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Do you know how to invest in the TSP in 2023?
You want to invest in your TSP, but you’re worried about inflation, COVID and the markets crashing.
I’ll show you exactly how to invest in the TSP in 2023 including:
- What changes to make to your portfolio in 2023
- Fatal TSP Mistakes to Avoid
- Nine TSP allocation strategies for 2023
- How to Protect your TSP balance with bonds
This shows how to invest your TSP in a way that will lead to financial independence at or before retirement.
Through using these types of investment strategies (I’ll tell you exactly which one I used), I became a military millionaire well before retirement.
Anyone can duplicate this.
The allocation strategies I talk about in this article are:
- S&P 500 Index Allocation
- Total Stock Market Index Allocation
- Warren Buffett TSP Allocation
- Dave Ramsey TSP Allocation
- Paul Merriman TSP Allocation
- Total World Stock Market TSP Allocation
- Balanced Index Fund Allocation
- Three-fund Allocation
- My Rich on Money Personal Portfolio Allocation
Changes for 2023
My investment recommendations did not change in 2023.
The biggest mistake people make with retirement investing is tailoring their strategy year-to-year depending on what’s going on in the world.
This causes you to make far less money than you would if you stuck with the same strategy through thick and thin.
Global Pandemic? Inflation? Overheated stock and real estate market?
This tried and true method of how to invest in the TSP will make you rich in retirement if you stay the course.
Don’t bounce around with useless TSP investment strategies like timing the market, playing with TSP charts, selling before or after elections, buying on dips, selling on bad news, etc.
Instead, use these tools to make an informed decision about the best long-term TSP strategy for you.
Several of these TSP investment strategies are recommended by well-known money gurus such as Warren Buffett and Dave Ramsey.
I’ve also added every TSP investment option I could find that will work with the available funds.
TSP ALLOCATION 2023
Below is a list of different potential TSP allocation strategies to show you how to invest in the TSP in 2023.
I’ve pulled these from various sources and as I discover new ones, I will update this. Please send me your recommendations with supported documentation.
The S&P 500 Index
This is the asset allocation I used most of my working life.
When I opened a Roth IRA in 1999, I called my bank and asked to put it in the S&P 500. At the urging of an investment advisor (I’m not a fan of most), I put it in an aggressive growth fund instead. In 2000, it lost half its value.
From that day forward, I decided S&P 500 would be the way I invest. I had read before that Warren Buffett said something to the effect of, if you don’t have time to look at stock charts and read finance news all day long, you are better off investing in the S&P 500 index and never touching it.
Actually, here’s exactly what he said in 2013 in his letter to shareholders:
“In the 20th Century, the Dow Jones Industrials index advanced from 66 to 11,497, paying a rising stream of dividends to boot. The 21st Century will witness further gains, almost certain to be substantial. The goal of the non-professional should not be to pick winners…but should rather be to own a cross-section of businesses that in aggregate are bound to do well. A low-cost S&P 500 index fund will achieve this goal.”
Additionally, instead of investing his wife’s inheritance in Berkshire Hathaway stock, he plans to invest it in the S&P 500 index.
That should tell you something.
If it’s good enough for Warren, it’s good enough for me.
To mimic a full investment in the S&P 500 index, just invest 100% in the C fund.
The Total Stock Market Index
This investment choice is a popular one and is the main recommendation of JL Collins on his blog www.jlcollinsnh.com and in his book The Simple Path to Wealth.
Instead of just investing in the largest companies that make up the S&P 500, you invest in those plus mid and small cap companies as well. This index encompasses the entire U.S. stock market (as the name suggests!)
Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) enthusiasts will swear to the superiority of this index to the S&P 500, and to suggest considering anything else is heresy!
It’s clearly more diversified than the S&P 500, and small caps have been known to outperform large caps over the long term, albeit with potentially a little more volatility.
Over long periods of time, the total stock market index fund and S&P 500 had similar performance, and it would be hard to say for sure which will outperform in the future.
In my opinion, you are doing great with either one.
80% C and 20% S will closely mimic this popular index.
The Warren Buffett TSP Allocation
Image from moneycrashers.com
While I mentioned earlier I got my idea for an all S&P 500 index allocation from something Warren Buffett said in a newsletter, he actually has more specific instructions I want to address here.
I talked earlier about how he had a plan for how the money left for his wife would be invested. I said he would invest in S&P 500 index instead of Berkshire Hathaway, but that’s only part of the story.
He also has a plan to throw bonds into the mix to smooth out the ride a little bit, which is a common investment strategy. The amount of bonds you throw into the mix will dampen the volatility, but will also limit your upside potential during booms as well.
In the same newsletter in 2013, he talked about his specific advice to his trustee on how to invest the remaining money that will be left to his family:
“My advice to the trustee could not be more simple: Put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund…I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors – whether pension funds, institutions or individuals – who employ high-fee managers.”
As luck would have it, this is easy to mimic with the funds offered in the thrift savings plan. 90% C fund and 10% F fund.
Next is Dave Ramsey’s strategy.
Dave Ramsey TSP Investment Advice
I’m a huge fan of Dave’s book Total Money Makeover. His baby steps for getting out of debt are legendary!
He also has TSP investment recommendations on how to invest in the thrift savings plan. His caveats are typical of Dave’s approach to money.
In typical Dave fashion, he suggests that you first pay off all your debt besides your primary residence before you begin long term investing and have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses as well.
He has two sets of recommendations. One slightly more aggressive than the other.
More conservative: 80% in C, 10% in S, 10% in I.
Less conservative: 60% in C, 20% in S, 20% in I.
Here is the link to his recommendation.
Next: Money Guru Paul Merriman’s TSP Allocation Reccomendation:
Paul Merriman TSP Allocation Recommendations
Paul Merriman is a successful advisor on mutual fund and index fund investing. He’s an accomplished author, speaker, and is well known for the ultimate buy-and-hold portfolio.
This portfolio is comprised of index funds and has an amazing track record. Unfortunately, due to the various types of funds held in this portfolio, it is impossible to mimic with the TSP funds available.
If you are curious, I wrote an article about this how to invest in this portfolio:
9 Proven Ways to Boost Your Index Fund Returns
He explains that most notably what is missing from the TSP funds is value funds, which is a key component of his strategy to boost typical index fund returns.
He does make specific recommendations for TSP owners using what is available to us.
He has 3 separate TSP allocation recommendations based on your risk tolerance: conservative, moderate or aggressive.
With all three of these portfolios, the equity part of the portfolio is split the same way:
50% in S, 25% in C, 25% in I.
With the aggressive portfolio, the entire amount is invested this way. The conservative and moderate portfolios have a portion of the total invested in the F and G funds. This portion is not exposed to the risk of the stock market, as the C, S and I funds are.
His advice is that, generally, younger investors can afford to be more aggressive, and as you get older, you become more conservative, but this is a generalization and everybody’s situation may differ.
The conservative portfolio: 18% G and 42% F, and the rest in S, C and I at 50/25/25.
The moderate portfolio: 12% G and 28% F, and the rest in S, C and I at 50/25/25.
The aggressive portfolio: 50% S, 25% C, 25% I
Here is the link to his article on TSP recommendations:
How to pick smarter investments in your U.S. Thrift Savings Plans
Attached is a graphic from his website outlining exactly how to do this strategy.
Maybe you know how you want to invest your TSP, but you are concerned about huge drops in the market?
Protect your TSP from large market drops.
Total World Stock Market Portfolio
This portfolio mix is a TSP investment strategy modeled loosely after the Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund (VTWSX).
It will allow you to have exposure to stock markets around the globe, including the United States and developed foreign markets.
The weakness of this portfolio compared to the Vanguard one is exposure to emerging markets.
The I fund currently only has developed economies, and not emerging markets. There supposedly is a plan in place to change the I fund in the future to include emerging markets, but it hasn’t happened yet.
This matters, because the I fund isn’t as diverse as it could be, and that could affect returns.
The Vanguard fund I am modeling after has roughly 60% of the portfolio in U.S. stocks, and the rest are international. To model this portfolio:
Use 48% C and 12% S to make up the U.S. stock market, then use 40% I for the rest.
The 48/12 mix comes from splitting 60% into an 80/20 mix to achieve the Total Stock Market Index.
Balanced Index Fund Portfolio
This portfolio is meant to mimic the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund Admiral Shares (VBIAX).
It is a way to have access to the entire U.S. stock and bond market. It has far less volatility than the Total Stock Market Index by using bonds to smooth out the ride. The balance of this portfolio is 60% stocks, and 40% bonds.
This can be accomplished through 48% C, 12% S, and 40% F.
Obviously, you could adjust the stock/bond ratio to meet any level of risk that you would like.
Three Fund Portfolio
This is a favorite among Bogleheads (Those who love Vanguard and its founder Jack Bogle).
This fund is comprised of 1/3 each of the following:
- Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund
- Vanguard Total International Stock Market Fund
- Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund
This fund is broadly diversified, but heavily weighted in large cap stocks. Remember, the I fund lacks the exposure to emerging markets that the Total International Stock Market Fund has, so the thrift savings plan version won’t be identical until the I includes more countries and emerging markets.
To mimic the Total Stock Market fund, I split the 33% in an 80/20 C/S split. This is where I get my weird percentages from.
A way to closely mimic this portfolio is: 27% C, 7% S, 33% I, 33% F.
Make sure you use these recommended allocations correctly!
Most people screw this up.
My Current TSP Allocation for 2023
There are literally thousands of people who google “Rich on Money TSP Allocation” every millennium. They want to learn from a true master how to invest in the TSP in 2023.
Until now, nobody has ever known how the brilliant mind of a master invests.
I like the idea of being a little heavier weighted on the mid-cap stocks as opposed to being just all S&P 500 index fund. Of course, I’m going against Warren Buffett’s philosophy.
Not sure how wise that is!
I used to have international sprinkled in there at 10%, but I gave up on it. There is enough international exposure between C and S IMHO.
Here it comes…
The Rich on Money world-wide dominance TSP portfolio:
50% S / 50% C
I know, I know. I should be charging for revealing my personal portfolio. I just have too much love and altruism in my heart (and no one reads this blog).
Best TSP Strategy for 2023
Now this is the important part. I reveal secrets here that nobody else knows…
How should you make changes to your portfolio based on current inflation, overheated economic markets and with the uncertainty of the pandemic?
The question of what is the best TSP strategy for 2023 gets asked all the time.
It’s a fundamentally flawed question.
If you are asking which TSP fund is best in 2023, you may think that jumping between funds at the right times depending on cycles, economic data, politics, etc. will yield you superior returns.
You may also believe that experts scouring the market for data and gifted chart readers have some way of knowing which funds will outperform in the near future.
I’m here to tell you, people with those abilities do not exist.
That’s what I gave you in this article. Options for great TSP allocation strategies that will work better than any other strategy.
Using any one of these recommendations over the long term is essentially how to invest in the TSP for 2023 or any other future year if you:
- regularly contribute to your Thrift Savings Plan
- ensure you are getting matching if it’s offered
- stick with the same TSP investing strategy over the long term
Changing strategies or funds often is a recipe for low returns.
Want to know what to do with your IRA and real estate too?
3 Secrets to get Rich in the Military
One Change to Make in 2023
Now for the changes you should make to your portfolio in 2023.
