How Have Your Investments Performed In the Past Year?

Which of the TSP funds had the best returns over the past 12 months and how do your investments in the G fund compare to the best performing fund? Where are TSP investors putting their money?

The stock market started off strong in January and added to these gains in February. The market, using the Dow Jones Industrial Average is  up 7.3% in 2013. (See January TSP Funds Off to a Great Start for the Year)

All of the funds in the Thrift Savings Plan, with the exception of the I fund, were up again in February. The C fund had the biggest gain (1.36%) and the S fund was up 1%. The C fund is now up 6.61% for the year and the S fund is up 8.02% so far in 2013.

Here is how all of the funds fared last month and how they are performing for the year-to-date and over the past twelve months. As you can see, the S fund is leading all other funds over a 12-month period with a gain of 14.48% and the C fund close behind at 13.50%. TSP investors who opted for the safety of the G fund had a return of 1.47%. Investors who were willing to take a little more risk by using the Lifecycle Income Fund did much better than the G fund over a 12-month period with a return of 3.96% as there was some exposure to the stock market using this fund.

TSP Fund Performance In February 2013, Year-to-Date and Over a 12-Month Period

G Fund F Fund C Fund S Fund I Fund


0.13% 0.51% 1.36% 1.00% -0.99%


0.25% -0.05% 6.61% 8.02% 3.42%

12 Month

1.47% 3.27% 13.50% 14.48% 10.75%
L Income L 2020 L 2030 L 2040 L 2050


0.27% 0.41% 0.49% 0.54% 0.56%


1.38% 3.25% 4.07% 4.68% 5.22%

12 Month

3.96% 7.94% 9.54% 10.72% 11.78%

In December, $3 billion was transferred into the G Fund by TSP investors. The transfers were probably in response to the ” fiscal cliff” threat. In January, about $3.7 billion was transferred out of the G Fund and less than $1.2 billion left the F fund. Also in January, about $1.5 billion was transferred into the S fund and about $1.49 billion went into the lifecycle funds. Less than $1.2 billion went into the C fund.

Where TSP Investors are Putting Their Money

There are now more than 4.5 million participants in to the Thrift Savings Plan. In 2000, there were just under 2.5 million investors in the program. There is now about $320 billion in TSP assets. It is estimated that these assets will increase to more than $500 billion in 5 years and nearly $800 billion in 10 years.

Here is how TSP investors have divided their TSP assets as of January 2013:

  1. G Fund: 41%
  2. C Fund: 24%
  3. L Funds: 14%
  4. S Fund: 8%
  5. I Fund: 7%
  6. F Fund: 6%

Reviewing Fund Options for the TSP

The TSP has been a very successful program. (See A Financial Advantage for Federal Employees and Military Personnel) In large part, this is probably because the TSP has been remarkably free from interference by Congress despite the temptation that a few hundred billion sitting in government accounts creates for our elected representatives.

This large amount of money has not gone unnoticed. As we know from experience, the G fund is occasionally used by the government to help pay for government expenses whenever we run up against the debt ceiling which, since the government is spending so much more money that it takes in, happens on a regular basis. There have also been proposals in Congress to use the money in different ways such as through a “socially responsible” investment fund, helping minority constituents, or to help Congress further its political goals in various parts of the world. (See Socially Responsible Investing Through the TSP and Your Retirement Security)

Part of the reason for its success is also that the plan is relatively simple to understand. As one might expect, the funds offered within the Thrift Savings Plan are periodically reviewed and changes for the fund offerings are considered by TSP management. Recently, a company reviewing the plans for the TSP board considered these “asset classes” as options for possible inclusion in the TSP:

  • Frontier Market Equities
  • High Yield Bonds
  • Private Real Estate
  • Private Equity
  • Commodities
  • Hedge Funds
  • Socially Responsible/Corporate Governance Funds
  • Infrastructure

For a variety of reasons, the recommendation was made that these options not be added to the TSP. These factors that led to the conclusion included small market size, illiquidity, lack of passive investment strategies, concentrated strategies, or that TSP participants already have access to the category through existing investments.

Overall, the rationale for the recommendation was straight-forward: “The simplicity and efficiency of the existing line-up makes the TSP a very attractive offering to participants….the addition of any of these options offered would enhance the efficiency of the Plan without compromising materially on its simplicity.”

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