As it stands right now, there is just over $450 billion dollars invested in the TSP. That’s billion with a capital “B.” If you’re working for the federal government than you’re most likely one of the 4.8 million participants. It was included as one of those perk benefits that got you even more excited about the position.
The only problem is that you probably haven’t gotten much guidance beyond the lovely welcome packet you received during your orientation. I envision the conversation went a little something like this:
Your employer: “Congratulations, you now have a TSP with a 5% match!”
You: “Great! Now what?”
Your employer: “You choose your own investments. Good luck!”
You: “Uhh… I don’t know how to do that.”
Your employer: “Sorry, we can’t give recommendations.”
You: “What the…?”
I hear some variation of the above conversation all the time.
The reason the TSP was offered with a 5% match was because they didn’t want to have to be on the hook with the old-school pensions that CSRS participants have.
The TSP allows them to put the responsibility into the employees’ hands — that’s you — to determine their retirement fate.
How does that make you feel? If you’re a little uneasy, you should be.
Why exactly? Look at this way: At some point in time your TSP will probably be the largest asset you own — even bigger than your house. The BIG fundamental difference between the two is that the TSP will be your income source at retirement. You can’t draw an income from your house, the last time I checked.
If your TSP will one day be the single largest asset you own, I would then expect that you would want to spend countless hours researching your TSP options making sure you know exactly where your paycheck is going each month, right?
Face it. People would rather do just about anything than research where their hard-earned dollars are going. But, that’s not how the Fed Retirement Planning Community operates.
Today, I want to share with you some free tools that you can use to quickly have a better understanding of your TSP and how you might improve it.
If you are looking for a way to track how your TSP is doing in real time than this is a great start.
Not only can you see how your actual account is doing, but you can also see how a different allocation would perform.
I like to do this to track all different kinds of allocations and see which performs the best over a given period. It’s a fun tool that works quite well and shows you a good bit of data. Not only can you see how you performed, but you can also compare yourself to others.
This turns the TSP into a game and the person with the highest growth wins! (Although I’m pretty sure someone rigged the system because they’ve earned over 200%!!)
Also, did I mention this is free to use?
TSP Fund Tracker
Graphs really warm the OCD, nerdy side of my brain.
I love being able to see how investments have performed in a well put together, easy to disseminate graph. And, that’s exactly what TSP Fund Tracker does.
It shows changes in the market, market declines, share price changes, and many other things on a daily basis.
Here’s an example:
Being able to track how funds have done over time is a great way for making decisions going forward. It’s actually rather easy for those in the TSP as well because there are so few funds. You simply look at how the L-Funds are doing along with the other funds, and make a decision.
I would highly recommend checking some of the information on this site before making any allocation changes.
I’d also suggest you download the TSP Cheat Sheet to help you in making decisions on where to allocate your contributions. You can do so below:
The TSP Fund Tracker is also free.
Another tool you can use to help you manage your TSP as well as other investments you may have is Morningstar.com
Morningstar has an insane amount of helpful tools, many of which are free, however some require you to be a member. Premium memberships offer a lot of tools, however they are expensive at $199/year so if you’re not planning on using the service heavily, it’s probably not worth the cost.
Portfolio Manager allows you to track, rebalance and analyze your portfolio. You can enter your investments and track them throughout the day. The Portfolio Manager has a performance tracker, which will show you your portfolio’s performance on a month-to-month basis.
It also allows you to see your gain or loss on each investment. This is a great tool to see the performance of your portfolio broken down into individual investments. This can help you determine if a certain investment is the right fit for your portfolio.
Morningstar also has a news and opinion section in the Portfolio Manager. This will give you the latest news regarding each investment in your portfolio.
You can also set alerts for investments you are watching to all you to pick the timing on when to get in or out of the market.
If you’re extremely analytical, then you’ll probably love Morningstar. If you’re not, then it may prove to be very overwhelming.
Now, with these three services shown, not everybody is a do-it-yourselfer.
While there are plenty of free options out there to help out with your TSP, I understand that we’re all busy. I can hear it now, “Cooper, I don’t have the time or the motivation to monitor my TSP consistently.” Instead of chastising you, I’ll just give you another option. This option, though, has a cost.
The other option you have is to financial planner who will either charge you a flat fee or an hourly rate to assist in your TSP options. This planner should have a good understanding of your goals, how aggressive/conservative you are, and resources to review your investment options.
Before hiring this adviser, make sure you have a clear understanding of how much you are paying and what you are getting in return.
With all the tools available to you, self-directed investing has never been easier. You have no excuse not to have a good understanding of what’s going on in your TSP.