What you can change in your TSP portfolio year to year is your exposure to risk.
I made a separate video about this which is deep in the weeds, but I will explain it quickly right now.
Many people invest in 100% stocks. When I say stocks, that includes mutual funds and index funds.
We often don’t have any fixed income (bonds and treasury bills) in our portfolio as a hedge against market risk. Bonds and treasury bills are safe. They don’t go up and down with the stock market.
It is wise to put a specific percentage of fixed income, which is bonds or treasurie bills into your portfolio of stocks to lower market risk as you near retirement.
For the thrift savings plan (TSP), stocks are the C, S, and I funds and fixed income are G fund treasuries and or F fund bond
Here’s a quick example of how to use bonds to protect your TSP.
If you have 50% or half of your portfolio in stocks and the other half in bonds, (f fund in this case), when the markets suddenly drops 30% in one day, you’ll only drop about half that, 15%, because your only half invested in stocks.
The bonds you have won’t lose value. This limits your downside.
Here’s the problem. If the market shoots up 30% in one day, you only go up half of that or 15%, because you are half invested in stocks. It’s a double edged sword, but smart to do this as you get older and have a growing need to preserve your portfolio.
Here is some simple guidance for achieving the right balance of stocks to bonds for your age and risk tolerance.
I use the law of 120.
When it comes to the percentage of your portfolio that should be in stocks, you subtract your age from 120.
A 30 year old will be 120 minus 30 equals 90% stocks. So you need 10% bonds, which means 10% F fund.
A 50 year old would be 120 minus 50, 70% invested in stocks. 30% in bonds.
Some people use the law of 100 instead of 120. You can adjust this number based on how risk averse you are.
Here’s some questions you could ask yourself and decide between 100, more conservative, or 120, less conservative.
Do I have a higher or lower risk tolerance than other investors in my age group?
Is this my only source of income in retirement, or do I have a pension, real estate, a sugar mama, or other income as a supplement?
To understand all this TSP advice, it helps to know the five core funds inside the TSP and what they consist of. This is important in understanding how they are used in building TSP investing portfolios.
TSP INVESTING GUIDE – THE FUNDS
The G fund contains short term U.S. Treasury securities with no exposure to the risk of the bond or stock market
The F fund is an index of world-wide government, corporate, and mortgage-backed bonds
The C fund is equivalent to the S&P 500 index.
The S fund is an index of mid and small-cap stocks not included in the S&P 500.
The I fund mimics the MSCI EAFE Index of international stocks in 21 developed markets excluding the United States and Canada.
The L funds are professionally managed investment funds tailored to a specific time horizon.
Now we dive into each one a little more in depth before going into our TSP investment strategies:
The G Fund – The Government Security Investment Fund
Pros: No volatility and backed by full faith and credit of the U.S. government
Cons: Can barely match the inflation rate; rate based on prevailing interest rate, which is currently low
This unique investment is only available for TSP investing. It’s rate is equal to 10-year treasuries, but their liquidity and protection from interest rate fluctuations is superior to 3-month T-bills.
The interest rate resets monthly and is based on the average of U.S. treasuries with a duration of 4 year or more.
The F Fund – The Fixed Income Investment Fund
Pros: Low volatility; historically outperforms G fund
Cons: Currently has low returns as based on prevailing interest rate; loses value if interest rates rise sharply
This fund follows the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, which invests in government and corporate bonds as well as mortgage-backed securities. That means this fund holds some U.S. treasuries, which means it has some overlap with the G fund.
The returns on this fund are historically slightly higher and slightly more volatile than the G fund.
The F fund tends to be superior when interest rates are flat or falling. If interest rates are rising, it is safer to have money in the G fund.
The C Fund – The Common Stock Index Investment Fund
Pros: Historically has returned around 7-9% over the long term, depending on who you ask, and how you calculate.
Cons: Can have decade long periods without gains; falls with crashes and bubbles
This fund follows the S&P 500 index, which is an index of the 500 largest and most profitable U.S. corporations.
Even though there are 500 companies in the index, the top 10 companies, which consist of big names like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, make up 20% of the value of the fund.
The S Fund – The Small Capitalization Stock Index Investment Fund
Pros: Similar returns to the C fund, but with more diversification
Cons: Can have decade long periods without gains; falls with crashes and bubbles
This fund has mid and small-cap stocks, making up the rest of the stocks in the market other than what is in the S&P 500 index. This fund seeks to match the performance of the Dow Jones U.S. Completion Total Stock Market Index. It consists of about 3300 stocks.
The I Fund – The International Stock Index Investment Fund
Pros: Allows for international equities to be purchased
Cons: Only invested in developed countries, so lacks exposure to entire international market and emerging markets
This fund mimics the MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, and Far East) Index, a collection of over 900 large and medium sized corporations. Most of these companies are in Western Europe and Japan.
Keep in mind, this fund is concentrated primarily in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the UK. Japan makes up more than 25% of the portfolio. It is not the same as some international funds out there that have a sampling of small companies from countries all over the world.
This is actually an important consideration when equating this I fund with some of the TSP investment strategies I have listed later in this post.
When strategies call for an international index fund, they probably mean one with exposure to emerging countries and smaller companies as well as the ones listed in the MSCI EAFE. There are different flavors of international index funds, and this I fund doesn’t quite capture the most diverse of them.
Keep that in mind when using the I fund as a substitute for international index funds in a prescribed strategy.
The L Funds – Lifecycle Funds
Pros: Asset allocation and rebalancing is done for you by BlackRock, which is one of the most respected investment firms in the world with $6.3 trillion under management.
Cons: You have no control over your asset allocation; some say the fund is conservative
The L funds, which stands for Lifecycle funds, use professionally determined investment mixes. You choose the L fund that matches the timeframe you plan you start needing the money in your TSP.
Currently, the L funds offered are L2025, L2030, L2035, L2040, L2045, L2050, L2055, L2060, and L2065. If you were to choose the L2040 fund, this fund would be optimized for beginning withdrawals in the year 2040.
Using the 2040 L fund as an example, if you were to invest in it in January of 2019, it would have the following allocation:
As you can see, roughly 28% is invested in the G an F funds, which are essentially treasuries and bonds. The rest is divided up between the C, S, and I funds, which are invested in the stock market and more volatile.
This is BlackRock’s recommendation for an appropriate balance between stocks and bonds to mitigate the volatility of the portfolio. When the stock market crashes by 40% in a month, this portfolio would go down less due to being invested 29% in treasuries and bonds.
The converse, however, is also true. If the stock market goes up 40% in 2 months, this portfolio will go up less than that, because of the investment in less risky treasuries and bonds.
The funds allocation is adjusted quarterly to slowly move towards a much more conservative portfolio by 2040 that will at that point turn into the L Income fund which has the following asset allocation that does not change:
Ignore the date October 2018 on this graphic. This will be the asset allocation in 2040 for the L 2040 fund once it matures and becomes the L income fund.
So essentially what happens with L funds is they move from being more risky to more conservative over time, ending with the L income fund, which is how the investment stays while you are actually withdrawing from it in your older years.
It the case of the L 2040 fund, it moves from the allocation in the first graphic above to the second. Quarterly reallocating the investment gradually from roughly 28% to 80% invested in treasuries and bonds.
There you have it.
If you have a recommendation for additional TSP investment options or TSP strategies, comment or email them in.
I’ll keep this updated.
How to invest in the TSP for 2023 with the best TSP allocation was largely influenced by a White Coat Investor post I fell in love with a long time ago.
Share your TSP allocation and reasoning in the comment section below.
I told you mine!
- Checking your net worth often is a bad idea, right? Wrong. It reminds you to make smart financial decisions.
- Looking at our net worth several times a month reminds us of the importance of each financial decision we make
- Ignoring your finances allows expense creep that results in a neglected retirement portfolio
- No-risk, free to join, no credit card info or contracts
This sad little blog has somehow caught the attention of the TSP police!
I didn’t know there were TSP Police!!
They put a gun to my head and are making me put this disclaimer on all my TSP posts.
Disclaimer: Neither Richonmoney.com nor any of its partners or representatives is in any way affiliated with the United States Government, The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board or the Thrift Savings Plan, and that the service being offered is not sanctioned by the United States Government, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board or the Thrift Savings Plan.
I told those TSP police to trust me on this.
No one would mistake my website for being official. My website is far too convenient and helpful to be considered affiliated with the government.
Rich on Money
240 thoughts on “How to Invest in the TSP 2023 – 9 Strategies”
Hi Rich, Happy New Year-
The TSP wasn’t offered when I was a young enlisted soldier, and I don’t know if I would have seen the wisdom of socking money away for ‘retirement’ at that age (?).
I did manage to save-off $500/mo that went into a savings account (‘..back home..’), and I was always impressed with how well that pile of cash grew.
I never missed the money – as it came off the top so quickly – I didn’t have time to do so! I also didn’t spend any of the money, as it was direct deposited and then “directly transferred” into said savings account.
Not to mention that my bank was approximately 9,300 mi from my duty station…
Thank you for the post, as I enjoyed reading about the TSP and seeing that Uncle Sam is offering an opportunity for his children to grow their wealth: Hoo-Yah!
I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are about the education-piece (at the soldier-level) that Uncle offers?
I recall many of my peers having a lack of financial acumen and that it was (often) difficult to explain the most-basic-of-concepts (ie; income v outflow, direct deposit, use of a checkbook, contributing to the GI Bill, etc). This wasn’t necessarily their fault, as many of these young people had little / no ‘financial education’ or were only accustomed to the modeling of poor financial habits by their family and / or peers.
I certainly hope that investing-education is offered and encouraged among the rank and file (?).
As you noted, I’d also give a shout-out to your readers about ‘The Simple Path to Wealth’. I found the book to be one of the best on the topic of saving for one’s retirement, and written in such a way that it was easy to understand without being preachy or overly simplistic.
I hope the New Year is treating you well, Rich, and I look forward to many more engaging posts from your blog!
Cheers ~ Todd
Of course the education piece is important, albeit not a large focus subject on my blog.
I have done the paperwork to transfer to the post 911 gi bill and set it up so my children can use it when I retire.
I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Doug Nordman and the-military-guide, but it’s got some great articles for helping military members and vets.
Here’s one about the G.I. Bill.
I am a young sailor trying to get this TSP thing right. Im proud that i was smart enough as an 18 y/o boot to contribute to TSP and get my money out of the G fund and into L2050. I titrated my monthly contributions to 30% base pay by the time I was 8 months in. 6 years later I’m relatively happy where I’m at, but have gotten more and more mindful of whats actually happening with my money.
At this point I’m a little scared to leave the comfort of having someone else manage my investments but also dont see why i wouldnt align my accounts to reflect the views of someone like Warren Buffet. I just made the move to transfer current and future funds as follows
I’ll be honest, it was a bit of an impulse move. For some reason though, keeping some of the money with L fund just made me feel comfortable that someones adjusting for the market. Do you see anything terribly wrong with this thought?
Thanks in advance,
If I knew the future, I’d tell you exactly how to invest. I don’t know.
I don’t see anything terribly wrong with what you are doing. Good luck. It sounds like you’re doing well.
Best move I did was invest in tsp. Worse was to leave it in the g fund for years before really looking into what tsp was possible of.
