TSP Investment Options and Fund Performance
General Investment Option
These are the available investment funds for TSP accounts:
• G Fund—investments in short-term, non-marketable U.S. Treasury securities.
• C Fund—large-capitalization U.S. stocks.
• F Fund—a bond index fund consisting of a mix of government and corporate bonds.
• S Fund—small and mid-capitalization U.S. stocks.
• I Fund—mostly large-capitalization foreign stocks.
• L Funds—mixes of investments in the other funds.
The L Funds invest in the G, C, F, S and I Funds, with the money allocated among those five funds according to a formula based on the investor’s expected withdrawal date. Investments are adjusted each business day to maintain the desired allocations and are changed slightly each calendar quarter to become more conservative over time. There is an L Income fund for those currently making withdrawals or who expect to begin withdrawals relatively soon, and target withdrawal date funds for 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050 designed for those who expect to begin withdrawals in the four years preceding through the five years following those dates.
All employees may elect to invest any portion of their current account balances or future investments in any or all of the funds. Separated participants who keep their accounts open similarly may reallocate their existing balances, although they cannot make new investments.
The G Fund and L Funds are managed by the Thrift Investment Board’s staff. The Board has contracted to manage the S, I, C and F Funds.
The G Fund was launched in 1987, the C and F Funds in 1988, the S and I Funds in 2001 and the original L Funds in 2005. At the end of 2010, assets in a former L 2010 Fund were merged into the Income Fund, the 2010 Fund was discontinued, and the 2050 Fund was launched as of January 31, 2011.
Note: Public Law 111-31 authorized, but did not require, the TSP to create a “window” through which participants could invest in outside funds. Through 2014, the TSP had not exercised that authority although it continued to study the concept. It projected that even if it committed to such a feature, more than a year would be needed afterward to make it available. Issues to be resolved would include the investment choices offered, the potential fees and limits on outside investment amounts, the treatment of such investments in loans and withdrawals, and more.
How Returns Are Calculated
G Fund—By definition, the G Fund never can have a losing month. All investments in the fund earn interest at a rate equal to the average of market yields on Treasury marketable securities with four or more years to maturity, with a weighted average maturity of approximately 11 years.
G Fund returns are reduced by administrative expenses, which in recent years have ranged from about 0.015 percent to 0.030 percent, or about $0.15 to $0.30 for every $1,000 invested.
C, S, I and F Funds—The C, S, I and F Funds can post gains or losses. The capital gain or loss consists of these elements:
- the change in the price of the stocks in the equity index funds (C, S and I Funds) or the notes in the U.S. Debt Index Fund (F Fund);
- dividend (C, S and I Funds) or interest (F Fund) income credited to the funds;
- interest while investments are being processed;
- income from lending securities (C, S and I Funds) or notes and bonds (F Fund) on a short-term basis;
- administrative expenses, including management fees, which in recent years have ranged from about 0.015 percent to 0.030 percent, or about $0.15 to $0.30 for every $1,000 invested; and
- trading costs.
In addition, the I Fund fluctuates relative to the U.S. dollar’s value against the currencies of the countries in whose stock markets that fund has investments.
L Funds—The returns of the L Funds reflect the returns of the underlying G, F, C, S, and I Funds, calculated in proportion to their allocations in each L Fund. The L Funds do not have administrative charges beyond the charges paid by their underlying funds.
Government Securities Investment (G) Fund
The G Fund consists exclusively of investments in short-term, non-marketable U.S. Treasury securities specially issued to the TSP by the Treasury. The Treasury holds the assets of the G Fund in trust. Maturities range from one day on business days to four days over holiday weekends. However, because the rate is calculated to equal the average market yield on outstanding marketable Treasury securities with four or more years to maturity, the securities earn a longer-term, higher rate.
The G Fund rate is set monthly by the Treasury; all G Fund investments earn interest at that rate for the month. Since the G Fund is invested in short-term securities regardless of the rate, the value of securities does not fluctuate. Thus, there are no capital gains or losses in the G Fund.
The G Fund rate is calculated by the Treasury using the closing market bid prices of approximately 125 Treasury securities on the last day of the previous month. These prices are used to calculate the yield on each security. The yield of each security has a weight in the G Fund rate calculation based on the market value of each security. The larger the dollar amount for a security, the larger the weight in the calculation.
Common Stock Index Investment (C) Fund
The C Fund is invested in the BlackRock Equity Index Fund and tracks the S&P 500 index, which provides a representative measure of stock market performance of 500 large companies traded in U.S. stock markets, primarily on the New York Stock Exchange. Industries are grouped into major sectors, with information technology, financial companies, health care, consumer discretionary, energy, consumer staples and industrials the largest. The stocks in the S&P 500 make up about four-fifths of the market value of the U.S. stock markets.
