October 2017 TSP Allocation Update



Happy Fiscal New Year!

As some of the newer subscribers may have noticed, I occasionally skip doing an update if I get so far into a month that the next month’s data is just days away. September was one of those months, with a combination of travel, the day job (which seems to include a lot of evenings and weekends), and my better half announcing that she is pregnant with our first child (so you can look forward to a thorough writeup on tax-advantaged Coverdale and 529 accounts sometime in the next year). With my buy-and-hold-except-at-major-turns-in-the economy strategy, nothing which pops up in any given month is likely to result in a change, and if there is a major event I will certainly put something out.

Apparently there was also a problem with the email for the August update and some of you might not have seen that one. That was a longer, mid-year update, and it would be worth going back to read that here: August 2017 TSP Allocation Update

This will be a pretty quick update. First up though, I want to again thank the folks who donated to support the site since my last update. Some of you have been ridiculously generous, and it has been genuinely heartwarming.

Bottom line up front: I will be sticking with an allocation of 100% TSP C Fund in both my existing balances and new contributions this month (and probably for the foreseeable future).

Thrift Savings Plan Fund Returns

The stock market continued to move up nicely in September:

  • TSP C Fund:  2.06%
  • TSP S Fund:  4.26%
  • TSP I Fund:  2.52%
  • TSP F Fund:  -0.48%
  • TSP G Fund:  0.17%

And the TSP Funds year-to-date (through 10/06/2017):

  • TSP C Fund:  15.67%
  • TSP S Fund:  14.31%
  • TSP I Fund:  20.24%
  • TSP F Fund:  3.21%
  • TSP G Fund:  1.77%

In the News

It has been an eventful 60 days since the last update. We’ve had hurricanes, Nazis, anthem protests, charter flight scandal(s), and apparently everyone in this White House uses personal email accounts. A few more members of the inner circle were shown the door, North Korea dredged up the word “dotard”, Russia bought a bunch of Facebook ads, and LSU lost to Troy.

What does all of that mean to investors? Nothing really. As we have discussed before, none of these things will have an impact on the stock market for more than a few days unless we see war on the Korean peninsula or an impeachment. Neither of those are at all likely, and the market has responded accordingly. The market hates instability, and in a normal administration several of the issues above would have stocks bouncing around. But the market seems to have recalibrated for the daily chaos of the Trump years, and the reaction has been muted.

September’s Economic Numbers:

In this section I discuss the key indicator data I use in determining where I think we are in the economic cycle and what that data means to me in deciding how to allocate my Thrift Savings Plan balance. (These indicators are explained in some detail in How to Determine the Current Phase of the Business Cycle.)

Employment numbers:

September saw the first monthly loss in total jobs in seven years, with a drop of 33,000 jobs. The number dipped into the red only because of the combined hurricanes, although it is worth noting that the estimate coming in of 90,000 jobs created would have been much lower than we are used to.

Total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 33,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.2 percent. That lagged estimates of approximately 90,000 new jobs created. The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was also revised down from 189,000 to 138,000, and the change for August was revised up from 156,000 to 169,000. With these revisions, employment gains in July and August combined were 38,000 less than previously reported.

Taking a look at employment gains since January 2015, you can see the job gains gradually declining, which is to be expected at this stage in the business cycle to some degree:


Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 12 cents to $26.55. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 74 cents, or 2.9 percent.

I obtain this data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI):

As usual, I pulled up the most recent report from the Institute for Supply Management. Any number above 50 indicates growth in manufacturing and anything over 43.2 indicates an expansion of the overall economy. The September PMI reading of 60.8 is the strongest number I can remember:

Manufacturing expanded in September as the PMI registered 60.8 percent, an increase of 2 percentage points from the August reading of 58.8 percent. This indicates growth in manufacturing for the 13th consecutive month and is the highest reading since May 2004, when the index registered 61.4 percent. A reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

A PMI above 43.3 percent, over a period of time, generally indicates an expansion of the overall economy. Therefore, the September PMI indicates growth for the 100th consecutive month in the overall economy and the 13th straight month of growth in the manufacturing sector.

The past relationship between the PMI and the overall economy indicates that the average PMI for January through September (57.1 percent) corresponds to a 4.4 percent increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) on an annualized basis. In addition, if the PMI for September (60.8 percent) is annualized, it corresponds to a 5.5 percent increase in real GDP annually.

The last twelve months:

Yield spreads: The yield curve has made a parallel shift upward, with both short and long rates increasing. I get this information from the Cleveland Fed, who had this to say:

Using past values of the spread and GDP growth, our calculations suggest that real GDP will grow at about a 1.3 percentage rate over the next year. […]

Using the yield curve to predict whether or not the economy will be in recession in the future, we estimate the expected chance of the economy being in a recession next September at 12.0 percent, down from the August probability of 12.5 percent (an even one-eighth chance), itself a tiny drop down from July’s 12.9 percent. So the yield curve is optimistic about the recovery continuing, even if it is somewhat pessimistic with regard to the pace of growth over the next year.