When i finally did look into it was roughly 3k in the account (could have been more if i knew more at the time). Over a while i read and researched the funds and the markets. I did interfund transfers and reallocated contributions going in.
Now I’m well spread in the C,S, & I funds while also in the L Funds.
I would like your input on this though. I am in the L 30, 40, & 50. As time has passed by I’ve done interfund transfers from the L30 to the L50. In my head its turning further profits moving from conservative back to aggresive investing.
Great read and thank you for your time and dedication to this work.
L2050 seems like a good choice to me. You can also create your own portfolio with less G and I fund in it if you can handle more volatility. Good luck!
The only thing to be mindful of is that you will need to re-balance your allocation every once in a while. If one fund, say the C, does really well one year and gains 20%, while another, say the F, does badly and loses 10%, your allocation will be out of whack from where it started and you will need to re-adjust back to where you want it.
great post! It’s really helpful to think about TSP the way you have broken down. It was really helpful to read your post with post from Lyn Alden’s TSP: The Ultimate Guide for 2019. I’m definitely deciding between few of the strategies you have listed.
But one caveat is something I learned from Lyn Alden’s post on I fund which I didn’t look carefully at. You do address this about the I fund, but I believe some of your strategies seems to equate total international stock fund with I fund, which is probably inaccurate? What do you think?
No, you are right. I’ll make that clear in the post.
Thanks for the straight-forward and fact-based article on TSP funds.
I’m a long-time federal employee. My payroll contributions are allocated as follows: 60%/10%/30% to the C, F, and G funds, respectively.
The current value of my account is 75% in C, 7% in I, and 18% in G. Mostly out of neglect, it seems to have performed well over the long term, but I’ve been meaning to update my allocation to be more conservative 😉 So your article will be a great resource for that. Thanks again.
Mostly out of neglect, my fund has done well.
I appreciate the comment. That’s good information. I’d like to encourage others to share what they are doing so people can compare and make their own informed decisions or tweaks.
Suggest how to invest when you have less service years and was using 2040, but really 2020 should have been used 10 years ago, what strategies to increase value, and balance volatility.
I’m not exactly sure what you mean, but I’d recommend coming up with your own strategy based on the myriad of options available. I like the ones I suggested, but there are probably more out there. I’m not necessarily a fan of the L funds myself, but some like that automatic balancing.
I have a healthy amount with Fidelity, is it possible to transfer it into TSP?
Yes, you can do a transfer, or a direct rollover from an IRA or an eligible employer plan into the TSP. You can use the form TSP-60 or TSP-60-R to do this.
Rich, It’s my understanding you can’t transfer a Roth IRA into TSP. An employer Roth 401K you can but not an IRA. Is this correct?
You are correct. A traditional IRA and both a Roth and Traditional 401K can, but not a Roth IRA.
This is an awesome synopsis of the funds and how to mimic some of the Vanguard funds people love in the FIRE community at large. I remember reading this a while back and actually restructured my whole TSP Asset allocation strategy based on it.
Many thanks for the awesome work you are doing on the military front!
Thank you! I appreciate that feedback. I’m about to update it and I’m doing several more videos based on the large amount of interest in TSP investing from my audience.
Absolutely! TSP seems to be one of the simplest things that military folks get so confused about. I’ll keep an eye out for those videos too.
I been retired for 10 years from U.S.P.S. M.. .y TSP retirement funds have been sitting in the G fund. I”m so confused reading so many articles. I’m finally going to make changes . 30% in C / 60%in S / 10%in I fund what do you think ?
This stuff can be very confusing.
If you have been retired for awhile, then you will likely have access to this money soon, once you turn 59 1/2. You also may need to start withdrawing this money soon, if you aren’t already.
The allocation your suggesting is very volatile, and if the market drops quickly, this allocation will drop quickly too. If you are already long retired, you probably shouldn’t invest as aggressively as you are suggesting. Having money in the g funds means you won’t make hardly any money when the market goes up, but at the same time, you won’t lose money when the market drops. This makes more sense when you are older.
You just have to decide how much of your money you want invested in funds that will go up and down a lot (C, S, I), and how much you want in safer funds (G and F). You could blend the safe ones with the volatile ones.
I recommend talking to a professional to make that decision if this stuff is still confusing to you.
I am a Federal employee with the U.S. Postal Service and I plan to retire at the end of 2021.
My current age is 67 and I have been with the postal service since 1985 and I did buy back my time when I was in the Military to increase my service time when it comes to calculate my pension. My current investments in the TSP are as follows;
30% each in the G, C, and S fund and 10% in the I fund.
I would like to know if this is a good mix for me at this stage of my life or do you have a better investment mix while I have another 2 years to work and also what would you recommend what percentages to invest in the funds AFTER I retire at the end of 2021?
Thank you Rich.
This is tough to answer quickly in an email. It depends on your personal situation. I will say at your age, if you are planning on withdrawing the money soon (you probably are), you should consider shifting a lot more money away from C, S, and I towards safer investments like G or F. A large drop in the market now or just as you retire would be devastating to you, so you need to consider that. I’m not a licensed professional and cannot give out that type of advice. Additionally, I don’t know enough about your personal situation to give you a tailored recommendation. Talk to a fee only financial advisor. Get recommendations.
I recently made a change in my TSP allocations as you had considered me to do and moved all of the amounts that I had in the C,S and I fund into the G fund in case the market takes a nose dive before I retire in 2021. Moving forward, I am putting 70% into the G fund and 15% each into the C and S fund as I would like to get some growth for the next two years while I am still working and after I leave the postal service I will change that probably to 90% in G and 5% each in C and S.
I was told by other financial advisors that one should always invest a small percentage into the stock market after retirement to continue growth but not to the point of losing sleep over a loss when the market drops.
I think 10% is a small risk that I feel comfortable to invest.
Thank you once again Rich.
That sounds like a good plan to me! I’m retiring myself Aug 1,2020. Then I might have enough time to do some more writing and videos!
Rich…do not think 8/1 is on the “best dates to retire list”…think 7/31 is however
I guess 7/31 is my last day.
David, I bet you are very pleased with your decision. Given the huge drop in the market since March this turns out to be brilliant! Congratulations.
Please! It is way too early to tell if that was the right decision or not. What price did he sell, when does he buy back in? Did he save money over not touching the money in the first place? Also, next time there is a drop in the market, he’ll think he’s good at predicting these, and sell again. That’s when the market shoots back up leaving him holding the bag. My point: Over the long run, NOT timing the market is going to win out every time!
Hello Rich, what a great article! I’ve been a federal employee for 6 years, 14 more to go. I started in the L40 fund but have started branching out. I’m now 30% C, 30% S, 40% L40. I think I could do better than that. Any suggestions? I know you aren’t a professional financial adviser, but I’d like your thoughts!
I think the lifestyle are meant to be a balance of riskier (C, S) vs fixed income (G,F) that is appropriate for your risk tolerance. I’d either pick the lifecycle that has a risk tolerance that is appropriate for you, or build your own. I wouldn’t do both.
Could you explain the difference between contribution allocation and intrafund transfer. Is it necessary to set these two at the same percentages when making changes or what would be the reasons for changing one and not the other?
contribution allocation tells you how to allocate the money that comes in each month from your paycheck between funds. Intrafund transfer is how you move the money that is already invested and allocate it to different funds in a different percentage.
Rich, great information. I am a 52 year old Fed with 30 years in.I have been invested 50-50 in C & S fund since the S fund was established.. I was 100 C prior to that. I am more than pleased with the performance. My question is do you think the time may be right to throw 25% into the I fund? Seems like there may be more upside at this time. I plan on staying 100% in stocks regardless. Thanks in advance.
I don’t want to make that decision for you. If you read my writing about the I fund, it has it’s issues. It doesn’t invest in smaller countries, only well established ones. I can tell you I’m not planning on investing in the I fund myself. I can’t tell the future, though. I like C and S for the long term.
I did read up on your comments on the I fund. Thanks.
Lots of great information! One comment: your TSP guide indicates that you will suffer additional tax penalties if you start taking TSP withdrawals under age 59 & 1/2 . Although this basically true, however there is a caveat……per the TSP-536 (9/2019 TSP Tax Notice) page 6 states; “The additional 10% tax generally does not apply to payments that are paid after you separate from service during or after you reach 55…..”. Based on this I am assuming I can retire from service with minimum age & years requirement met (i.e. 32 years of service at age 56 and 2 months) and start taking TSP withdrawals/monthly payments without and additional tax penalties. Do you agree?
I believe that is right, but you’ll want to double check with someone at the TSP. There actually are other ways to access the money before 59 1/2 as well, but I don’t go into those in this particular post.
rich…do you know what happened to the L2025 lifestyle fund we were supposed to get this year…have not heard anything more about it
The target date for the launch of these funds is the third quarter of 2020.
Shouldn’t the Warren Buffett TSP allocation be 90% C, 10% G, since he specified “short-term government bonds”?
Warren Buffett has been quoted many times recommending the S&P 500 index fund as an investment strategy over picking individual stocks. The 10% in bonds is something he decided for his own heirs. I don’t think that’s an important part of the calculation. Anyone can use a certain percentage of bonds if they would like bring down the volatility of their investment.
This article encouraged me to take a look at my account distribution. I have had my monthly contributions split 80/20 C&S for some time now. With that said maybe my account could use a little rebalancing Rich. Do you think its worthwhile to move into something more like the 90/10 (90 C&S and 10 F or G)?
Currently: 13% L50. 51% C. 36% S.
I see nothing in the recommended strategies regarding L funds haha. I’m 10 years in Active service and plan to continue my 20% monthly contributions for the next ten, however that still has me FAR from maxing out yearly. Thanks!
I think legally I can’t make recommendations for other people, but I’ll tell you how I reason for my own investments.
The L fund isn’t really meant to be blended with other funds. It’s already a mix of all funds made by supposed experts. I find it a little conservative for my tastes.
I don’t see a big difference between C or S. Both will have roughly the same returns. Arguing which is better is really splitting hairs. I just need to decide how much I want to balance C and/or S against some type of more guaranteed income (G or F) to take some of the volatility out of the returns. The closer you are to needing to withdrawal the money, the more G or F I would throw in.
I agree with Chas. I think Buffet would prefer G fund over F if it was an option for the custodian of his estate.
I have been in the L2030 for quite a bit and was fortunate to break a million just recently and plan to retire in 5 years (2025) and due to the current coronavirus concerns I lost 187K in a little over 2 weeks and have since switched my TSP to 50% G and 50%F is this a strategy that will gain over time or should I revert back to a life cycle fund and if so when should I be looking to switching to more conservative investing, thanks for the help.
You’ve decided that you want to try to time the market, and you moved everything from a lifecycle fund to bonds and treasuries. You already took a drastic step, so it’s hard to give helpful advice now. My advice would be “Don’t sell in a panic.”
You locked in the losses that you saw on paper. Those losses aren’t realized until you sell, which you did.
It’s a very natural reaction with the fear of things dropping much further.
I preach relentlessly to not sell in panics and lock in losses. The chances that you will buy yourself back in at a lower price is usually slim.
The lifecycle fund adjusts quarterly slowly towards a more conservative portfolio. If that’s conservative enough for you, then a lifecycle will work, but only if you don’t sell in a panic.
