January TSP Funds Off to a Great Start for the Year

By on February 1, 2013 in News

Since 1929, the S&P 500 has averaged a 13% gain when the index went up in January, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Conversely, when the index falls in January, it has averaged a 3.6% decline for the entire year. The C fund in the Thrift Savings Plan is based on the S&P 500 index.

Because the C fund is based on the broad S&P 500 index, the Thrift Savings Plan has had similar results to those identified in the Journal article. For example, the last year in which the C fund declined for the year was in 2008. In that year, the C fund declined 36.99%. It went down 5.98% in January 2008.  The C fund went down for three straight years from 2000 – 2002. In January 2000, the C fund declined 5.03% and was down 9.14% for the year. In January 2001, the C fund was up 2.55% but declined 11.94% for the year. In January 2002, the C fund declined 1.47% and lost 22.05% for the year.

With that background, how did your TSP stock investments fare this month? The C fund was up 5.18% which may bode well for your stock investments in 2013.

All of the TSP stock funds were up in January. The S fund increased 6.96%, beating out all of the other funds.  The only fund losing money in January was the F fund which was down 0.56%.

Of course, there is no guarantee that economic and political events will cooperate and there is plenty of uncertainty that can derail stock prices later this year.

Here is how all of the TSP funds performed in January:

G Fund

F Fund

C Fund

S Fund

I Fund













12 Month






L Income

L 2020

L 2030

L 2040

L 2050













12 Month






You can get additional TSP return data at TSPDataCenter.com.

Average TSP Balance

In a recent popular article on our site, the author cited different statistics for the average TSP balance. The FedSmith balance figures are obtained from the TSP and here are the latest TSP balances as of December 31, 2012 for both the total balances and the Roth TSP balances:

FERS $90,265 $1,479 (Roth)
CSRS $90,558 $2,648 (Roth)
Uniformed Services $14,039 $553 (Roth)

TSP Transfers in December

Trying to time the market is often described as “difficult” or “impossible” to do with any consistency. Of course, people may have a lot of different reasons for moving their money, especially if they were retiring at the end of the year.

In December 2012, TSP investors transferred more than $1.6 billion from the C fund and moved more than $3.1 billion into the G fund. Investors also removed substantial amounts from the S, I and L funds. In hindsight, had investors left this money in the stock funds, they would now have more money in their investments since the returns were very good in January.

Your Investments in 2013

No one knows with any certainty if the rest of 2013 will provide good returns or if the economic headwinds will put a damper on investor enthusiasm. But, as we recently noted in an article on the Thrift Savings Plan, federal employees have a leg up on other investors with low expenses and better rates of return that most investors are likely to have.

Best of luck to all of our readers in formulating your investment strategy for the remainder of the year.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

11 Replies

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  1. B. Graham says:

    It’s interesting that the average balance in accounts of those covered under CSRS is greater than it is in the accounts of FERS workers, when, because of a much less generous guaranteed pension, the TSP is expected to make a substantial contribution, perhaps the most significant one, to retirement security under FERS.

    • Rambo1957 says:

      The CSRS employees have more years and probably average a higher salary in many cases. The FERS average have many new(er) employees with smaller account balances.

      • Fed Up! says:

         We CSRS were not allowed to contribute to TSP for several years after it started and then only in the G fund, so FERS have had more time to put in.  And we have never gotten matching funds.  I was almost 20 years into my career when it started, so its always been more like gravy and less like needed beef of retirement.  But  FERS is what was forced on all newer employees by R-eagan.  Perhaps CSRS are ‘older and wiser’ so more careful about jumping into and out of the stock funds, buying fear when others cut and run, as so many here seem to do.  

  2. jimijr says:

    You don’t have to understand it or like it in order to benefit by it. Go to TSP Talk dot com and learn how it’s done. If you’re a federal employee you need to know all about the care and feeding of your TSP. It was everything to me, the sine qua non of my successful retirement.

  3. HRguru says:

    Even as GDP shrinks and unemployment is stagnant.  I guess that’s why I didn’t get into finance- it seems like magic.

    • trevor1953 says:

      the gdp shrinks because the GOP insists on cutting Government. And when the sequester hits they will be responsible for the next recession just like the one in Europe caused by government cuts.

      • $15300432 says:

        The last time our debt to GDP ratio was above 100% was during WW2, we are now at 111% only Greece, Ireland Spain and Japan are worse than us. Eventually the Dem’s are going to run out of other countries $$$$ to spend

      • contspec says:

        The excessive spending in the last four years hasn’t helped.  This president told us that his plan would take unemployment to 6% and the GDP would be 4%.  Neither has happended.  We should try cutting spending because excessive spending and regulation is not working.  The president is suppose to lead and the only idea he has is tax, spend and regulate.

      • Stephen Koch says:

        It’s devisive comments like yours that keeps us from moving forward as a country! It’s not Red vs Blue. Grow up!