Money supply growth rate: Money Supply M2 (which includes savings deposits, money market mutual funds and other time deposits which can be quickly converted into cash or checking deposits) increased from May to June.

Money Supply M2 in the United States increased to 13647 USD Billion in August from 13602.20 USD Billion in July of 2017.

The growth rate is what is meaningful here, and you can see that growth has flattened out to some degree between July and August in the chart below (but not something to worry about across a short period):



All of the above data leads me to believe that we remain in the Mid/Growth/Performing stage of the business cycle and so I am going to continue to allocate all of my balances and contributions to the TSP C Fund.

Recommended Reading

My investment reading has been interrupted by a deep dive into What to Expect When You’re Expecting, so I will repeat the recommendation from the last update: The Best Investment Writing: Selected writing from leading investors and authors: 1. Meb Faber has put out an annual list of the best articles on investing for several years now, and he is publishing it in book form this year. It is a compilation of the best pieces from a huge collection of the big name money managers and stock market researchers. They have agreed to have their work published in this book because all proceeds are going to charity. Lots of great content broken up into ten minute chunks.

The Next Update

I send out a notification of these updates (or allocation changes during the month) to the email list which you can subscribe to here: Subscribe. If you want to see what I am reading throughout the month, I also have a twitter account to which I usually post items of interest which I stumble across for investors, Feds and the military a few times a week at: @TSPallocation

What’s in it for me?

I don’t ask anything except that you share the site with your colleagues so we can continue to expand the community of feds and service members helping each other in a free, transparent, no-pressure environment (although if you want to, you can donate to support the site here). You can help by telling the person sitting next to you, linking to this site from your own webpage or blog, liking it on Facebook, sharing on Twitter and in other investing forums, or actively participating on our Message Board. So if you found this post useful, please share it with your friends and colleagues using the email and social sharing buttons below right now. Thanks!


20 thoughts on “October 2017 TSP Allocation Update”

  1. What has been your PIP being 100 percent in C Fund, just wondering since I’m thinking about going 100 percent in a fund.

    1. Agree congrats Paul! I was no spring chicken when I had my 1st at 49, but being a father is awesome. And being older/wiser/more financially sound helps in many ways, but def could use a bit more of the energy level I had in my 20/30s!

  2. Big fan of your site. One question. If one has been out of the market for approx , a year is too late to get in. Or wait the proverbial dips. I know we’ve dipped some, but feel I’m getting in after the party started.



  3. Congratulations on the baby, Paul! I always look forward to your posts and had to check a few times to see if I had missed your email since August’s post. Looking forward to a new twist with your future college savings posts.

  4. Congratulations Paul! I became a father at 42 and believe me it change my whole perspective about life. Wish you lot’s of energy,….. You will needed but will keep young. Keep it up. Looking forward to more posts.

  5. Does your 100% C fund advice still hold for those of us who are retired from the federal government? I went back to work in another capacity right after I retired and plan to start drawing from the TSP in around five years or so. Thank you

  6. New to your site and love it!! I have been 30% C and 70% S for a very long time…retired 7 years. Is it a good time to change that to 100% C? I’ve never understood the timing of changing.

  7. What do you make of the S fund taking a 4% dip in October? Should I evacuate the S fund? November 2016 was outstanding for the S fund. Why is that? Thank you for your sound advice!

    1. That’s all way too short term for me. If you asked me why something did something over a year or 18 months I might have a legitimate idea.

      November 2016’s strong performance was a relief rally after the election (a) was over and (b) had a clear result. The big fear was that it would wind up in courts or multiple recounts again.

  8. Been following your blog and my Personal Investment Performance (PIP) for the past 12 months ending 10/31/2017 is 23.61%. Thanks TSPaul!

  9. TSPaul,
    I heard if the tax reform plan passes the S fund should sky rocket. If it doesn’t, the I fund should sky rocket. Is there any truth to that?

    1. I don’t know about any sky rocketing. Small caps are more domestically focused on average and pay a slightly (3%) higher effective tax rate than large caps. That coupled with relative valuations make the S Fund a little more likely to go on a run if tax reform passes. And I suppose the theory is that money will move away from the US if it fails (and international stocks have similarly more attractive valuations than large cap US stocks currently), so not out of the question to see that scenario play out.

    1. It’s from Marketwatch, so I usually read things from that source assuming that they are going to be a little sensationalist. But I don’t disagree with anything in there – valuations are definitely high and we are due for a correction of one size or another. But that could happen this month, in June, or a year from now – and I don’t think anybody can predict that.

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