Throwback Thursday Classic Post: TSP Fund Deep Dive – The G Fund – Free Lunches Do Exist
There are only five investments available in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), so let’s take a detailed look at them one at a time. In this post we’ll cover the G Fund.
The G Fund is proof that free lunches do actually exist because in the G Fund the government is paying you more interest than they actually should. Read on to find out how and why.
1 APR 1987
Unlike the other TSP funds that are managed by Blackrock, the G Fund is managed internally by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The G Fund buys a non-marketable U.S. Treasury security that is guaranteed by the U.S. Government. This means that the G Fund will not lose money.
The G Fund invests exclusively in a non-marketable short-term U.S. Treasury security that is specially issued to the TSP. The earnings consist entirely of interest income on the security.
The G Fund’s investment objective is to produce a rate of return that is higher than inflation while avoiding exposure to credit (default) risk and market price fluctuations. It is designed to provide investors with interest income without risk of loss of principal.
What is the Risk?
Your investment in the G Fund is subject to inflation risk, meaning your G Fund investment may not grow enough to offset the reduction in purchasing power that results from inflation.
What is the Benefit?
The payment of G Fund principal and interest is guaranteed by the U.S. Government. This means that the U.S. Government will always make the required payments. In other words, your G Fund investment is not subject to credit (default) risk.
The G Fund interest rate calculation is based on the weighted average yield of all outstanding Treasury notes and bonds with 4 or more years to maturity. As a result, participants who invest in the G Fund are rewarded with a long-term rate on what is essentially a short-term security. Generally, long-term interest rates are higher than short-term rates. This is the free lunch that the government periodically talks about getting rid of.
The G Fund is the lowest risk fund in the TSP and will have the lowest volatility, as you can see below. The major benefit is that you are guaranteed not to lose money. In trade for this you are receiving lower returns. Here is all the performance data as of 21 NOV 2020:
Types of Earnings
The G Fund makes money for its investors with interest paid by the U.S. Government.
The net expenses paid by investors is 0.043% or 4.3 basis points, which like all the TSP funds is ridiculously low and is a major benefit of the TSP. It costs $0.43 for each $1,000 invested. You won’t find a lower cost U.S. government bond fund anywhere.
How Should I Use the G Fund in my TSP Account?
Consider investing in the G Fund if you would like to have all or a portion of your TSP account completely protected from loss. If you choose to invest in the G Fund, you are placing a higher priority on the stability and preservation of your money than on the opportunity to potentially achieve greater long-term growth in your account through investment in the other TSP funds.
It is the TSP equivalent of a U.S. Treasury bond fund you’d find at Vanguard or other investing firms.
Advice from My Favorite Short Investing Book
Here is what my favorite investing book, The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor, says about U.S. government bond index funds like the G Fund:
The U.S. Treasury issues large amounts of bonds. These issues are considered the safest of all and these bonds are the one type of security where diversification is not essential…High quality bonds can moderate the risk of a common stock portfolio by providing offsetting variations to the inevitable ups and downs or the stock market.
If you want to know how to integrate the G fund into your own TSP investments, read the Crush the TSP series. In particular, step 3 tells you how to figure out how much of your portfolio to devote toward bonds.