Question: If the debt ceiling isn’t raised on time, can the government tap Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts to prevent a default?

Answer: Money in the 401(k)-style TSP is the personal property of account holders — current federal employees (and military personnel) and those who keep their accounts open after leaving.

However, the government can “disinvest” the TSP’s government securities fund (G Fund), which consists of securities the Treasury Department issues each day just for that fund. By not issuing those securities it can remove some of the national debt — the obligation to pay them off — from its books. It actually has been doing that since March, although the money freed up by that and other financial maneuvers also being used will run out around late September.

While disinvestment upsets many TSP investors, it doesn’t directly affect them: They earn the same interest and can withdraw or borrow against their money as normal. When the ceiling is raised, it’s as if nothing had happened.

The other TSP investment funds track stock and bond markets. Those investments are held by a financial firm under contract with the TSP. “The Treasury has no authority to access that money,” TSP spokeswoman Kim Weaver said.