Tips for reviewing your TSP

Friday - 9/10/2010, 10:31am EDT

Arthur Stein, CFP, SPC Financial

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Federal News Radio has been telling you about the bad month the TSP had in August.

But, certified financial planner Arthur Stein with SPC Financial in Rockville, Maryland told Federal News Radio, it was a bad month for investments in general. "It wasn't just the TSP. They're just a reflection of what's going on in the financial world."

Only two funds last month, the F and the G, saw gains, but, said Stein, over the last 12 months "everything looks much better." All funds up except I fund which is down about 2%.

"One month is interesting, but it's not indicative of what's really going on." Stein advises looking at returns over at least a 12 month period before making any decisions about redistributions.

When you're looking at adjusting things in your portfolio, said Stein, there are really only two things to consider:

  • "Should you rebalance your portfolio because the allocation that you wanted, and by that I mean the percentage you have in stocks, like the C and the S and the I fund, and the percentage you have in bonds, like the F and G fund,...has changed because maybe stocks didn't do as well and bonds did better than you expected, you can rebalance by just shifting money from one of those areas into another."

  • Not a good idea: changing because of recent market performance. Good idea: changing your goal because of recent life events like marriage, having a child, divorce or a spouse dies.

Cash Flow

Another issue to think about, said Stein, is literally, what's in your wallet? Employees should not always contribute the maximum to the TSP. "That's certainly a worthy goal but I meet way too many people who are contributing the maximum who really have no money outside of their retirement accounts and the equity in their home. They don't have emergency funds. They don't have the amount of insurance that they need. They don't have the cash available to buy the new car that they want or take the vacation that they want or to provide for their kids."

FERS employees, said Stein, should always contribute the 5% to the TSP to take full advantage of matching funds.