How Are TSP Participants Investing Their Money?

Here are the latest data on TSP investors and how they invest their money.

The federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a big part of retirement income for many federal employees. The plan is popular and growth is continuing.

The TSP consists of index funds in various categories. According to the Wall Street Journal, while retirement savers in the private workforce pay “management fees that can exceed 1% annually on lousy investment choices,” TSP participants, including members of Congress, “pay a maximum of 0.039% for funds that all but guarantee matching the market.”

Expenses on a $10,000 investment can easily cost at least $100 a year for regular retirement savers. The fees on the same amount for a TSP participant cannot exceed $3.90.

Total TSP Assets and Participation Rates

As of the end of March 2017, the TSP had more than $491 billion in assets. As of the same date, there were 5,054,794 participants in the TSP. 506,146 of these participants are in the uniformed services.

For comparison, back in January 2007, the TSP had over $210 billion in investments and about 3.6 million participants.

Participation rates in the TSP are also still going up. The FERS participation rate is now about 90% and the active duty uniformed services participation rate is now up to 46.4%. In recent years, the participation rate of FERS employees was as low as 82.1% back in 2009.

In addition, the Thrift Savings Plan reports that March is one of the heaviest months for roll-ins to the TSP. In March there was a record $145 million of roll-ins to the TSP. This exceeded the March 2016 amount by about $40 million.

Average TSP Balances

The Thrift Savings Plan offers a Roth plan option as well as the more traditional account. Here are the average balances for TSP participants as of March 2017:

Total Roth
FERS $126,649 $9,639
CSRS $131,261 $15,263
Uniformed Services $20,736 $5,586

Where Do TSP Investors Invest Their Money?

The G fund continues to be the most popular TSP fund. 34% of TSP investor assets are in this fund. It is considered the safest of the TSP funds but also it is often the lowest performing fund.

The C fund is the second most popular choice. 28% of TSP investor funds are in this fund that tracks the S&P 500 stock index.

The lifecycle funds (L funds) are now the repository for 19% of TSP investor funds. The L funds are growing in popularity. In early 2013, only 14% of TSP investors funds were in the L funds while 41% of funds were in the G fund.

Here is a table showing the most current distribution of TSP funds among investors:

Fund % of Assets
G fund 34%
C fund 28%
L funds 19%
S fund 10%
I fund 5%
F fund 4%

Rates of Return for All TSP Funds

TSP investors who want to see the rate of return for all of the TSP funds can find this information at Individual fund information is available for yearly rates of return, monthly rates of return or daily rates of return.

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