Trends in TSP Investing

January 6, 2020 11:14 AM , Updated January 17, 2020 12:46 PM
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The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) has continued to grow in the last year.

TSP Facts

The federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for federal employees is the largest defined contribution plan in the world. The TSP is administered by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, an independent agency, to benefit of civilian Federal employees as well as active duty and reserve military members.

In December 2018, the TSP released the latest figures for the year (as of November 30, 2018) and the TSP had a balance of $561,389 billion under its management. For the same time at the end of November 2019, the TSP plan had $621,341 billion under management.

Average TSP Balance Growing

The number of participants in the TSP has also continued to grow. At the end of November 2018, there were 5,468,262 participants. FERS employees had an average balance of $139,560 and an average Roth balance of $12,832.

At the end of November 2019, there were 5,841,434 participants in the TSP. FERS employees had an average balance of $149,424 and an average Roth balance of $14,823.

The participation rate in the TSP by employees under the FERS retirement program is now up to 91.4%—an increase from 90.3% last year.

How TSP Participants Invest

There are some minor differences in how TSP investors have allocated their investment dollars in the past year and a more significant change in how these investments have changed over a longer time.

There is now a slightly smaller percentage of investment in the G, S and I Funds and an increase in the amount of money in the C Fund and the Lifecycle funds.

The Lifecycle funds are significantly increasing in popularity and now have almost 2.5 million participants. At the end of November 2014, there were less than 985,000 participants and in December of 2005, there were fewer than 215,000 L Fund investors.

As the bull market in stocks has been setting records for how long it has lasted, the percentage of investors in the G Fund has continued to decrease. In January 2012, for example, about 47% of of investor assets were in the G Fund. The percentage of assets in the G Fund has generally gone down each year and now stands at 31.4%.

Here is the breakdown of how TSP participants invested their money in 2018 and 2019.

Fund2018 %2019 %
G32.5%31.4%
F3.5%3.9%
C28.9%29.2%
S10.3%9.8%
I4.3%4.2%
Lifecycle20.5%21.4%

No doubt, we will see changes in the coming year as the performance of the stock market unfolds in 2020. It is a presidential election year that may influence the performance of the markets and, as always, unforeseen events in the international stage can have a major influence on how investors react.

© 2020 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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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

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