Your TSP: What's Not To Hate?

Wednesday - 8/31/2011, 2:01am EDT

Many people who don't work for the federal government envy your Thrift Savings Plan. Most financial planners (especially those who sell mutual funds) do not like the federal TSP. In fact they hate the government's in-house 401(k) program. For good — from their financial standpoint — reason.

Federal and postal workers are encouraged to participate in the payroll deduction TSP by the promise of a 5 percent tax-deferred matching contribution from their agency. You put in 5 percent, Uncle Sam puts in 5 percent. That's money you could (and they think should) be investing elsewhere. Like with your friendly mutual fund firm.

The TSP offers three funds that cover the U.S. market, and much of the international market (the C, S and I funds), a bond fund ( the F fund) and a feds-only guaranteed treasury securities fund (the G fund) as well as target funds composed of the C,S,I,F and G funds based on when you plan to start tapping your TSP.

John Bogel, the godfather of index-funds and a founder of Vanguard, says the TSP can't be beat because its administrative fees are lower than anything else on the market. This is what he said in a lengthy can-you-afford-to-retire interview with Frontline:

CBS MoneyWatch columnist Allan Roth says the financial community "hates" the TSP because it holds so much money that they would like to have in their funds and investments. Roth said he would give almost anything if he could switch his investments into the TSP.

Over the years the TSP has resisted political efforts to expand the program by giving investors narrower (targeted) investment options: Some would have been winners, like a precious metals or gold fund. At least so far. Others, like a REIT (real estate investment trust), not so much. Same for a proposed dot.com fund.

So how's the TSP doing? Today at 10 a.m., on our Your Turn radio show we'll talk with Tom Trabucco. He's the director of external affairs for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. He'll talk about how the TSP, and its investment options, is doing. You can see how your TSP account balance stacks up against the average balance. Which agencies have the most savvy investors? And what's next for the TSP? Listen if you can (1500 AM or online), and if you have questions email them to me at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com or call in during the show at (202) 465-3080. The show will be archived here.

Downsizing You

At 10:30 a.m today on Your Turn we'll be talking about big job---and salary--- cuts coming to the U.S. Postal Service, and what new budget guidance means for your agency and, maybe, your job. Federal Times reporter Sean Reilly will give us an update on the upheavals coming in the government's second largest agency, and how well (or badly) agencies are doing their job according to Performance.gov. Questions, comments welcome.

To reach me, mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

MIKE'S TAKE ON WTOP:
You love reading Mike Causey's take on all things federal, now get his take on life in general. Each Wednesday, starting today, Mike will write a special column on, well, anything that comes to mind. As faithful Mike Causey followers know, the inside of Mike's head can be a hilarious (and sometimes scary) place to visit. Mike's Take can be found on WTOP.com, but we'll also provide you with a link each week straight from this column. Today's topic - why great hair isn't everything.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The ruby slippers worn by the character Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz are now considered classic movie memorabilia. A pair is even on display at the Smithsonian. However, if the filmmakers had been faithful to the 1900 book on which the movie is based the shoes would have been silver. The filmmakers deviated from author L. Frank Baum's original description because they thought ruby red would better demonstrate the wonder of Technicolor, which was still relatively rare in 1939.


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