TSP Funds Head Down in September

September lived up to its reputation as the worst month of the year for stocks with all of the TSP stock funds, with the exception of the G fund, having a negative return for the month.

September did little to change its reputation as the worst-performing month of the year for the American stock market. After hitting a new high on September 18, stocks started going down and finished the month in the red. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds were all down in September with the exception of the G fund which gained 0.18%. The G fund is up 1.75% for the year to date.

USA Today noted that “Since 1928, the S&P 500 is ranked No. 12 in performance out of the 12 months of the year, with average losses of 1.02%, and finishing higher just 45% of the time, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.”

The poor performance of stocks in September reduced stock market returns for the third quarter. Overall,  stocks still posted gains for the quarter. The S&P 500 (the index on which the TSP’s C fund is based) gained 0.6% during the quarter.

For the year-to-date, most of the Thrift Savings Plan funds are still showing a positive return. The exception is the International stock fund (I fund) which is down 1.06% for the year. The C fund is still up 8.41% for the year-to-date and has a positive return of 19.83% over the past twelve months. The G fund, by comparison, is up 1.75% for the year and up 2.32% for the past 12 month period. Here are the returns for the month, year-to-date (YTD) and past 12 months for all of the TSP stock funds.

G Fund F Fund C Fund S Fund I Fund
Month 0.18% -0.58% -1.40% -5.10% -3.82%
YTD 1.75% 4.73% 8.41% 1.18% -1.06%
12 Month 2.32% 4.70% 19.83% 9.89% 4.59%
L Income L 2020 L 2030 L 2040 L 2050
Month -0.42% -1.36% -1.84% -2.18% -2.50%
YTD 2.61% 3.38% 3.70% 3.88% 3.97%
12 Month 4.86% 8.35% 9.88% 10.92% 11.82%

So, while some TSP investors will fret over the negative returns in September, a longer term investor will, instead, focus on how the TSP funds have performed over a longer period. You can check out monthly, annual and even daily returns for all of the TSP funds at TSPDataCenter.com to provide a more balanced perspective than the returns from one month.

TSP News Update

The total TSP balance exceeded $429 billion in August. Over 11,500 accounts were cashed out as these TSP participants were separated from federal service and had less than a $200 balance remaining. As of August 2014, there were 4,653,599 TSP participants.

The FERS participation rate remained the same at 87.5% with an average account balance of $114,000. The average TSP balance for those under the CSRS system is $112,525 and for military personnel the average is $18,227.

In August, TSP participants added about $1.1 billion into the G fund and 242 million into the F fund. $886 million was withdrawn from the S fund and $367 million was withdrawn from the C fund. Another $215 million was withdrawn from the I fund and $100 million added to the L funds.

TSP investors may be more comfortable with investing in stock funds due to the increase in stock prices over the past several years. In January of 2011, about 41% of TSP investments were in the G fund and about 25% was in the C fund. More recently, again in round numbers, about 35% of TSP balances are invested in the G fund and 28% of TSP investments are in the C fund.

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