Which TSP Fund Returned More Than 11% in January?

What impact has the shutdown and stock market volatility had on TSP returns? See which TSP fund had its best January return since the TSP’s inception.

How did stocks fare in January? Very well indeed, thank you.

For the broader stock market averages, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both had their biggest monthly gains since October 2015. The S&P 500 went up 7.9% in January. This is its best start to the year since 1987.

The best return for this month was the S fund with a return of 11.64%. All of the TSP funds were up in January.

Best January Return Ever for the C Fund

For Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) investors there is also good news. The C fund is based on the S&P 500 index. The C fund went up 8.01% in January. For those who may be wondering when the C fund last went up at least 8% in January, don’t spend a lot of time looking. It has never gone up 8% in January.

The best return for the C fund in January was 7.14% and that was in 1989. For those who like to engage in wishful thinking or believe the past is prologue to the future, in 1989 the C fund for the year was up more than 31%. That is not the highest yearly return the C fund has experienced but it is near the top. (The highest yearly return for the C fund was 37.4% in 1995.)

Comparing January Returns to “Best Ever” Monthly Returns

What are the best monthly returns for the C and the S funds? While January 2019 was very good, these two funds have performed a little better. Overall, the best monthly return for the C fund was 11.4% in December 1991.

The best monthly performance for the S fund was 15% in April 2009.

For those looking for a little cheer this winter, this may help. In 1991, when the C fund had its best monthly return, that fund had a yearly return of 30.77%.

In 2009, when the S fund had its best monthly return of all time, that fund returned 34.85% for the year.

Will 2019 bring similar good news to TSP investors? We have no idea. All we know is that 2019 is off to a good start for those with money in the TSP.

Monthly and 12 Month TSP Returns

G Fund F Fund C Fund S Fund I Fund
Month 0.23% 1.07% 8.01% 11.64% 6.6%
YTD 0.23% 1.07% 8.01% 11.64% 6.6%
12 Month 2.94% 2.39% -2.34% -1.98% -12.11%


L Income L 2020 L 2030 L 2040 L 2050
Month 1.83% 2.53% 4.92% 5.86% 6.67%
YTD 1.83% 2.53% 4.92% 5.86% 6.67%
12 Month 1.44% 0.32% -1.89% -2.87% -3.74%

TSP Transfers in December: Surge into G Fund

January was a good month for the stock market although 2018 was not a profitable year for stocks overall. TSP investors apparently anticipated further drops in the stock market during December.

About 6.2 billion was transferred into the G fund during December. Almost $2.9 billion was transferred out of the C fund and about $1.9 billion was transferred out of the S fund. $1.4 billion was transferred out of the lifecycle funds and $442 million was transferred out of the I fund.

Loans and Hardship Withdrawals

The TSP was involved in activity changes as a result of the partial government shutdown.

Since December 26, 2018, compared to data for the previous year, loans increased by 5% and hardship withdrawals increased by 26%.

Also, the TSP “contact centers” experienced an increase during the shutdown of about 5% in call volumes, email and written correspondence. As much as 80% of all contacts had a question or made reference to the partial government shutdown.


January 2019 stock market returns are off to a great start. We wish all TSP investors many happy returns throughout the year.

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