In Volatile Month, Which TSP Funds Had Largest Gains?

November was a volatile month for stocks. Which TSP funds had the largest gains?

Stocks were very volatile in November with wide swings as the markets moved up or down. But, at the end of the month, the S&P 500 (the index on which the C fund is based) rose 1.8%, and the Dow Jones industrial average went up 1.7%.

The TSP went through the same volatility as the overall market indices. On November 1st, the per share price for the C fund was $39.14 and it went up to about $40.20 later in the month. On November 23rd, it was down to $37.37 and finished the month at $39.52 as it went up with a decent gain on the last trading day of the month.

In other words, the C fund had a swing of more than 6% during this one month period. For those that follow stock fund prices on a daily basis, this volatility can create an emotional event that can lead to buying or selling a fund based on very short-term results.

In November, despite the volatility, the C fund was up 2.04%—the best return of any TSP fund for the month. For the year-to-date, the C fund is up more than 5% and it is up 6.2% for the past twelve months.

The only Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds that were down in November were the I fund (down 0.13%) and the lifecycle income fund (down 0.53%).

TSP Returns for November, YTD and Past 12 Months

For more historical information about the annual rate of return for each fund, visit The rate of return for each fund by month for each year is also available at

G Fund F Fund C Fund S Fund I Fund
Month 0.26% 0.62% 2.04% 1.92% -0.13%
YTD 2.65% -1.65% 5.08% 1.61% -9.04%
12 Month 2.85% -1.18% 6.24% 2.08% -7.58%


L Income L 2020 L 2030 L 2040 L 2050
Month 0.53% 0.65% 0.99% 1.12% 1.22%
YTD 2.05% 1.86% 1.12% 0.76% 0.47%
12 Month 2.48% 2.45% 1.94% 1.68% 1.48%

TSP Data

For October, TSP investors transferred about $4.7 billion into the G fund while transferring roughly the same amount of money out of the C, S, I and L stock funds.

While there were probably a number of reasons that investors transferred money into the safer environment of the G fund, one major reason for the uptick in transfers may have been the fact that the stock funds lost money in October. The C fund was down about 6.8% in October, the S fund was down more than 10% in that same month and the I fund was down 7.9%.

Are TSP Investors Timing the Stock Market?

As noted in Timing the Market Can Lower Your TSP Balance, timing the market or buying and selling stocks as a reaction to short-term events often results in a short-term loss of money.

That has happened in the past two months.

In September, TSP participants transferred hundreds of millions into the TSP stock funds as the market went up in August. For some of these investors, they transferred their money into stock funds just before the market went down in October.

In October, billions of dollars went into the G fund and out of the TSP stock funds. Those that transferred their money lost out on the 2% gain in the C fund and the 1.9% gain in the S fund for November.

In other words, some investors appear to have sold their stocks at a lower price in September, bought the stock back at a higher price in October, and then sold some of their stock fund shares after the market was going down again in November.

Reacting to short-term trends in the stock market can result in losing money which could be very useful after retiring your career in federal service.

TSP Assets

As of October 31st, the G fund has the largest percentage of assets at 40.4%. In the previous month, this percentage of assets in the G fund was at 38.1%.

Here is how the percentages changed from September to October:

Percentage of Assets in TSP by Fund

Fund September October
G 38.1% 40.4%
F 4.8% 4.9%
C 35.9% 34.8%
S 13.1% 12.1%
I 8.1% 7.8%


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