What Is a TSP Annuity?

A TSP annuity is a life annuity contract purchased using funds from your TSP account.

The standard transaction transfers your money to MetLife, the sole annuity provider for the TSP, in exchange for a guaranteed stream of monthly payments for the rest of your life. One of the common types of annuities, this standard transaction is known as a single life annuity.

A joint life annuity is also available. This option guarantees a monthly payment to you and a spouse (or someone you designate other than a spouse) for the rest of your lives. Since a joint life payment stream covers two people and is likely to last longer than a single life stream, the amount of the payment is typically lower.

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How soon are you retiring?

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What is your goal for purchasing an annuity?

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What Happens to a TSP When You Die?

With a TSP annuity, if you die with money left in your annuity, MetLife will keep the remaining funds.

However, in qualifying circumstances, there are two optional features that provide some value to beneficiaries: a cash refund feature and a 10-year certain feature. If you choose either of these options, the monthly annuity payments you receive will automatically be reduced.

With the cash refund feature, unused annuity funds are paid to your beneficiaries when you die. You can add this feature to a single life annuity or a joint life annuity.

With the 10-year certain feature, if you die before you have received annuity payments for a 10-year period, payments will continue to your beneficiaries for the remainder of the 10-year period. You can add this feature to a single life annuity, but it cannot be used with a joint life annuity.

Factors Affecting a TSP Annuity Payment

Beyond the choice of a single life annuity or a joint life arrangement, along with the optional choice of beneficiary features discussed above, various factors can impact the amount of your TSP annuity payment.

Factors that impact the amount of your TSP annuity payment include the following:

  • Your age when the annuity is purchased
  • The age of the joint annuitant (or co-owner of the annuity), if you choose a joint annuity
  • The amount of money used to purchase the annuity
  • The interest rate offered when you purchase the annuity*
  • Your selection of level payments or increasing payments; selecting increasing payments will reduce your initial payment amount but provide some protection against inflation

* The interest rate for annuities purchased through a TSP in April 2023, for example, was 4.2%. Since 2002, the highest monthly rate was 5.750% (in August 2006), and the lowest was 1.209% (in July 2020).

Read More: What Is a Fixed Annuity?

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: October 30, 2023
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