Absolutely correct, Rich.
Whenever the market experience a shock such as March 2020, the absolute worst thing you can do is sell stocks & lock in your losses.
Anyone in an L fund would have their allocations automatically re-balanced. For people with a more hands-on approach to allocation, the best thing to do is re-balance after a significant market gain or loss. This will allow you to “buy low, sell high”.
You should always be asking yourself how you would feel if the market were to lose 50%. If the answer is “so scared that I would consider cashing out” your allocation is too aggressive.
I too am approaching retirement age, and I have gradually cut back to a pretty conservative allocation over the past few years. This allowed me to minimize losses in March, and re-allocate to realize gains in April, which I locked in by re-allocating again in May.
Again, the beauty of an L fund is this is all done for you. I’m just a little too hands-on for that, though.
Hi Stephan did you revert back to the life Cycle? I did the same moved that you did.
Rich….if I understand you correctly you are suggesting to get back into the lifecycle fund and just ride this out with the anticipation that the market will rebound….is there a happy medium that I could still take some chances but protect what I have and if so what would you suggest as to the specific TSP funds and what percentage should I have in each? Thank you so much for your advice
I sent you an email separately. The target funds are decent for this. You can also built your own percentage between the C and F fund that makes sense for the amount of volatility that you can accept. Google the 100 minus your age rule. It’s not exactly, but it gives you an idea.
I did see your separate email and thought I responded, thank you. I’ve decided that my emotions got the best of me and have stayed in the C Fund for now and hope to gain some $$$ (I have a ways to go – being down 25% in the last two weeks) before I lock it up in the G Fund and then use your suggestion of the C and F for future contributions, I’m not a Finance guy and trying to educate myself the best way I can, so thank you for taking the time to help.
Thanks for your knowledge and great information on the website. I have a while to retire possibly 2045 to 2050. With all this chaos going on with the CVD-19 I see that I had a 10K loss over this past month. My stance is 50% C-fund/ 25% F-fund/ 15% S-fund/ 10% L-2050. With all this going on I don’t want to join the bandwagon and “panic”. But with this second interest rate cut to zero. I am to look into more of the F and G funds temporarily until things seem to turnaround or should I be putting more into the S and C funds to buy the dip as they call it. Thanks for your words of wisdom.
You don’t have a 10k loss unless you sell. You just have a 10k potential loss if you need the money today. I’m going to cut and paste from another comment I just answered 1 minute ago.
First, I’m not a financial planner, so I’ll just tell you what I think I would do with my money.
I’m not in any G or F fund at the moment. I’m all C and S. I am currently maxing my tsp contributions each month. I would continue to invest as normal now. This will just be a blip on the radar by the time I need the money in 15 years or so.
I totally understand that if I bought more C and S now, it could continue to go down during this pandemic, and that wouldn’t bother me.
Hi Rich i did the same thing that Stephan did, and i moved everything to the G found when i was 100% in the L. what should I do stay In the G or go back to the L?
That’s a tough call. The markets dropping, but when is the right time to get back in? Who knows. You’ll have to do your best to decide that. It’s hard to do. No one else knows either, but some will pretend they do.
Great article! I have been 50/50 C/S since dumping “I” ~5 years ago. And it has done well for me, as you must be aware. I recently retired from the Guard, which meant I left my T-32 position as well, so I no longer have Dollar Cost Averaging working in my favor (I have CIV and MIL TSPs). About the same time I dumped “I”, I started re-balancing about once a year to supplement DCA with more buy-low-sell-high tactics. Most of the pundits that talk about re-balancing are discussing stock/bond risk, but that doesn’t apply in this case.
Now to my question for you; do you think re-balancing during corrections and advances is wise with this strategy? I can’t seem to find a source to compare this specific strategy. I re-balanced in Jan and now I’m about 55/45 as of today 19 Mar, which is about double of what I like “my” swing to be. I fully expect the market to return to previous levels and would plan to re-balance again at that point.
Additionally, I have been mulling over a 45/45/10 C/S/G split when we stabilize again so that I have TSP liquidity to inject during these roller coasters without locking in losses. Albeit the lack of growth in G could be considered a loss in long bull markets. I just really like buy-low-sell-high and can’t think of a better way now that DCA is no longer an option for me with my TSP.
Any thoughts would be appreciated. And thanks for your time.
I’m not sure what you mean by rebalancing, but I don’t try to buy low and sell high. That’s timing the market, which is essentially guessing when the top and bottom is. I stick with my monthly investing regardless of the status of the market, and I don’t sell into treasuries and bonds.
Re-balancing in this example just means doing occasional inter-fund transfers to keep accounts at the same ratio as your contributions. In other words keeping C/S account balances at a 50/50 mix.
Thanks for your reply. Stay safe and enjoy your upcoming retirement.
This is an awesome comparison of different strategies that is just the thing I was looking for as I attempt to invest more aggressively for the long term while stock prices are low. Thank you very much for this post.
Thanks for the comment!
“The chances that you will buy yourself back in at a lower price is usually slim.”
With such a drastic drop and still more potential to go down would you still consider this to be true? I reduced my position on the C fund and moved the funds to the G (I locked in about a 50k lost). Would it not be feasible to get in again as it continues down there buy buying lower.
There is potential it could keep going down, maybe a lot more. The common wisdom is not to sell in a panic. That doesn’t mean that decision always ends up being right, but if you sell everytime you think it’ll keep going down, you’ll never make money in the market. It’s a tough call. I’m not a financial advisor, so I can’t give out specific advice to your situation. I will say I’m not selling. I’m going to continue buying as the market goes down. that means I’m getting my shares cheaper and cheaper each month is goes down.
I am BRAND NEW in this TSP game and currently at 100% L 2050 with a whopping $5k total invested. With the current market, I’d like to mix it up and maximize the little that I have.
80/20? 80/10/10? 60/20/20? Hold!?!
I’m not a licensed professional (I think I have to say this legally, but licensed professionals aren’t all that anyway). If you are getting started and have a long time ahead of you, some find that these lifecycle funds are too conservative. I think one can be 100% equities (C,S, maybe I) until they are within 10 years of wanting to withdrawal the money.
Hi Rich, Im planning to retire in the next 2 yrs. I currently invest in F,C, S and I funds. I recently changed my allocations by allocating most of my contributions G and F and lowered the contributions in C ,S and I. Should I also do and Interfund transfer to protect my current funds from a potential dives in the market.
That’s a tough one. It’s definitely a decision I couldn’t make for you. You need to decide how willing you are to subject your money to market risk. How close are you to needing the money? That should be a gauge of how much risk you can take.
I have some serious questions about the market right now and TSP advice. I am super new and want to maximize the future boom of the reinstating market. Can we talk?
Here’s the advice you need. This current market means nothing. You are super new and your investment horizon is 20 or 30 years. This will be a blip on the radar by the time you need this money. Put the most money you can into TSP and IRA each month until you retire. Don’t even think or blink when stuff like this happens. You’ll retire rich and be glad you didn’t try to time the market like a punk.
Thanks for this Rich, it’s a very good place to see what others are doing.
Like you, I’m not invested in an L fund. I do think they’re a fantastic investment for anyone who’s not too actively involved in managing his/her TSP though. They do run a little conservative, but that can be somewhat mitigated by picking a later date than you would think i.e. someone retiring in the next decade could go with the 2040 fund instead of the 2030.
Over the years I have maxed out a vanguard Roth IRA and used that to invest in market segments underserved by the TSP like Emerging Markets, REITs, Inflation-Protected Securities, Foreign Bonds, etc.
I am approaching retirement myself, and have an eclectic and somewhat conservative mix: 20% each in C, S, I, F, & G.
I check my investments every weekend, and whenever any one fund drops below 18% or climbs above 22%, I re-balance via interfund transfer. This forced me to buy stocks as they bottomed out in March, and sell them as they climbed in April. I know this smacks of market timing, but it’s what the L funds do on a daily basis.
I wouldn’t call that market timing, but that seems like a lot of work. Not sure if the net result would be anything worth mentioning.
I am retiring in 5 to 7 years. I am 100% C fund and have not changed since I began with TSP. I am thinking I should now go perhaps 50/50 C and F fund. If you were in that position, what would you do?
I’m retiring in 8 weeks. I’m not changing from 100% split beetween C and S. It’s up to you. Loss volatility means you can lose less, but you in an up market you also make less. How much does that matter to you?
Currently I have 3 years of federal service, however I will plan to retire in 5 years at 62. Should I transfer my orphan retirement fund from my old employer into TSP? How would you invest the funds?
Nope, I would take my TSP and roll it into an IRA as soon as I could. You have more control over the funds, and there are more investment options. Companies like Vanguard, Schwab, and fidelity all have such low fees now, TSP is no longer advantageous in that regard.
@Rich, thanks for that update on management fees. Always thought TSP would be king there. But I see now, at least VFIAX is actually lower.
@Lily, I fully respect this article and Rich’s reply comments including yours, glad you found the site. Others including me, do the same 50-50 split between C&S, but that doesn’t mean it is the right thing for you, especially with your withdrawal horizon much closer than mine. Just because Rich is retiring from the USAF soon doesn’t mean he will be living off that money soon. Military retirement could be as early as 37. A full 20 year difference possibly, and totally different risk tolerance. Or he could be looking at the same timeline as you, IDK. Rich’s comment above surprised me about management fees and is something to consider and research. The only other thing I would add (because you are in the 10 year window that Rich talks about further above) is to consider G fund (for a portion) if you are risk intolerant. To my knowledge, it is the only investment that is guaranteed to not to lose $ value, and TSP is the only place you can get it. But, it doesn’t keep up with inflation, so you are actually losing real life value, not for the risk tolerant like myself (yet?). That future option may be the only reason I leave some money in TSP. Management fees are one of my major concerns when investing and TSP used to be the gold standard. If you haven’t found this yet, take a look at “www.tsp.gov/InvestmentFunds/FundsOverview/expenses.html” and compare with other commercially available funds like the one I listed above and OGIYX for contrast. The costs can vary widely as well as their returns and together can give you a better SWAG (or more informed decision if you prefer).
I am looking to roll my TSP over to Vanguard so I too can have more control and still invest a portion of my retirement into a few index funds.
You are only eligible to roll it over to another institution once you’ve separated from service. If you are still working, then you can’t do a rollover.
If you are separated or retired, then I believe rolling it over is the smartest move because you’ll have more control and less regulations.
I am a federal worker and contribute the annual max amount into TSP. I have about 10 more years to go before retiring. As of now none of my TSP is in the Roth TSP. Because of the tax benefit I was thinking of putting about 40% of my contribution into the Roth TSP, but do not know how to do this and if it is advisable. Any advice would be great.
I don’t think it matters. The important thing is, you are saving as much as possible. The debate about which is better in the long term is a hopeless debate that I don’t like indulging in. Personally, I’d go Roth, but who knows.
This is probably a stupid question, but when doing an interfund transfer, is it best to transfer funds from a higher share-priced fund to a lower priced fund? Thinking of transferring from the 2050 to the 2055 fund.
That has no bearing on anything.
I was wondering the same thing.
