By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2012 – A major retirement savings tool available to all service members and DOD civilians is the Thrift Savings Plan, and soon there will be a new tool to save for retirement — the Roth TSP, a senior Defense Department official said.
The Roth TSP, which uses after-tax dollars, will begin phased implementation this month for the Marine Corps, and in July for DOD civilians, said Barbara Thompson, the director of the Defense Department’s Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth.
The Roth TSP plan will be available for Navy, Air Force and Army members in October of this year, Thompson said.
The phased implementation will ensure each customer’s taxable wages and TSP contributions are computed accurately, according to Defense Finance and Accounting Service officials. The schedule allows for thorough testing of the needed complex changes made to the various civilian, active duty military and reserve component payroll systems, DFAS officials said.
The TSP website “has a wealth of information to help guide you on the differences between the [TSP] plans,” Thompson said.
Financial readiness, including choosing the right investments and savings plans, is crucial to service members’ financial futures, Thompson said. Service members should start saving for retirement early, she said, because they never know what path their careers might take.
“If you don’t put something away in that retirement plan, you may not have something if you don’t reach your 20 years as a military member,” Thompson said.
And, because of compound interest, she added, service members who wait to save until late in their careers can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, financial readiness “also includes debt management, managing your credit card[s] and basically [practicing] impulse control on your buying to make sure that you don’t live outside your means,” Thompson said.
Free financial consulting services are available through installation family assistance centers and Military OneSource, Thompson said. Military OneSource provides advice and assistance for service member family issues such as deployments, parenting, financial management, education, child care, military spouse employment, and more.
Military financial consulting services also can assist military members in making the right financial management decisions for their particular circumstances, she said.
Financial management tools offered through Military OneSource aren’t just for active duty service members, Thompson said, noting reserve component members “who are geographically isolated or those who may want to do it from the convenience of their home … can call Military OneSource and get that service.”
In any event, financial decisions should not be made in isolation, Thompson said.
“It’s important to get expert advice,” she said, “and our personal financial counselors — both on the military installations and through Military OneSource — are certified financial counselors.”