The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), the government version of a 401k, does not currently offer its members the option of downloading their information directly into Quicken or MS Money.
Why not? Mostly, it’s a cost issue. Quicken and MS Money charge financial institutions a lot of money to make their software compatible and downloadable.
In the TSP FAQ’s, Number 4, the question is asked:
Q: “Can I download the financial data from my participant statement into financial spreadsheet programs such as Money or Quicken?”
A: “We have looked into the feasibility of providing procedures for downloading a participant’s TSP financial data into a program such as Money or Quicken. However, we discovered that the cost would be too high to make it worthwhile, and, more importantly, the procedures that the software manufacturer has developed to transfer data from your account to its program are user-unfriendly and extremely hard to follow. We have therefore decided not to implement such procedures at this time. We will revisit this issue periodically to see if the situation has improved.”
Now, I would like to dissect their answer. Basically, they said cost and a user-unfriendly interface. (User-unfriendly? I think the government made up another word!)
Cost: TSP costs are very low and I would hate to see a substantial increase. But think about the investments the TSP offers. It has several funds that track major indexes. Is it really that expensive to manage index funds? I’m sure there are a lot of ways that TSP officials can add Quicken /Money compatibility, cut costs in other areas, and still charge very low fees. How about not sending out paper statements at all, unless specifically requested? I’m sure there are many other cost effective measures that can be made.
Difficult to Use: As far as their comments about Quicken and Money being ‘user-unfriendly’, I use Quicken, and have had no troubles downloading financial data from any of my financial institutions. I have never used MS Money, but I assume it is fairly similar in scope and ease of use. It is possible TSP officials originally answered this question several years ago, before many people had experience using spreadsheets on a regular basis, and decided it was easier to leave things in the status quo.
Will it change? I hope so! I know many people who would love to be able to more accurately track their TSP investments. I have read numerous posts on forums asking about the Quicken /Money issues. I have even submitted a question about it to the TSP, but TSP workers do not answer individual questions/comments due to the sheer numbers of plan participants (over 3.4 million according to the TSP website) . Perhaps if enough people started complaining or asking about it, things may change. But maybe not.
Are there any work-arounds? Yes, there are. Here is how to download TSP invetments into Quicken. I am not sure how to do it for MS Money.