I am a FERS-Law Enforcement retiree, age 54. I can, but I do not draw from TSP currently. My current allocation is 43% G, 3% F, 43% C, 7% S, 4% I. My current balance is just over $820K. My retirement advisor back in 2018 recommended this allocation and it has served me well last few years. I’m not a big political guy but my gut says the current administration has a lot to do with that.
My concern is this is an election year and if the current administration is voted out, this current allocation will result in a big loss in value. I know it is all a gamble, but I am considering moving the G fund allocation to 75%. Do you have an opinion on this? What would be YOUR strategy in the circumstances described?
Bad Bad Bad. We don’t make any adjustments based on politics or election years. We only make adjustments based on risk tolerance. Can you handle big ups and downs in your portfolio at this point in your life, or do you want to hedge your bets by adding in a percentage of g and f funds. This limits your downside, but also limits your upside. Don’t even consider politics, election year, news, viruses, or alien invasions.
Thanks Rich. I’m with you on that advice. My total overall value has nearly recovered 100% from the March/April stock market downturn (lost around $100K on paper) and it’s currently back to nearly the same value as it was in January ($825K).
I really can’t handle huge long term DOWNS in my portfolio at this point in my life life. I likely will bump up the g and f fund percentages a bit.
Hi Rich, Thanks for your insights and this great forum. I am about four years from retirement and wondering what adjustments might be prudent. Currently, my account distribution is C 70%, G 20, S 10 and my contribution allocation is C 80% and S 20. I thought I saw that you have C 50 and S 50 (for fund distribution and allocation?). Would that be a good strategy for me, at this stage, as well? Or is there a slightly more conservative approach that you would suggest?
Can’t answer that for you without knowing a lot about your personal finances. What level of risk can you accept at this point in your life? I’m fine with an aggressive allocation, even in retirement. Some people may needs bonds thrown in there to soften the drops as they approach retirement or ease into it. Can you survive a huge drop in the market? Then adjust accordingly.
Hi Rich. I understand that this is your last day of work! Congrats and happy retirement!!
I am a letter carrier of 25 years, 54 and plan to work till I’m at least 59 1/2. I am currently invested 50% C 30% S 20% F
I will gradually lower my exposure each year till I retire, but the question is should I be moving into the F or G fund to limit losses in case of downturns?
If you know when the market will dive, then you know if you should move it or not.
I’m joking, nobody knows that. It depends on how soon you plan to start withdrawing this money. Most people tend to add F and G as they approach the years they need to withdrawal. I probably won’t, but that’s an issue of how much risk you are comfortable with.
I’ve been 50% S and 50% C for many years (after I finally bailed on the I fund) and have been thinking about tweaking it. I was searching the internet to see if my 50/50 split was a true reflection of a total stock market index fund and saw where you said 80% C / 20% S closely approximated it. So I thought, aha, that’s what I’ll change it to. Then I saw that you actually recommend the 50/50 split. I am curious why you like the 50/50 vs an 80/20 (that better reflects the total stock market). Thanks, and I enjoyed reading your page.
I can’t legally advise on what you should do, I’m not licensed. That being said, any combination of C or S or either one alone is really about the same thing. You are just fine tuning and taking a guess on whether smaller stocks will outperform larger ones. One may outperform the other by 1 or 2 percent, but in the end, who knows which. My point is, the important thing is to invest. How much is between C and S is a decision that one should not lose sleep over.
Hi rich I’m 31 years old and had my money in the L2050 but decided to distribute my contributions to 10% F, 55% C, 25% S, 10% I, do you think it’s a smart move? I’m trying to go for a more aggressive but not to aggressive move.
Seems good to me. I can’t advise on stuff like that since I’m not licensed, but that would be a more agressive portfolio and is in line with what I’m doing. Keep in mind, if you can make money faster, that also means you lose money faster. Make sure you have the stomach for it!
You have successfully and amazingly aggregated a bunch of amazing information with really thoughtful and personal analysis by yourself. I think we all really appreciate it.
Just one comment: This might be too off the wall for your blog, but I wonder if it’s worth mentioning the relationship between the treasury department, congress, and the G fund (listed as a con). There’s a great deal of history indicating that the G fund is not safe from temporary grabs by the Treasury Department as a stopgap to avoid the debt ceiling.
With the large amount of debt assumed by the federal government related to the global pandemic and associated things, I’m not sure if I will ever feel comfortably placing any of my TSP funds in G fund. I’m currently at 80/20 C/S 7 years into my career, and will most likely add some F funds as I closer to retirement. But that G fund seems scary (even though the treasury department has always paid the G fund back). Just a thought. Love your blog!
It’s just something I’m worried about. Anything’s possible. That seems unlikely.
I’m dont plan on touching it too soon after retirement. My concern is the market right now. It took a dip back when the Pandemic first hit but i did get back most of what I lost during that time. I was just thinking that with me being 2yrs away from retirement I should try to protect what I have from big hits.
I am 33 years old. I have had my investment in L-2050 fund since it was available. I am thinking of investing outside the L-funds and choosing 80-C, 20-S or another percentage which has more risk. Your thoughts on leaving life cycle finds? I wish TSP invested in Chinese markets and other international areas, if they did I would be inclined more in the I fund. At this time I don’t see the benefit of the I fund.
I also don’t see the benefit of the I fund. Leaving the L fund is higher risk, as it’s not progressively buying you more I and G as time goes on. That works for me, but doesn’t work for everyone.
Great read. I am a junior officer just starting out and got briefed on TSP recently. My question is should you always try to max out TSP? It definitely makes sense to go up to or past the match, but the expense ratios on TSP are higher than those I can find at Vanguard or Fidelity. Should I invest my pay up to the match work to max a IRA with either of those two in a similar then come back and work towards maxing my TSP? Just a thought on how to minimize the fees and get the best investment out of my pay.
The expense ratios are so low with TSP, that even if they are slightly higher than Fidelity or Vanguard, it wouldn’t be enough to matter. I think it makes sense to get matching first, then max you and your wife’s IRA, then tsp. The order isn’t super important, the goal should be to max both if you can. I would be far wealthier today if I had been maxing TSP earlier in my career. Probably my biggest investment regret.
Glad I found your site…downloaded your TSP document…you say that you cannot make “catch up contributions” until you turn 50…I believe you can start making catch up contributions in the Year you turn 50…my birthday is in December, but I believe I can start making catch-up contributions in January of the year I turn 50. Do you agree?
Yep, that appears to be correct. I’ll fix that.
This is a great article. I’ve got 23 years of federal service and 15 to got until age 67. I’ve been invested in the L 2040, but have felt for a while that it’s too conservative. This became even more true when I started to consider that investing for growth (with care) doesn’t have to end the day I retire. Even if I set aside half for use in the first 10 years, the other half could very well grow to 80-100% of the original value without doing anything crazy. Even if it didn’t, there should be enough to last the next 10 years. After that (if I’m not dead), I’ll be pushing 90 and still have my FERS annuity and social security. Anyway, this pushes my anticipated investment horizon out from 15 years to more like 35 years. With that in mind, I couldn’t imagine why I wanted 28% of my money in the F and G funds. Now to the great unveiling, what did I choose? I went 60% C and 40% S. Thanks for the insights.
That’s great. Be ready for some volatility in the short term. It could be volatility in your favor, or not. Impossible to know. Over the long run, however, confident you’ll be ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving. What are your thoughts on the I-Fund for 2021, given the following factors: 1. Stronger U.S. Dollar. 2. Covid vaccine – therapeutics. 3. Pent up demand/growth for emerging markets post Covid.
Thank you in advance for any consideration you may give my inquiry.
I don’t jump in and out of funds based on news or cycles, etc. Whatever I choose is what I stay in long term. You should be concerned about where I will be 20 or 30 years for nw when you withdrawal the money, not where it will be next year.
I am a 54 yr. old Federal law enforcement agent with 32 yrs. of service. I am subject to a mandatory retirement in 35 months at age 57. I do not plan on using my TSP funds until at least age 65.
I was invested in 50% C Fund and 50% S Fund for a number of years. On March 18, I panicked and switched to 100% C Fund as the S Fund was losing its’ value at a much greater rate than the C Fund and I wanted to preserve my TSP balance. My TSP balance went down approximately $500,000 from its’ peak on February 21 to March 18 (less than one month). Since March 19, the S Fund has gone up 102.48% and the C Fund has gone up 53.56% (both figures as of today – 11/27). I am still currently investing at 100% C Fund. My panic move on March 18 has cost me about $200,000 in gains to date. I have never made such a bad (costly) move. My question to you is would you get back into the S Fund now at its’ peak or wait until the S Fund goes down? Also at what percent? I know this sounds like market timing but I do not want to miss out on future gains and I also do not want to buy into the S Fund at top dollar.
Thank you and enjoy your retirement + stay safe.
When you try market timing, you take a chance. If you’re right, you save yourself some money. If you’re wrong, you lose out on big gains. That’s what happened.
Your mistake of shifting from S to C is WAY BETTER than the mistake that a lot of people make of selling into cash. That would have really screwed you!
I’ll admit, I was tempted to sell when we were out of toilet paper and the looting was going on, but I just kept remembering that i always tell people to stay put, and followed my own advice.
When you say the S is up 102%, that’s a little exaggerated, because really a lot of that is just the recovery from a quick drop. When a stock drops 50%, it has to grow 100% just to come back to even.
You never took your money out of the market. Your “mistake” wasn’t really too bad. I think C could be fine for you. I’ve spent most of my life investing only in C, or the equivalent in IRAs. If you want the higher potential growth from S, just understand that the higher potential for growth is also a higher potential for a drop. Can you stomach that happening again in a few months or a few years? Will you have time to recover before you need the money? Most recoveries don’t happen that quick.
The idea that S is high or low right now depends on the future that we don’t know yet. It might be really low because it’s about to shoot up again. It might be really high, because we are in for a bigger drop. No way of knowing until the future comes. You just have to decide what your risk tolerance is and invest.
You may know this, but I was also a federal law enforcement agent my 20 years with the air force. I was AFOSI.
Standard disclaimer: I’m not a licensed financial advisor and I don’t understand your personal situation well enough to give you accurate advice.
I am a 34 year FERS employee that retired at MRA 56 last year. I have been in 100% L2030 since it started. I don’t plan to use the money until age 62 when my FERS Sup expires and before age 67 when I qualify for full Social Security. The balance I have today and withdrawal rate I have planned, I really only need to have a 4% return on my TSP balance to last me my lifetime at the withdrawal rate I have planned. I would like to lessen my exposure to the unnecessary risk. I am thinking of changing my allocation to 30G 30F 30C 10S. Your thoughts.
That’s great! Congratulations on having enough in your account! It sounds to me like you could use the L2025 fund. It’s in about 50% treasuries and bonds.
What you are proposing sounds good to me, especially if you’d prefer not to have the I fund in the mix. Remember, i’m not a licensed financial planner and I don’t know your personal situation well enough to give accurate advice.
I know you are not an financial advisor but I have a question(s)…I’ve been in the government for 16 years and I’m 45 years old. I transferred from one agency to another…for the past 6 years I was not able to contribute into my TSP because of a mix up from my old agency. I don’t know much about TSP but in my situation and the information you provide what would be the best way to start up my tsp allocation and hopefully get most return upon my retirement?
