When to start receiving TSP

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Q. I am 47 years old and worked for the post office for three years. During that time, I bought back my military service time of eight years. Am I eligible to someday get that retirement for the 11 years? If not, will I be reimbursed what it cost to buy back my time? Is the Thrift Savings Plan a separate entity, and when can I start receiving that? I’m currently working away from the federal realm.

A. Mike: The TSP is yours to maintain and manage for as long as you like. You may withdraw money from it whenever you are ready, but there are limits to how frequently you can withdraw your money. You are always free to withdraw all of your money in a lump sum, whenever you like. Your withdrawals will be taxed as ordinary income and may be subject to the Internal Revenue Service early withdrawal penalty until you reach age 59½.

Reg: No, you wouldn’t be eligible for an annuity because you didn’t have at least five years of actual civilian service. If you are planning to return to government service, you could pick up where you left off. Then the earliest you could retire would be when you reach your minimum retirement age. In your case, that would be 56 and two months. If you don’t plan on returning, you can ask for a refund of your retirement contributions, including the deposit you made to get credit for your active-duty service.

To do that, go to www.opm.gov, click on Find Form(s), and download a copy of Standard Form 3106, Application for Refund of Retirement Deductions.

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