Author Mike Miles

Mike Miles is a Certified Financial Planner licensee and principal adviser for Variplan LLC, an independent fiduciary in Vienna, Virginia. Email your financial questions to and view his blog at

Q. Although we are not there yet, it seems the expense ratio gap between the Thrift Savings Plan and Vanguard is continuing to narrow. Vanguard recently lowered its expense ratios considerably on many of its funds. Admiral Share-class expense ratios on some funds are within a whisker of being the same as TSP. Do you think that a firm like Vanguard can now offer advantages to individuals who want to roll over their TSP balances to them? At the very least, it should serve as a wake-up call to BlackRock and TSP management that they need to not let the…

Q. I am a retired federal employee and want to start taking my TSP annuity. I can choose from either a TSP annuity or one through MetLife. Which do most retirees choose? Should I split the amount in my account equally between a TSP annuity and a MetLife annuity? Do most retirees do that, or do they just choose the TSP annuity? What are the benefits and risks of either option?

Q. I plan to retire May 31, 2017, at 51 years old. I am a federal law enforcement employee eligible to retire at age 50 (I have 22½ years as a law enforcement officer and 26 total years). I need to access my TSP immediately to pay emergency expenses. If I request a hardship withdrawal prior to my retirement date, will I be subject to the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty?

Q. I’m going to retire in six months, and I qualify for the special supplement. I understand that that supplement is subject to the Social Security earnings test but that my FERS retirement annuity is not counted toward that test. Is my thrift savings annuity and/or withdrawal subject to the Social Security earnings test? In other words, will my special supplement be lowered if my thrift savings annuity/payments go over the maximum allowed earned income (about $16,000)?

Which way will the market, and the value of your TSP account, go next? If you’re like most investors, you are betting, and therefore hoping, that it moves higher. Or, maybe, lower. Either way, if you have a preference, then that preference makes you vulnerable — vulnerable to the risk of being wrong. As much as you might tell yourself otherwise, the odds that the value of a share in the C, S, I or F funds will go up or down in the short run are about 50-50. If you’re betting that the C Fund will rise in value…

Q. I have been a federal employee for 10 years. I am 48 years old and am putting very little in the G Fund, which is at about $14,000 now. Not much. They say it’s never too late. I’m not planning to work until 60. What should I do to gain more money for retirement fast and preferably safe?

Q. I am affected by Windfall Elimination Provision but am also eligible for Social Security. Is the dollar amount for “substantial earnings” the dollar amount on the W-2 under Social Security wages, or is the dollar amount listed in the section for wages, tips and other compensation? I have looked at the Social Security Administration brochure on WEP, and it never states specifically. It makes a difference.

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