If I had a dollar for every person who told me they don’t know anything about the Thrift Savings Plan or haven’t changed their contributions in years because they simply don’t know what to do, I’d be a rich man.
I understand the very nature of the Thrift Savings Plan is flawed. A typical government employee is introduced to the TSP during their hiring process. Unfortunately in most cases after this orientation most TSP members find it very hard to get concrete answers to their questions in regards to the Thrift Savings Plan. Leaving you no other choice than to base your investment decisions on hopes and fears, which is a recipe for disaster! While we do not offer any specific investment advice for individuals or their personal situations we offer investment education and market insight that can help guide you through personal decisions with your retirement portfolio.
Below is an indoctrination briefing we have made for new TSP members and hope it can help them navigate the Thrift Savings Plan with more confidence and understanding.
The G Fund – The safest fund offered by the Thrift Savings Plan, hands down. The G Fund invests exclusively in a non marketable short-term U.S. Treasury security that is specially issued to the TSP. The earnings consist entirely of interest income on the security. In short, think of the G Fund as a money market account that generates interest with the principal amount guaranteed by the U.S. Government. It’s a great alternative during bear markets and for retirees approaching retirement. Outside of those two scenarios I would highly discourage anyone from allocating their contributions to the G Fund at best perhaps 5-10% of their portfolio but even then inflation will cripple the growth of returns over time.
The F Fund – Over the last decade this fund has been the best fund for individuals approaching retirement. However, I believe going forward the G Fund will offer the appropriate level of protection for individuals approaching retirement. The intent of the F Fund is to replicate returns of the overall bond market, this in theory would allow your money to grow without being eroded by inflation but also leave you are exposed to market risk such as defaults and the change in interest rates. Simply put when interest rates fall bond prices rise and when interest rates rise bond prices fall. With this information in mind we have to take into account current interest rates.
As you can see while interest rates have gone lower, the F fund has increased in value. Please take note that rates have almost nowhere to go but up from their current state which significantly raises the risk for individuals invested in the F fund.
The C Fund - This fund mimics the S&P 500 which can be considered the overall pulse of the U.S. Stock Market. Investing in this fund will put your money parallel to the U.S. stock market. Therefore, when the overall market is doing well this fund will do well, when the overall market is plummeting so will this fund.
The S Fund – Created to follow small cap securities, this fund offers one of the highest returns that the TSP has to offer during bullish markets. However, while this fund delivers high profits it also delivers significant losses during bearish markets. Individuals with a high risk tolerance are generally drawn to this fund. Nevertheless I would not recommend this fund for individuals coming close to retirement due to its cyclicality of booms and busts.
The I Fund – I don’t recommend this fund for the simple fact that you can get similar returns simply investing in the S Fund with far less risk. This fund invests in international stocks also known as emerging markets which in theory offer more profit potential but do not require the strict reporting regulations of U.S. stocks. For the daredevils who like to see their money increase quickly I would say the I Fund is definitely for you, just remember what happens when you gamble, you can lose it a whole lot faster than you gained it.
Life Cycle Funds – The fund you decide to invest in will vary based on the year you plan to retire. In short these plans allocate a certain percentage of your portfolio to all 5 of the TSP funds. For someone with a longer investment horizon they will likely be placed into the C Fund and S Fund while individuals approaching retirement are primarily invested in the G & F Fund. I however, wouldn’t invest in any of these funds for a simple reason. Nobody knows my investment requirements better than myself. Some individuals may be trying to catch up and establish retirement savings. Investing primarily in the G & F Funds are not going to accomplish their retirement goals. Subsequently there is no reason why a young man or woman should be invested in the G or F Fund unless it is to seek shelter during a bear market.
One of the best things you can do as an investor is understand the fundamentals of market cycles. While most cycles have certain fundamental and technical indicators all markets are cyclical. They go up, then they peak, then they go down, and they bottom. Rinse wash repeat. I will admit not all market cycles are easy to identify while they are occurring, however when they are finished they are much easier to identify. I have included a couple assets for you to review that display market cycles very clearly.
If you don't know what any of these markets are, don't worry. You don't need to know what they are, simply look at the way they raise in price, then fall. While you are doing this please understand this one simple concept that all investors lose focus of.... No asset can go up in price forever, it must inevitably fall. This is a natural cycle, things get very expensive, then they get very cheap.
Our system takes a simple, technical, and time efficient approach to investing in the Thrift Savings Plan. All too often individuals and advisors believe they should be jumping in and out of funds in order to properly capitalize on market movements and I'm here to tell you that couldn't be any further from the truth. As of now our system utilizes only two of the funds offered in the TSP:
The G Fund - Acts as a money market account earning less than 1% return annually but preserves the capital that you contributed.
The C Fund - Aimed at mimicking the performance of the S&P 500.
With these two funds we conduct what is called "Trend Following." In short, we are primarily concerned with the technical performance of the market and less concerned with the fundamental aspects of the market. I know this may sound very "technical" and hard to understand but believe me it's not. You will see how simple it is in a moment.
With our trend following mantra we are trying to identify when the market will rise and when the market will fall. This in turn helps us avoid catastrophic loss to our portfolio - You may remember the two most recent stock market crashes of 2000 & 2007.
Individuals who stayed fully invested in their portfolio's suffered catastrophic losses during both time periods. Each crash resulted in approximately a 50% loss of their portfolios - In order to recover from such a loss you would have to turn around and generate a 100% gain (not an easy task). Think about it this way, if you had $100 and it was cut in half you would be left with $50. In order for you to get back to $100 - You would need to generate $50 just to get back to where you started! I have no problem with working hard, I've worked hard my entire life, but this phrase rings true.... "Work smarter, not harder"
If you knew that you were about to suffer a huge potential loss to your $100...
- Wouldn't it make sense to protect your capital?
- Wouldn't it not make further sense to step aside from the carnage that was about to ensue then simply return to the market when conditions were favorable?
- Wouldn't it be in your best interest to invest $100 at the start of a new bull market instead of $50?
These are questions - We don't have the answers for you.
But if you answered yes to all the questions above, then you will understand 100% why our system is vital to your retirement future.
As stated before, our system identifies bull & bear markets. This allows us to notify you at the beginning of every month through our newsletter and tell you what our system is indicating. This system tells us where to keep our capital and where to allocate future contributions to the TSP. It is remarkably quite simple:
When the S&P 500 is trading above our trading signal - We place all of our capital into the C Fund and allocate future contributions to the C Fund
When the S&P 500 is trading below our trading signal - We place all of our capital into the G Fund and allocate future contributions to the G fund. There is one exception to this rule but it is a little confusing and technical therefore we won't address it until the situation presents itself.
It really is that simple! Take a look for yourself...
Do you see how simple this system is? The best part about it, is you only have to take action whenever there is a huge market swing. You won't have to check your TSP every day, every week, or every pay period. You can sleep at night knowing that your road to retirement is clear and profitable!