What is the Difference Between a TSP and a Pension?

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

TSP (Thrift Savings Plan)

  1. Definition: A TSP is a retirement savings plan for federal employees and members of the uniformed services. It is similar to a 401(k) plan offered by private-sector employers.
  2. Contributions: Employees contribute a portion of their income to their TSP account. The government may also make matching contributions.
  3. Investment Control: Participants have control over how their contributions are invested, choosing from a range of funds.
  4. Withdrawal: Funds can be withdrawn at retirement age, with various options for distribution. Penalties may apply for early withdrawal.


  1. Definition: A pension is a retirement plan typically offered by employers, providing a fixed income to retirees for life.
  2. Funding: It is usually funded by the employer, though employees may also contribute.
  3. Annuity Feature: Pensions use an annuity to provide reliable retirement income. An annuity is a financial product that pays out a fixed stream of payments to an individual.
  4. Benefit Calculation: The retirement benefit is often calculated based on factors like years of service and salary history.

Key Differences

  1. Control: TSP offers more control over investments, while the employer or a pension fund typically manages pensions.
  2. Income Stability: Pensions provide a more predictable and stable income through annuities, whereas TSP withdrawals depend on the amount saved and investment performance.
  3. Funding Responsibility: In TSPs, the individual bears more responsibility for contributions. In pensions, the employer is primarily responsible.

Related Reading: What is better Social Security or a pension?

Comparison of TSP and Pension

TypeRetirement Savings PlanRetirement Benefit Plan
ContributionsEmployee (with possible employer match)Primarily Employer, sometimes Employee
Income TypeDepends on savings and investmentsFixed Annuity
Control Over FundsHighLow
Income PredictabilityVariableHigh


Understanding the difference between a TSP and a pension is crucial for planning retirement. While TSPs offer flexibility and control over investments, pensions provide a stable and predictable income through annuities. Each has its advantages, depending on individual retirement goals and preferences. Contact us today for a free quote.

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Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

Shawn Plummer is a licensed financial professional, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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