Lifecycle Funds Growing in Popularity–But With an Unexpected Twist

Lifecycle funds are growing in popularity for TSP investors. At the end of July, more than 606,000 TSP investors had money in an L fund. But investors are not putting all of their assets in one location. The number of participants with their entire TSP balance in one L fund is surprisingly small.

The number of Thrift Savings Plan investors moving into the lifecycle funds is continuing to grow.

As of July 31st, 606.828 people are investing in a lifecycle fund. As of December 31, 2008, 584,468 participants were investing in an L fund.

How Investors Use L Funds

But it is somewhat surprising to look a little further. The concept behind the L funds is that a person can put money into a fund based on a projected retirement date. It makes it easier to invest your retirement funds in one place and the allocation becomes more conservative as you near retirement age.

In reality, the number of TSP participants with their entire account balance invested in one lifecycle fund is fairly small. 4% of FERS participants have their money in one fund. For CSRS participants, 3% of participants have all of their TSP money invested in one lifecycle fund.

G Fund Is the Most Popular TSP Fund

Currently, Thrift Savings Plan Investors who are under the FERS retirement system have 10% of their money in an L fund. The biggest chunk, 48%, is in the G fund and 23% is in the C fund.

Thrift Savings Plan investors under the CSRS retirement system have 8% of their money in an L fund and 56% of their money in the G fund. 21% is in the C fund. CSRS employees are generally closer to retirement (or more likely to be retired) than those under FERS as the CSRS plan was in place before being displaced by FERS.

In effect, TSP investors are using the L fund as they would use one of the TSP funds–apparently as a way of diversifying their investments rather than using it as the primary source of investing for their retirement future.

While TSP investors are now using the L funds more, they have obviously not bought into the concept of the lifecycle funds as a way to invest all of their retirement funds using a pre-determined allocation feature. That probably indicates a lack of trust in the concept as investors appear to want to make their own investment decisions on how to allocate their money rather than relying on the formula used for the different funds.

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. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47