Q. I am a senior Foreign Service officer and will have 26½ years of service under my belt at the end of my current tour in summer 2018. In the Foreign Service, we are eligible for voluntary retirement if we are at least 50 years of age (I will be 54 by summer 2018) and have 20 years of service. I am considering retiring in the fall of 2018, so just before the year in which I turn 55. My question concerns the TSP. Assuming I retire in the fall of 2018, will I be able to make monthly withdrawals (my understanding is that the amount of these monthly withdrawals is chosen by the retired TSP participant every December and that they then run unchanged for 12 months until the cycle starts again) beginning in January 2019 (i.e., in the year in which I turn 55 — April 8 — to be exact) without paying the 10 percent penalty until I turn 59½?
A. If you separate from federal service before the calendar year in which you reach age 55, your TSP withdrawals will be subject to the early withdrawal penalty until you reach age 59½, unless you meet one of the other exceptions to the penalty listed on the left side of Page 7 of the notice at https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tsp-536.pdf.