The most important thing is to put money into the TSP. Go into the mypay system (that’s what it’s called in the Air Force) and update it. Ideally, you should be contributing so you are maxing tsp each year, and getting match if that applies. I don’t know what your risk tolerance is, or how soon you need the money, but I think you saw several examples of potential allocation strategies in my post. Pick one that works for you. If you are worried about high volatility or risk, then have a percentage of your money in the G and/or F fund to dampen that risk. Some people will put a certain percentage of their funds in G and F (treasuries and bonds) because these are much less risky. Only you can make that decision. I invest everything is a mixture of C and S, with no G or F.
I’ve been AD for 4 years and in changing my TSP allocations around. I’m just curious as to what your thoughts are on going 100%S instead of the 100%C fund I see a lot of people doing?
Sometimes C does better than S. Sometimes it’s the opposite. At the end of the day, the differences between the two will not be large. Try to pick something and stick with it long term. Chasing what’s shiny doesn’t really work.
Thank you Rich! I have a TSP and never understood it! I usually put all the money in the G fund. I am now thinking differently. I greatly appreciate you telling us what you, and other great investors would do based on what they’ve said. I do wish that someone gave a class on the TSP explaining what all the charts and numbers mean.
They should. There are lots of great resources on the web. Feel free to ask me any questions you have.
I’m surprised you didn’t mention the fact that the S fund has a great deal more of “other expenses” than C fund.
We are talking about 18X more. Not that it’s a lot, but it should certainly be part of the discussion. .001% vs .018%.
I’m surprised you would bother bringing up such a small amount of money. .018%? Not even worth the time it took me to write this reply!
Fair enough. Guess I’m the only one who is thinking this granularly. Maybe I should start a blog about the retirement! lol
I need to update this post, but it does illustrate to what degree expense fees affect future investment. Once you start talking about small .1% or smaller, the difference isn’t much. https://richonmoney.com/10-cheapest-index-funds-supercharge-retirement/
Hello! I’ve been a fed employee for almost 6 years and am 35 years old. A year or so ago, I decided to “get smart” on my TSP. I moved away from the G Fund I was passively contributing 5% pay to and into an L fund. That was too slow for me – I bit the bullet and am 100% in C Fund! My current portfolio is $80k (53k TSP + 27k WA state PERS) soon and in 2021, my goal is to max my TSP contribution. I still have about $70k in student-loan debt I’m tackling, but am optimistic and determined to build generational wealth.
Appreciate a vector check, I’m reading all I can to make sure I take advantage of my best advantage – “time.”
Lori, that’s great. Thanks for the message and glad you are tackling this stuff right now. Good luck with your student loans.
Hi, I made some mistakes and moved most of my L2030, 40 and 50 funds into G fund earlier this year, so I can see I lost a lot of money performance wise. I’m now contributing 50/50 to L2040 and L2050. The question is when to move money from G back into the L funds since we are at record highs. Should I just suck it up and move out of G, regardless of market status?
The mistake was trying to time the market. Don’t try to guess when it will go up and go down. Put money in the asset allocation that makes the most sense to you, and then stick with it through thick and thin. You asking me if you can move it back is a tough question. I would, but there is always the possibility that when you move it, the market dives, and you are out more money. Good luck.
Rich, is there anyway to determine how dividends are distributed? I am very curious as to how much dividends make up each of the C,S, and I fund returns.
I don’t think there is. Dividends in the TSP are reinvested.
Hello Rich, I came across your article this evening and really enjoyed all of the information. I find the varying opinions on proper allocation to be fascinating. In an attempt to take the multiple opinions a step further, I decided to combine them all together to merge all the opinions into one fund allocation. I wanted to share the results with you so that maybe you could pass it on to your readers. By my count, there was a total of 12 different suggested allocations that your listed, so each of them would account for approximately 8.33% of ones entire portfolio. After multiplying each allocation recommendation by their appropriate 8.33% of the entire portfolio, I came up with these final numbers. G Fund (2.50%), F Fund (11.92%), C Fund (52.75%), S Fund (19.25%), and I Fund (13.58%). If your interested, I can provide you with a more specific visual breakdown of how each of the 12 recommendations are allocated across the entire blended allocation. Keep up the great work! I look forward to reading more of your content.
Thank you for the comment and for providing another idea for an allocation strategy. I want to collect them here in these comments. I”ll have to rethink that, because there are so many comments now, but that was always my plan. To have lots of recommendations throughout these comments.
The allocations I listed above all come from the main post. I used the Warren Buffet Allocation, Dave Ramsey more conservative, Dave Ramsey less conservative, Paul Merriman (Conservative, Moderate and Aggressive), Total Stock Market, Total World Stock Market, Balanced Index Fund, Three Fund Portfolio, S&P 500 and then your personal allocation you listed.
One question I did have though is, how often are those listed suggestions changed? Are they just set it and forget suggestions, or are they reflective of current market conditions on a year to year basis?
These won’t change. you can set it and forget it.
I’ve read the entire thread several times over and decided to move towards the aggressive portfolio via Paul Merriman. I have only been in the Government sector for just under 3 years and have seen a bit of growth within my TSP. I have quite a while to retire as I’m am a young 38. Do you think this is a good move early in the game?
I do. Pick something and stick with it for the long term.
I’ve been contributing 50/50 to C and S for a while now. But honestly I am just realizing I lack one specific area and I am trying to become smarter, on the % portion of allocations. I currently have roughly allocations of C 37% , S 37, and I of 26%.
would it be wise at this time to sell some of the I and bring it down to 10%, and maybe bump up C or even go the Warren buffet way and put some into F? (I know you can’t predict what day by day might be, but with share prices so high it seems great to sell, but not so much to try and put it right back in.
I get confused with exactly how the reallocation process works. It seems daunting as it can really change a lot of your dollar amount. Is their a link that dumbs this down by chance?
Thanks again for your help
You gotta make your own decision on what your long term asset allocation should be.
interfund transfer is where you change the percentage of what’s already in your accounts.
Then tsp contributions is where you change the percentage for how you want future money to be invested. In a perfect world, these are about the same.
Before the election, my TSP allocation was S-50 and C-50. Now that Biden has officially won the Presidential election, what is a good allocation?
Don’t change your allocation based on who wins the election.
I am retiring in 4 years at 66. I had all my funds in G because of the lost around 2000. What funds and what percentages should i use now to get the most without losing again?
You’ve got to make that decision for yourself. You may need the money soon, so you can’t be too agressive at this point.
I’m retired and don’t need money from my TSP. As of 1-14-2021, my allocation is G-25%, F-10%, C-55%, S-10%. The S Fund has been way up, and I feel I’m missing the boat. I know you say stick to a plan and don’t let world events influence our choices. Don’t you think with stimulus money and virus vaccination,
S Fund will continue to greatly outpace C Fund?
No, i don’t. I don’t think about world events or elections or any of that. I just my allocation and stick with it. Don’t worry about s in the short term. Worry about what will work out best over the long term. No one knows, but I’ve given you some great ideas in the article.
I’m retired military @ 46 yrs. I have approximately 45k in TSP where do you advise I invest? Example 50% C / 50% S?
First of all, I advise you roll it over to an IRA. More options for investing and withdrawal.
I’m not an investment advisor, but my IRA money is currently in the total stock market index fund. I keep it simple. S&P 500 index is also a great choice, and I do that in some accounts as well.
Hi Rich, I enjoyed reading your post and these recommendations, this is helpful. I am 55 and don’t plan to retire before 70. I have invested my TSP in L2035 (50%) and L2040 (50%) since I rolled over my former 401K employer 4 years ago. I am maxing out on my yearly contribution and I am overall satisfied with my returns but need more growth to achieve my goals. I think that I can do better for the next 8-10 years by transferring now my contributions and L funds balance to a more aggressive TSP portfolio. Looking at the 2021 composition of my L funds I would like to make changes and do the following. Keep 10% in G funds, 10% F funds but increase C fund to 65% and S to 15%. Does this strategy make sense to you?
Yes, it does make sense to me. You will have potential for more growth, but that comes with the possibility of higher losses in a down market. Good luck!
Great information with several great options for people to look into and chose what works best for their retirement plans. I will be sure to direct some of my young troops to this web page.
I have grown very attached to my TSP over the years. It has been addictive for me to say the least.
I started very late in the game back in 2008 making small contributions (what every I could afford) and have been very aggressively contributing since 2013. My rule of thumb when speaking to younger troops is 15% should be the rock bottom minimum at all times never to go below.
I speak to many young troops who say they cant put that much money away. And my trick for that is this: Always adjust in nickles and dimes (5% or 10% increments) and the goal should be to invest as much as it takes to “Feel the pinch”. So if you are currently investing 5%, go ahead and bump it to 10%. This is not a huge amount however its enough to feel the pinch. Once the pinch goes away (and it will) go ahead and bump it up another 5% to a total of 15%. Once you reach 15% you NEVER EVER EVER go lower! But you can always go higher…
I use the market performance to determine how much more to invest from there. So in a strong market, I stick with 15% because I dont like paying a premium for my shares, however when I start to see red down arrows on the TV, I bump up my contribution 25-30% and will lower my contributions as the market strengthens. The ultimate goal to buy low and max out my contributions by end of year.
Over the years, I have tripped over a few L-Cycle fund tricks that have worked very well for my account. I started with the L2030 in 2008 and had a fair amount in that fund when the L2040 fund was introduced. I rolled everything from the L2030 into the L2040 at its inception price and effectively more than doubled my shares instantly. At the same time started to split 50% L2050, 25% C, 25%S . The 2040 turned out to be a very strong L-cycle account.
When the L2050 fund was introduced I took everything from the 2040, C & S and went all in at the L2050 inception price and again this had increased the multiplier (Shares) substantially and the account started to make unbelievable gains with just small increases in individual share value.
I just did the same move one last time into the L2065 this past July while taking advantage of a fairly strong market bump and a low inception price and this time I quadrupled my shares.
So I although I am in a fund that is only at 12.65 a share… I was able to get a whole lot of them…. and can buy more of them with each contribution.
This strategy has worked very well for me… I dont know, perhaps it was just good timing or I just got lucky… but there is no doubt, the moves paid off.
I only hope to see more younger people taking an interest in their own financial future. Its sad to see so people retire who have invested little to nothing during their time in service.
When speaking about TSP, some people just look at the total value of the funds… I have spoken to many people who only do C & S and brag about how well their $60.00+ shares are doing… However they are in disbelief that my accounts regularly out perform their own when looking through a 5-10 year performance window. And there is no arguing that the C&S funds are strong (I’m split 25%/25% in them) but having thousands of multipliers (shares) in a lower valued L-cycle fund can equate to HUGE gains and is something many people dont understand how to use to their advantage. I use the L-cycle funds for the multiplier… they are cheap shares that I have been able to more than double 3 times over the past 10 years.
I am looking forward to the red down arrows in the horizon! Buy as many of them as you can at their lowest possible price, thats how you make the money!
It sounds like you’ve done well trying to gauge when the market is down or up and adjusting your contributions based on that.
I don’t believe you will be accurate over the long run with that strategy. Your luck will run out if it hasn’t already.
I’ve never been smart enough to do that accurately, but neither is anyone else. For that reason, I invest the same amount no matter what’s happening around me.
Nick’s advice is horrible! I think folks need a better response from you (Rich). I realize you need to be careful, but your readers need to know what he stated as his strategies are misleading.
You are right.
As horrible as my strategy may sound to you, my accounts have averaged 10.79% over the past 10 years. So Ill accept the criticism, nod my head and just smile knowing that its working very well for me.
And while I will point out that the S&P had performed at 14.48% over the past 10 years, my account value would have suffered if I had just exclusively bought into it. And this is where I lose most people… Its because I have more than quadrupled my shares while maintaining that 10.79% return… I would not have a third of the shares today had I stuck with just the S&P. So sure each of those S&P shares would have more individual value, they would ultimately have a lower combined value.
But I think there is a disconnect in what you may have taken out of my post. I am not playing a sell high buy low strategy. If one where to actually look close at it and break it down, my TSP invest heavily into C&S… Both through the Life Cycle fund and the 25/25 C/S split. I am not really selling anything just taking advantage of the opportunity to double shares while keeping the investment the virtually the same and more aggressive as Lcycle funds start aggressive.
I think you quickly disagreed before first understanding that the multiplying of shares through buying Lcycle funds at their “inception price”… <— that is the absolute key for my accounts overall performance and for the very large spikes in increased growth/value in short periods of time. Buying at the inception price only multiplied my shares while maintaining a very similar growth path but only with MORE SHARES… and every multiplication problem needs a multiplier… Why ignore such a number?
As far as me varying the contribution % from 15,20, 25, & 30% depending on the market health; I do this for a couple reasons. One, I have to pace my contributions in order to end on the last pay period of year. If I reach the $19,000 to soon, I will lose the government matching 5% for the remaining pay periods. So if the market is in the gutter, then I absolutely want to take advantage of that. So I simply bump up my contribution to take advantage of it… If the market strengthens I role my contributions back and reset the needed contribution amount to reach the last pay period. I see no possible way that is a negative…
In a way, I have only taken advantage of the low inception prices with the intention to drastically increase shares (Multiplier)… The greater the multiplier the greater the gains with very small increases to share value.
Different approach, sure Ill take that… but horrible, not at all.
You definitely lost me and confused me with your explanation. If it’s that complicated, I don’t want to do it. The only part I understood was that the S&P 500 did better than you did. I’m still skeptical, but always try to remain open minded. I don’t think your methods are “horrible”, but I think doing it the easy way, set it and forget it, is just as good if not better.
You can own 1 share of Amazon or 300 shares of Ford. 1% gain is still always equal to 1% no matter how you slice it. How many shares you have of any holding is completely irrelevant to overall portfolio performance.
Great website! Quick question on your 50/50 C/S split, do you rebalance every year or just let them run? I am in my early 40’s, won’t need the money for another 20-30 years and looking for atleast 10% or more returns. I like the 100% C Fund, set it and forget it method, but it seems like more can be made if adding the S Fund. Looking for better returns and ease of investing (Holy Grail). Lol!
I rebalance every year, but even doing it every 2 or 3 years would still be enough. Adding the S fund might add to your gains, but no guarantees. Your doing all the right things, just stick with it!
Another question…I will retire in 3-5 years and probably not go GS, would you recommend transferring my account to a broker? I already utilize cash secured puts (to go long stock) and sell covered calls in my brokerage accounts. I like having the ability to rent out my stock but cannot do that in the TSP.
I do recommend moving your money out of the TSP and into an IRA once you leave federal service. The main reason for recommending this is more relaxed withdrawal fees and more investment options. I don’t at all recommend selling covered puts or calls (or any type of options) in an account. To each his own I guess!
I don’t understand the love for the I fund…it and the S fund came in at the same time and the S fund has been vastly superior over that time. I’ll even go further for what the I fund is I think its the worst fund of the group ….
It hasn’t done well, that’s true. I don’t use it, but you never know when it may start doing well again. I do hope they update what’s held in the I fund soon.
I’m mostly in I fund. I know I should have more diversification. However, valuations are so much higher in C and S. Any prognosis on I’s future?
I don’t concern myself about valuations or what the prognosis of certain fund now. I just pick a strategy i think will do well over the long term and stick with that. For me, that’s 50% C and 50% S, but any of the suggestions from my post would be fine.
I can retire in 5 years. I’ve been 100% S fund for as long as I can remember. I’m feeling another 2007/2008 market crash coming in the next couple of years. I could be easily be wrong. Either way, is 100%S fund a bad idea at this point of my career? Should I split it up? If so which funds and percent?
You can retire in 5 years, but do you need to start withdrawing that money in 5 years? if you can avoid withdrawing it for 10 or more years, then I would stay the course. If you can’t survive a downturn because you are going to need to withdraw soon, that is when you need to add in some bonds to soften the ride.
Rich, I would like to hear more on this. I also will be able to retire soon, in about 3-4 years. I have yet to do an analysis of how much I will need to draw from TSP or IRAs monthly upon retirement, will do this soon. That said, what would be a good % to place in bonds (F fund) to protect against a downturn in the economy?
That’s the million dollar question. The closer you are to needing to withdrawal the money, the more you pay consider a percentage of bonds as a protection. You’ll have to decide what your risk tolerance is. There isn’t an easy answer to that.
Great stuff Rich. I’ve been looking for something exactly like this, thank you.
I actually haven’t looked at my TSP in over a year, and now after I’ve seen your site I’m gonna check it out. At the time I did the Dave Ramsey 60-20-20. Fingers crossed!!
That’s great. I bet it’ll turn out well. Let me know!
You were right!!!
Went from 2500 to 12k, so impressed. I’m not even max on contributions…will do that soon, coming out of a big hole, and I plan on doing catch up soon because I’m over 50. I will be back to ask your advice 😀
Great! What was I right about? It’s bound to happen once in a while!
Rich, are there mutual funds that mimic the same share process the C & S funds? I just starting using Yahoo finance to track all of my investments, including those outside of the TSP and I can’t find any funds with the same prices, which would allow me to track everything together. Thanks.
No, there isn’t. Those funds are only for the TSP.
Thank you for all the info here. I just became a Federal Government worker late in the game. I am 45 and need to save up for retirement. I am not a big risk taker, but do want to see my money grow. I currently contribute 7% per pay period and it all goes in to L2040. I’m now thinking of changing it to 50C, 40S, 10L2040. What are your thoughts?
That sounds good to me. The only thing I will say is, try to contribute more money!
On Feb 7 you mentioned….”I do recommend moving your money out of the TSP and into an IRA once you leave federal service. The main reason for recommending this is more relaxed withdrawal fees and more investment options.” Clearly IRAs offer more options but can you expound on the TSP withdrawal fees? I’m retired USAF and have contemplated transferring my TSP into an IRA (while leaving a nominal amount in the TSP in case I’d ever want to flip back). Thanks for the info.
There are no TSP withdrawal fees. You can roll the money over to an IRA for free once you leave federal service or active duty.
Very informative article on TSP. Many thanks for putting it together. In some of the comments I read more questions/comments from those about to retire or have retired. I’d like to see you expand on TSP strategies for those about to retire or that have retired. My biggest concern is protecting what I’ve saved (i.e. protect against inflation). It is currently Feb 2021 and I plan to retire in December of 2021. What TSP investment strategy do you recommend for retirement?
Also, have you ever heard of the “three bucket rule” for investing? If so, how would you apply that to TSP.
Please keep up the excellent work!
I think it’s clear I need to write about adjusting the tsp as you get closer to the age you need it. Thanks!
Hi Rich I found your post really helpful I think :/. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been with Fed govt for 7 years but have only been in G fund with 1% so basically really have nothing to show for. Not really sure what to do at this point. I did go up to 5% that agency will match as of yesterday. Out of 3 of your recommendations I’m not sure which one to pick? I’m in my late thirties so I think I have some time to fix the mess I’ve made
Also I have a traditional ira elsewhere can I transfer it to TSP? Is it with doing that
You can pick any of those recommendations that make sense to you. There is no reason to transfer an IRA to a TSP. Leave the IRA where it is. Just make sure you invested wisely in it.
I will share what my Financial Advisor recommended. This is for someone with a long (6 years or longer time horizon). He did not like the L funds. He recommended: 40%C 40%S 20%I. You are spread out in all the equity buckets. IMO, The Rich on Money worldwide dominance TSP portfolio of 50% S / 50% C would be fine, I agree there is enough international exposure between C and S. Great article!
What he recommends sounds fine. Thanks for the comment!
So this might not make any since what so ever, but this is what I did.
I had everything in G. Heard that G is not great for making money, but not bad for loosing money.
I wanted to see what L would give me more money.
I took 10 percent and put it in each L. I left it like this for little over a year. I could see which L was giving me the most. I picked my top 3 Ls then invested most in them 3 splitting them up equal.
This might not be the best information you get, but at least I was able to see the difference in each one to make my decision on. I just wish I had done this many years ago. I probably would have had more in there than what I do, but I do not like mine in G. If you want to no loose money, but not make money, G would be the way to go. If you want to take a risk and try something different you can try my method for a few months to a year and the recheck to see where you want you highest percentage going.
It doesn’t make sense to choose your funds with your method. You should read over my post again and do some more research about investing. If a fund goes up a certain amount this year, that is no indication that it will do the same thing next year or in future years.
Rich, if I plan to stay with my agency for another 4-5 years but have reached a $1mil mark with my S/C Funds, would it be prudent to move the bulk to G to save the gains while continuing to deposit my paycheck allotments to S/C funds for the remaining years?
I’m a day or so away of publishing a post that answers your question thoroughly.
I would love to know the answer as well and in the same situation. Where do I look!
Have you had a chance to post this yet? I can’t seem to locate it on your site.
Hi, I found your wonderful site while checking the Rate of Return for my TSP and my Merrill Lynch IRRA.
My questions are this:
1) My TSP returned 17.24% and my Merrill IRRA returned 10.32%; am I losing the compound interest I would’ve earn with TSP by keeping the Merrill IRRA? Should I move the IRRA to the TSP?
2) I am 61 and will retire in 7 to 8 years, with that time horizon what might a strategy for growth look like? Currently, I am 40/C, 40/L2030 and 20/L2050
Thank you for your wonderful blog!
The main reason there is a difference between the two accounts is that you are invested in different things. There is nothing wrong with the merrill lynch IRA unless you are paying some type of high fees, or loads on your mutual funds. That sometimes happens at companies like merrill lynch. The TSP has no loads, fees, and very low expense ratios. Look up the fees on everything you own at Merrill Lynch. You can usually search this pretty easily online.
Additionally, look at my most recent post about surviving a downturn. It gives a detailed way to adjust your portfolio as you approach retirement age.
I was thinking of pulling money from TSP @ 59.5. It is my understanding that we are not taxed after 59.5?
No tax at all after age 59.5 ?? …..or just no PENALTY for an early withdrawal?
It depends on what type of account you have. If you have a traditional tsp account, then the money will be taxed when you withdraw it, but no penalty. If you have a roth tsp, then the money will not be taxed when you withdraw, and no penalty.
Can you clarify please? Do you mean if I draw from my TSP when I reach 59.5 I’m not taxed on the amount I withdraw monthly. Apologies if missed something. By way of background I fall into the 22% tax bracket.
Thanks for being there for us!
It depends on what type of account you have. If you have a traditional tsp account, then the money will be taxed when you withdraw it, but no penalty. If you have a roth tsp, then the money will not be taxed when you withdraw, and no penalty.
Rich, thanks for the article and for breaking it down into easy to understand chunks. I just have a few questions based on my personal position in life/career. I invested early into TSP at a buddy’s advice, however I have had my entire allocation in the G Fund for the last 15 years. That being said I am roughly 75% through with my military career and would like to get the most growth out of the time I have left (5-7 years active duty). Please advise as to what you would do. Thank you
I’m not so concerned with how much time is left on active duty, I just need to know how much time you have until you need to start withdrawing the money in this account. You can’t be guaranteed growth in a 5 year time frame, it’s too short. You need to invest for the long run and decide how much bonds, if any, to put in your portfolio to subtract from the volatility as you approach when you need to withdraw. I made a post about this. Read it. https://richonmoney.com/survive-crash/
thanks a lot Rich, I sent you a private message.
Rich, I have been investing in the TSP for over 30 years. For many years I have been 70-30 C & S funds I never really paid attention to the dividends until recently. The S & P (C fund) dividends are 3 times those of the Extended Market (S fund). Would it make sense to jump 100% into the C fund on the ex-dividend date and them back to my normal allocation? I don’t see why it would not be a good move. Thanks.
I don’t think that matters. What matters is historically what the C and S fund have paid, and what they might pay in the future. Whether that comes from dividends or not is actually not that important.
There isn’t a hell of a lot of difference in contributing to C or S, just pick what you think will work long term and stick with it. Don’t jump back and forth because of short term observations.
currently I put 70% in C funds and 30% in S funds. the personal rate of return is very nice (about 40%).
my question: if I want to keep current personal rate of return by moving all money to G funds for next 3 months, do you think that will keep my current personal rate of return over next 3 months?
I think that’s a bad idea. sorry I missed this comment.
I like your platform. I am not sure if you would charge me for a few questions. I enlisted in the Navy in Feb 1987 and retired in Feb 2011 (24 years). TSP was introduced to the Uniformed Services in Oct 2001. I started participating in 2002. When I retired I only had $25K. By the grace of God I was hired by the Army as a civilian employee GS12. I right away contributed 20% of my pay to TSP and today (10 years thereafter) I accumulated $400K because I took TSP loan when I bought my home. I plan to retire in 5-8 years, the only reason I am still working is for my youngest baby girl who will be 3rd year in high school this coming year. I already transferred my Post 911 to her, but her plan is to take Dental Surgeon. Starting April 1 this year I increased my contribution to 24% to max out the IRS limit of $26,000. I put 80% of my TSP to C Fund. Is this the right move?Will my TSP grow to $1M in the next 5-8 years?
I think it’s a good move, but nobody knows what the market will do in the next 5 to 8 years. It could go down a lot. I just know over the long term, it will eventually go up.
Very informative article. Do you recommend any changes to the TSP investment strategy once you retire? I plan to retire this year so I will start using my TSP funds. But as of May 11, 2021 I’m pretty worried about protecting my savings from inflation. My secondary worry is a big stock market crash with little time to recover.
Thanks and best wishes,
I have another article and youtube video how to survive the next economic crash. check that out!
That’s getting in the weeds for me. It was straightforward in turbotax.
I made a huge mistake and got scared by the election and moved all my funds from C/S/I: 70-20-10 into G and I am regretting not sticking the course. Share prices for C have gone up $5 a share, should I switch it all back now or wait?
Leave it invested for the long term in good funds.
I recently dumped all my funds into G from C/S/I (70-30-10) due to being scared about the election and realize I should have stuck the course. I want to switch back but am scared of the hit I will take. It was kicking butt and now obviously its not! Should I switch back? I have 3 years to retirement and not ready to stay in G justy yet.
You’ve missed out on a lot of growth. That’s a tough one.
I know you probably don’t have a good answer for this, but what would you suggest for someone with chronic health issues that isn’t certain if they’ll ever see much if any retirement funds. It’s hard to max out contributions and look too far into a future you don’t see yourself making, but don’t want to be completely unprepared in the event you do. Getting full agency matching seems a given but beyond that?
That’s a tough one.
Rich, thanks sharing these investment strategies. I’d be curious to see performance of each strategy using a max contribution each year over 1 yr, 3 yrs, 5yrs, 10yrs, 20 yrs etc.
That would be interesting.
I just passed 59.5 years of age so I pulled the bulk of my TSP out and am utilizing it for some other investments. In the meantime, thanks for giving me the confidence to keep the remaining 100% in the C Fund until I retire. It’s where I was when I was a young government employee and it paid off.
That’s awesome. You are welcome.
Understanding WHEN to increase or decrease allocations in some funds seems confusing. The C fund and G fund seem the easiest to understand in simplistic terms. US economic outlook is good and businesses are doing well, increase C fund allotments. Economic outlook is turbulent or bad, temporarily allocate more to G fund.
The F fund, and even the rational on TSP websites (see below) for the F fund, confuse me.
Interest rate risk: an increase in interest rates may lead to a decrease in the price of the bonds in the portfolio. Investors should carefully weigh this risk, since interest rates have been declining for decades and are currently near all-time lows.
This says to me that rising interest rates may decrease the price of the bonds in the fund causing the fund (investor) to lose value.
Income risk: the fund’s income may decline because of falling interest rates.
This statement says to me that falling interest rates may cause the funds income to decline thus making the fund less valuable and the investor would lose value in their investments.
If both increasing and decreasing interest rates can cause the F fund to lose value, what economic factors should someone be looking at to feel like this may be a time to increase or decrease their F fund allotment? If interest rates look to be going higher is that good for the F fund investor? Or bad? I am confused.
great questions. I tend not to get so in the weeds. watch my video on youtube surviving the next economic downturn. It covers this question.
Rich, I am 63, retired and drawing from my TSP. My current allocation is very conservative and I am considering reallocating my funds to 70% G, 10%F, 10%C and 10% S to provide some growth while protecting balance. What are your thoughts. Should I start now or wait for the market to rebalance?
Never wait for the market. Do what you think is right for your risk tolerance based on age and life circumstance. I got a video about investing in the tsp coming out in a few days. watch for it.
Years ago, an advisor came to our agency, and recommended the following strategy.
Invest in C and/or S funds only. After 6-months or 1-year, if these funds are in the positive, move the money in these funds (but do not change the contribution allocation) to a life cycle fund. Do not invest further in the life cycle fund, but let the money grow, while continuing to contribute to the C and/or S fund.
What do you think about this strategy? I’ve been doing this close to 10 years now, but I don’t know if I’m hurting myself by doing this.
This makes no sense to me. I like the way I do it. Not unnecessarily complicated.
Great article Rich .
(just discovered your site and love it already)
So, now going into 2022, can I assume that most of this advice is still basically valid and applicable?
Also, for those that are close to retiring, what are your thoughts about staying fairly aggressive with the portfolio if the TSP is not really needed for living expenses? That is my situation. My TSP is more of a bonus, and for 2022 I am considering going with something like
Any thoughts? Thanks!
I got a youtube video coming out soon that will address all of this!
I Just started reading these articles within the past year. I have only been contributing to TSP for the past 5 years. Nearly 8 months ago, I moved everything from G fund, now im 60% C, 20% S, 20% I. I have 9 years of federal service left, and im still not very educated on the whole TSP investing. Do these numbers seem ok with someone who still has 9yrs of service remaining??
It looks ok to me. Read the article again. I just updated it. Also, watch both videos that are embedded in the article. They’ve been updated as well.
I’ve only been in 4 years. Invested into the TSP thinking I’d get matching payments only to find out I got grandfathered into HIGH 3. After reading your article I decided to switch up and go a little more aggressive for this year and I’m now sitting at. Any thoughts?
Sounds good to me. Do you have clear answers about why you didn’t get matching? I’ll email you separately about that. Thanks for the comment. I updated this article yesterday, and recorded a new youtube video. Be sure to check out both youtube videos embedded into the article.
I have 40 years in Fed … and from 2018 till now I have managed to F**k up my TSP … now I am 65 and thinkin to work till 75 to 80 years old to make up for my Screw Up …
Q1: How do you suggest I can Recoup my loss of 5000 shares of C and 5000 shares of S listening to an idiot … once in Oct 2018 sold and went into G and never got back into Stocks (you can email me and I will tell you the Guru who Advised me and others) and then again listening to another idiot and sold in Mar 2020 (again email me and I can tell you who got me Screwed) and never got back until Feb/Mar 2021 then bought freaking High into C & S.
Q2: For Retirement Phase what Allocation should one have if you are 70 years old, or 72 or 78 years old … and NEED the TSP funds to supplement your life?
Q3: When Retiring what is the Best way to Draw from TSP so you won’t exhaust it before you Kill over? Say Retire in 70’s and then Live to 100!!!
I’ll send you a separate email. I”m sorry to hear this. There is no way to recoup without putting yourself at additional risk, just to be smart with what you have now. Gurus don’t know shit about what’s going to happen in the future, not even me! it’s all about risk tolerance.
I can retire in 6 years at 58
..I’m contributing 700 bi weekly ..what do you recommend for my diversification ? After the war I panicked and moved to G ..I know I know bad idea 😢
I am retired so can’t invest any more, but am sitting on money I didn’t withdraw. In 2014 I had 32k and now it is 41702.25. I am divided as follows : 42%C, 32% S and 26% I. With what is going on worldwide, I was wondering if I should go to G to avoid potential losses til things settle down? What are your thoughts?
Just found your URL and thanks for putting up the information. Based on reading through quite a few of your inputs and just moved from 22% in the F funds to 12% and increased G from 6 to 12 %. This based on the definition of the Pros and Cons. With interest rates rising seems like the right thing to do.
I think at 61 and working another 7 yrs, I also increase C to 50%, S to 12% and I to 14%. I like to freedom to allocate for myself. Last year I also invested in my first ever stock buy above my TSP (maxing out at $27K). And have gone on to buy an additional 36 other company stocks through STASH.
I too also wish that TSP have been around when I was in the Navy (Ret 2000), but I am now a gov’t employee with TSP.
Thank you for putting this together and wishing Military Command would take a more proactive stance in educating our young men and women of the forces.
Just wanting some TSP allocation advice. Im 52 years old and have 32 years of Federal Service. I plan on retiring when Im 56 with 36 years of service. Here is how I currently have my TSP allocated: L2030 100%; I was in the C/S/I funds prior, should I keep this or change back and if so, what allocation % should I allocate to each of the C/S/I funds? Thanks
Hey Rich! Thank you so much for the info. I have been learning a lot about investing recently and am attempting to be smarter with my strategies. I realized recently that my TSP is 100% allocated to L2050 currently. I am young (26) and would like to develop a better strategy & get more aggressive. With everything going on with the market right now, however I am hesitant to make any moves. I was wondering what you would recommend in terms of how to change allocations (C/S/I) and/or any recommendations on potential interfund transfers? Thanks so much!
Thanks so much for all your financial help and guidance! I have a question for you: what do you think of Mark Chaikin? At first glance it seems like a bit of a scam to me but I was curious what you thought?
What is the recommendation for 2023?