Surging Number of Federal Employee Millionaires

January 13, 2020 5:36 PM , Updated January 27, 2020 10:47 AM
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Close up of a $100 bill with a pocket watch on top of it depicting growth in the value of money over time

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As of December 31, 2018, there were 21,432 millionaires in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The average TSP millionaire had been contributing to the plan for almost 30 years (29.63). Back in 2011, there were only 208 millionaires.

At the end of December 2016, there were 9,599 millionaires in the TSP.

Numbers of TSP Millionaires Explodes

Since that time, with the rising stock market over the past few years, the number of TSP millionaires among the federal employee population has exploded.

At the end of December 2019, there are 49,620 TSP millionaires according to data provided by the Thrift Savings Plan.

And, contrary to some who think these people made money in the private sector and then became a federal employee, the average millionaire has been contributing to the TSP for 29.14 years.

The data do not include beneficiaries of TSP accounts but do include rollovers from other qualified plans.

TSP Account With the Most Money

One TSP investor stands out. We do not know who it is but this investor had a balance of $7,395,476.29 as of December 31, 2019.

It is not a surprise that there are more TSP accounts with smaller amounts invested. Here is a breakdown of account balances the number of participants and the average number of years of contributing to the TSP.

TSP Balance# of ParticipantsAverage Years of Contributions
Under $50,0003,401,5985.95
$50K – $249K1,487,30615.68
$250K-499K488,02721.15
$500k-$749k176,56924.12
$750k-999k74,86926.66
$1 million or
more
49,62029.14
Total5,677,98910.87

One FedSmith reader made this comment on a similar article last year:

Joined the (millionaires) club recently at 53. I’m thankful for attending a mid-career retirement class where the teacher advised that I was way too conservative in my asset allocation. That has made all the difference.

Significant Factors Impacting Your TSP Growth

Several factors make it more likely to become a millionaire before retiring from the federal government.

Diversify Your Investments

Some readers have all or most of their money in the G Fund. Particularly for younger investors with a long career ahead of them, this is not a good idea.

Money in stock funds has grown more than money invested in bond funds. Stocks do not go up every year and the G fund has never gone down in any year. But, over time, the stock funds have always provided a better return.

Take Advantage of the Government Match

If you can afford to put the maximum into the TSP, do it!

At the same time, avoid withdrawing money or taking out a loan against your TSP balance if you are able to do so as this will set back the progress in the growth of your money.

Some readers submit comments that it is not possible for a federal employee to accumulate at least $1 million in the TSP and that these people rolled over money from a private fund when they were making a lot more money. If you think you cannot accumulate this amount or more as a federal employee, you are probably right.

On the other hand, a number of readers have said they have had a full career as a federal employee and passed this milestone before retiring. So, if you think you can accumulate this amount or you think you cannot accumulate this amount, you are probably right.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

~ Henry Ford

Reaching the millionaire milestone takes patience, regular investing, living a moderate lifestyle, and making good investment decisions while taking some risk.

Our congratulations to all readers who are now TSP millionaires!

© 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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