If you have separated from service, the IRS requires that you receive a certain portion of your Thrift Savings Plan account balance beginning with the year in which you become 70 1/2. This portion, known as a “required minimum distribution,” is based on life expectancy.
If you do not withdraw or begin monthly payments in that year, the TSP must make the required distribution before April 1 of the following year. When you choose a withdrawal option, the TSP will determine if you are required to have a portion of your account paid directly to you as a minimum distribution. The TSP will notify you and make any minimum distribution payments to you as required.
The minimum distribution requirement applies only to participants who have separated from service. It does not apply to active employees regardless of their age.
Under the TSP’s traditional policy, after age 70 ½ account holders also had to make a final decision about how they wanted to withdraw the full amount; if they didn’t, a complex process kicked in which in effect tied up the account until the decision is made. That policy will not apply after September 15, however, as one of the many withdrawal policy changes taking effect at that time (those changes do not affect the minimum required distribution requirement, however).