting money.
  • Consider how you can advance your career and earn a higher salary. The higher your salary, the more you can save: 5% of a GS-13 is more than 5% of a GS-12.

Can you succeed at growing your TSP and having a comfortable retirement? Here’s one last quote, from a race car driver, that can give you hope. “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” – Bobby Unser.

Agencies can request to have John Grobe, or another of Federal Career Experts' qualified instructors, deliver a retirement or transition seminar to their employees. FCE instructors are not financial advisers and will not sell or recommend financial products to class participants. Agency Benefits Officers can contact John Grobe at to discuss schedules and costs.

About the Author

John Grobe is President of Federal Career Experts, a firm that provides pre-retirement training and seminars to a wide variety of federal agencies. FCE’s instructors are all retired federal retirement specialists who educate class participants on the ins and outs of federal retirement and benefits; there is never an attempt to influence participants to invest a certain way, or to purchase any financial products. John and FCE specialize in retirement for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers.