Ask The Experts: Money Matters

By Mike Miles

Moving TSP funds

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Q. I plan to retire under FERS in December 2020 at age 66. All my investment is in the G Fund, $350,000, as are my allocations at 100 percent. I was advised to move 60 percent to the C fund and 40 percent to the F fund ASAP with the same allocations. I consider this a risky and aggressive move considering my situation, the economy, and that the S&P is overdue for at least a 20 percent correction by the end of this year. What do the experts advise. Read the rest of this entry »

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TSP allocation

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Q. I have $115,000 in my TSP account. I’m retiring in August, and I plan on using the entire amount to get me through until age 60 when I draw my military retirement. Does it make sense to move my entire account into the G fund now? I’m going to draw the account down to nothing in 54 months, and I need to ensure I have the money during that time.

 Currently I’m 70 percent S fund, 20 percent I fund and 10 percent F fund.

A. Yes. Your current allocation has lost 50 percent of its value twice during the past 15 years.

 

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TSP allocation

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Q. I work for the Defense Department. I have $75 biweekly going into the G Fund. I am in my early 30s and want to build my money. I don’t see it moving much in the G Fund, and I have been investing for four years. I can afford to invest $100 biweekly but don’t know what fund to put my money in for it to grow. My annual income is $38,780.

A. Given your circumstances, I suggest that you invest all of your Thrift Savings Plan money in the L 2050 Fund for the foreseeable future.

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Risk efficiency

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Q. I saw you use the term risk efficiency in a recent response, and it made me curious. I have a nice little amount in the Thrift Savings Plan now. I don’t think I will be needing it in the future, except to hand down to future heirs, and so have tried to maintain a 70 percent stocks (35 percent C, 15 percent S and 20 percent I), 15 percent F, 15 percent G ratio. I read in a financial magazine (sometime around 2009) that a 70/30 ratio of stocks to bonds and/or cash reduced the risk considerably over a 100 percent stock portfolio, and didn’t reduce returns significantly. Do you agree, or do you have some other thoughts on what is risk-efficient for long-term growth?

A. Risk efficiency is a measure of how close an investment portfolio lies to the “Efficient Frontier” — the set of portfolios that mix assets together in ways that produce the maximum expected rate of return for the level of risk they produce. I can’t tell you how risk-efficient your asset allocation model is, but I’d guess it’s pretty risk efficient. Note that this doesn’t mean that it’s risk-appropriate. The correct asset allocation will be both.

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S Fund to G Fund

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Q. I am 47, have been investing for seven years, have reached maximum contributions at a total of $115,328.22 and will eventually retire at 63.

Recently, there is talk in the stock market of a global sell-off. I have had all of my investments in the S Fund and doing quite well. As of Jan. 23, I’ve shifted my contribution of 100 percent from S to G. Was this a financially dumb move?

A. Not if you’ve guessed right. Only time will tell. For what it’s worth, if we’re talking about your entire portfolio here, you should be invested in all five funds, all the time.

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F Fund

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Q. It seems everywhere a person reads, the “expert” advice is to get out of bonds. It’s likely that interest rates will climb soon (they certainly will not go lower), the world is awash in debt etc. Your advice is to substitute a portion of other funds in place of F.

Given the predicted bond climate, why not reduce F Fund allocation to near zero? Is there some reason I’m missing for maintaining an allocation in F above low single digit percentages or perhaps no F fund allocation at all? In other words, if the F Fund is about to incur losses, why not move it all out for the short term?

A. As I have said, and you confirm, I have no objection to substituting G Fund for F Fund in the current interest rate environment. The reason to keep some allocation to bonds is for their ability to hedge stock risk. If the stock market loses 50 percent of its value again (for the third time since 2000), that F Fund exposure will look pretty smart.

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TSP vs. IRA

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Q. I am a federal employee, almost 30 years old and contribute to my Thrift Savings Plan, as well as a Roth IRA toward retirement. I contribute the maximum to my Roth IRA at $5,500 a year and contribute 15 percent of my $82,500 salary (approximately $12,500 a year). I have a comfortable emergency account, life insurance, $500 per month to a 529 plan for my 1-year-old, on top of the basic necessities.

How much should I be contributing if I can’t max both my TSP and Roth IRA? Should I continue with this allocation, or should I be maxing my TSP at $17,500, only putting $500 into my Roth IRA. After reviewing some items, I do not know the pros and cons to each as far as this allocation of funds.

A. I suggest that you maximize your TSP contributions before contributing to any other retirement account. The TSP is the best retirement savings and investment vehicle you’ll find. Its low cost and access to the G Fund make it so. What makes you think that your Roth IRA is a better choice?

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G Fund

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Q. In your recent column “4 keys to TSP success,” you mentioned, regarding asset allocation, to “diversify your holdings among cash, stocks and bonds to hedge the risk lower.” I agree with this approach wholeheartedly, but ask where in the TSP to keep “cash”? There is no money market option, just the L funds (which I don’t use, preferring to personally allocate my investments), and the G, F, C, S and I funds.

By the way, I took everything out of the G Fund and ceased all future allocations to it when there was a proposal by our leaders last year for the federal government to be able to borrow against it. Do you have any update or comment on this proposal?

A. The G Fund is a cash equivalent with an above-market rate of return. It’s as safe as anything you’ll find.

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F Fund and G Fund

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Q. I recently decided to shift the corporate bond portion of my overall portfolio into my retirement accounts (i.e., shift my retirement account holdings largely into corporate bonds, and shift my taxable account holdings away from them) since the income from bonds is taxed at a higher rate than income from equities.

Since the Thrift Savings Plan is about one-third of my retirement account money, I took a closer look at the F Fund and I was shocked to see that the majority of the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index that the F Fund tracks is treasuries.
I think of the purpose of the nonlifestyle funds being to allow TSP participants access to some diversification options to tailor their own portfolio. Why then would F be constructed in a way that it consists of essentially more than half G? If I wanted a portion of my bond holdings to be treasuries, I can always add more G. But if I only want to hold non-Treasury bonds, there’s no way to do it. I can’t go long F and short G.

This makes so little sense that I would bet dollars to donuts that most F Fund investors are unaware of the overlap. I generally hold the TSP design in high regard. Am I missing something?

A. The two assumptions that have inspired your concern are incorrect. First, the G Fund is not a bond fund, it is a cash equivalent, and there is no overlap between it and the F Fund. Second, as of Jan. 17, 2014, the F Fund’s index consisted of about one-third U.S. Treasury debt, and this has been historically typical.

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TSP withdrawals and investments

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Q. I am a civilian FERS employee who will retire this summer at age 59 with 35 years of civil service.  After retiring, I intend to start monthly withdrawals from my Thrift Savings Plan account ($2,000 per month). Even though I will have begun making monthly withdrawals from my TSP account, can the remainder of my money in the TSP continue to be invested in the various funds (G, C, F, S, I) and continue to grow via earnings within these funds?

A. Yes.

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