The Sleep At Night Factor

Over the last two months 412,000 federal investors have moved money out of their TSP stock market accounts into the treasury securities G-fund. While that represents a lot of understandably nervous people, it means that most of the 4-million plus TSP investors didn’t do anything during those turbulent stock market months.

Many long-term investors we’ve heard from say they just couldn’t take the big ups and downs of the market. Financial planners call it “the sleep-at-night rule.” If you can’t sleep at night with your current investments you need to change them even though that may be a bad move for the long run.

Most of the worried said they would return once the markets get back to normal. But many simply couldn’t sleep at night seeing their huge paper losses. That’s especially true of people who are going to need to tap their TSP accounts within the next 5 years. Many of them fear the market won’t recover (and could get worse) any time soon.

Susan, a recently retired reader-listener, said she’s pulled out of the market. Her situation is typical of many TSP investors. Here’s her question, plus an educated-answer from a real financial pro:

Question: “I got out of the S, C, & I funds & transferred everything to G in late Sept., when the Dow hit 12,300… My plan is to transfer back into one of the L funds after the 1st of the year, depending on how things are doing….

“I recently retired & don’t need the $$…What do you think about my plan ??” Susan.

We passed the buck to Mary Beth Franklin. She’s senior editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and a guest on our Your Turn radio show Oct. 29.

Here’s her reply to Susan’s plan:

Answer: “… it seems that Susan has managed to preserve the bulk of her retirement investments from the steep decline in October, so she’s probably sleeping better at night. Since she’s already retired and doesn’t need the money immediately, it might be a good time to review all of her financial plans, including investments in her TSP and beyond. She may want to consider gradually shifting all of her money into one of the L Funds. The Income fund is 74% invested in the G Fund. The 2010 Fund is 43% invested in the G funds. The balance of both funds are invested in a diversified group of other TSP stock funds, domestic and international.

“If she doesn’t need the money immediately and has other liquid assets to draw on for income and/or emergency fund, she may want to go for the 2010 fund which has a higher growth potential. And even retirees need to invest for growth to combat inflation over a retirement that could last 20 or 30 years.”

Nearly Useless Factoid

This one from the BBC: the first toilet cubicle in a public washroom is the least likely to be used and it is also the cleanest.

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