The companies in the index are selected by S&P primarily based on their representation in their industry groupings, not because they are expected to have superior stock price performance relative to the stock market in general or to any other companies in particular. Instead, the measure is designed to be a representative gauge of U.S. large company stock performance. The makeup of the index varies from time to time.
The weighting of stocks in the S&P 500 index is based on each stock’s total market value—its market stock price per share times the number of shares freely traded—relative to the market value of the other stocks in the index. The result is that the companies with high market value have a disproportionate effect on the direction of the index.
Fixed Income Investment (F) Fund
The F Fund is managed by the BlackRock Institutional Trust Company and tracks the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, a measure of major U.S. bond markets.
The government sector represents 41 percent of the total, primarily Treasury issues, but also including some agency-issued obligations. Asset-backed securities constitute another 32 percent of the index. The “credit” sector represents the remainder of the index and contains publicly issued fixed rate investment grade securities.
Small Capitalization Stock Index Investment (S) Fund
The S Fund tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Completion Total Stock Market Index, commonly called the Wilshire 4500. The index represents about a quarter of the market value of the U.S. stock market, consisting of medium and small companies whose stocks are not in the S&P 500, which the C Fund tracks. The index actually reflects about 3,100 common stocks and real estate investment trusts.
The S Fund is invested in the BlackRock Extended Market Index Fund. The fund holds the stocks of most of the companies in the index with market values greater than $1 billion. A mathematical sampling technique is used to select among the smaller stocks.
The largest market sectors are financials, consumer discretionary, industrials, information technology and health care. Energy, materials, utilities, consumer staples and telecommunications make up most of the rest.
International Stock Index Investment (I) Fund
The I Fund is invested in the BlackRock EAFE Index Fund, which consists of the stocks of companies in 22 foreign countries. The primary source of earnings is the net changes in the prices of stocks, although at times foreign currency exchange rates relative to the U.S. dollar can be a more significant component of the results than stock price gains or losses. Dividend income is another source of earnings.
The EAFE Index Fund holds common stocks of companies represented in the Morgan Stanley Capital International EAFE (Europe, Australasia and Far East) stock index, and uses a passive investment strategy of replicating the performance of the index.
Each country’s weighting in the EAFE index is based on the total market value of its stock market relative to the market value of the stock markets of the other countries in the index. In turn, the weightings of the stocks in the EAFE index are based on each stock’s total market value relative to the market value of the other stocks of that country which are included in the index. Like the S&P 500, the EAFE index is considered a big company index, containing large international companies. Stocks of the United Kingdom and Japan make up about 22 and 20 percent respectively, with stocks of France, Australia, Switzerland and Germany about 8-9 percent each.
The L Funds
The “Lifecycle” (L) Funds reflect a form of investing for retirement in which the investor chooses an expected withdrawal date, and the amount designated is divided among the other TSP funds according to a ratio reflecting a predetermined risk/reward profile for that time frame.
The TSP offers five L Funds: the L Income Fund designed for those already making post-separation withdrawals from the TSP or who expect to begin making withdrawals soon, and the L 2020, 2030, 2040 and 2050 Funds designed for those expecting to start making withdrawals in those years or within the four years preceding or five years following those years. At the end of 2010, assets in a former L 2010 Fund were merged into the L Income Fund and the 2050 Fund began on January 31, 2011.
The farther out the expected withdrawal date, the more aggressive the investment mix. For example, as of January 2014, the L 2050 Fund invested 86.5 percent of its money in the three stock-oriented (C, S, and I) funds, 9 percent in the F Fund, and 4.5 percent in the G Fund, while the Income Fund always has 20 percent in the stock funds, 6 percent in the F Fund, and 74 percent in the G Fund.
Investments in the funds are adjusted in two ways. First, they are automatically reallocated each business day to take into account the actual returns of the underlying funds, in order to maintain the desired ratios. Second, the funds—except for the Income Fund—become more conservative over time as the expected withdrawal date approaches, through minor changes made each quarter in their investment allocations.
Returns of L Funds are determined by the returns of the funds in which assets in them are invested, on a prorated basis according to each underlying fund’s percentage within each L Fund. There are no additional administrative fees associated with L Fund investing; only the costs associated with the underlying funds are deducted, on a similar prorated basis. L Fund investments are expressed in shares and share prices as are other TSP funds.
Investors may invest in more than one L Fund and may move money among those funds in the same way as with other TSP funds.
Investment Performance Information
The Thrift Investment Board provides several sources of information about the investment performance of the TSP funds:
• Current and historical daily share prices are at www.tsp.gov.
• Every month, the Board publishes a Monthly Returns fact sheet, available at www.tsp.gov and at some agency personnel and payroll offices.
• The TSP issues participant statements quarterly, for the periods ending each March 31, June 30, September 30 and December 31, as well as an annual statement early in the calendar year.
• The quarterly TSP Highlights provides the most recent 10-year performance summary as well as monthly detail on the TSP funds and the related securities and indexes.