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If you are a military member or federal employee, you’re eligible to participate in the government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
This plan provides some basic investment functionality, but you might like to know how you can include physical gold and silver in your retirement plan to safeguard against recessions, monetary devaluations and economic collapse.
In addition to explaining how to convert your TSP to Gold IRA, we’ll describe how TSPs work and why they are not the perfect vessel for all of your retirement assets.
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A TSP is known as a defined contribution plan, meaning you can contribute up to a specified amount, but your plan’s value is not guaranteed. This is in contrast to a defined benefit plan, in which you know exactly how big your pension will be. In other words, a defined contribution plan is risky, and your retirement money depends on how well your investments perform.
Most folks are familiar with 401(k) and 403(b) defined contribution plans that are offered by employers. TSPs, established in 1986 by the Federal Employees Retirement System Act, are similar accounts for federal workers.
As with 401(k)s, a TSP operates by allowing you to defer compensation and putting the money instead into the retirement account, known as the Thrift Savings Fund and which is administered by a board of presidential appointees. Your program may also offer matching funds from your employer.
TSP plans are somewhat straightjacketed, in that you have to choose among one or more limited investment options.
Several such options exist in the Thrift Savings Fund, and the assets owned by each option are completely out of the employee’s control. The only thing you can do is to mix and match the options you want.
The most popular TSP options are the so-called Lifecycle Funds, composed of:
Astute readers can see that gold and silver are not included in this list, and indeed, you cannot own physical precious metals in your TSP account. Nor does a TSP permit you to invest in gold stocks or gold exchange-traded funds.
However, all is not lost. Once you retire from your government job, you’re entitled to transfer your TSP to another qualified employer plan or into an individual retirement plan (IRA) without triggering taxes.
What Plans Allow Gold Bullion?
Gold bullion, in the form of certain coins and bars, are permitted in only a few types of retirement accounts. The same is true for the other precious metals: silver, platinum and palladium. You can buy bullion in an individual 401(k) (for self-employed workers) and in a Gold IRA.
Unlike a regular IRA, (whether traditional or Roth), a self-directed Gold IRA has a precious metals dealer as its custodian and is set up to let you buy and sell bullion within the account.
The IRA rules specify the types of precious metal coins and bars you can own. The most popular coins are from the U.S. Mint (the “American Eagle” coins) and the Canadian Mint (the “maple leaf” coins).
Precious metal bars must meet certain requirements for purity. Coins are much more convenient to purchase, and you know exactly what you are getting. And remember, you don’t put numismatic coins into an IRA, only bullion.
You can also buy “paper gold” in an IRA, in the form of gold mining stocks and ETF shares. However, don’t confuse paper-based assets with physical metal. When you buy, say, gold mining shares, their value is only indirectly linked to the price of gold. A strike or cave-in can ruin the stock price even when gold is strong.
ETFs can have big problems when confronted with sudden surges in buying or selling pressure, and their value can depart from that of gold. Most importantly, in an economic collapse, you can bet that gold and silver coins will be accepted to pay for your necessities, no questions asked.
Imagine trying that with stock certificates and you’ll see why so many investors insist on owning physical gold, not its paper impersonators.
How to Rollover Your TSP
When you leave federal employment, it’s important to transfer your TSP to another tax-deferred account so that you can continue to make contributions. If you roll it into a regular account (or a Roth account) you’ll have to include the value of your account in your current year’s income, which means its taxable.
But even more important, transferring your TSP to an IRA gives you the opportunity to own precious metal bullion in a tax-deferred account, meaning you pay no taxes on the metal until you withdraw it from the IRA.
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You have two methods to move your TSP to Gold IRA:
1. Rollover: In a rollover, you withdraw the money from your TSP and deposit it into one or more IRAs. You must mark the deposit as a rollover rather than a contribution – the latter is limited to $5,500 a year ($6,500 if over 50 years old).
Also, you must complete the rollover within 60 days, or the IRS will treat the money as a withdrawal and you’ll have to pay taxes on it. So there are problems with the rollover method – it can result in mistakes that trigger huge tax payments and rob you of a tax-sheltered home for your retirement money.
2. Direct Method: This method, also called a trustee-to-trustee transfer, moves the TSP assets or cash directly to one or more IRAs. You don’t touch the money – it goes directly into the new account(s). You don’t have to worry about the 60-day deadline with the direct method, which is clearly the better way to go.
It’s important to note that you can own multiple IRAs. That makes it easy to divide your retirement funds between a conventional and Gold IRA. You can decide what share of your wealth you want to invest in precious metals and allocate your transfers accordingly. Many experts recommend at least a 10 percent investment in gold and silver.
When you choose to convert a portion of your TSP to Gold IRA, make sure it’s one offered by a well-known and respected gold dealer.
Transferring a portion of retirement funds from your TSP to a precious metals IRA may be the best way to diversify your retirement with physical gold and silver.