Secrets of the TSP millionaires club

The average self-made millionaire had been contributing for 29 years, and more than 64,000 people had account balances ranging from $750,000 to $999,000.

At the end of last month there were 34,128 federal workers and retirees with Thrift Savings Plan account balances of $1 million or more. The biggest was $6,261,000.31!

The average self-made millionaire had been contributing for 29 years. Equally impressive is the fact that more than 64,000 people had account balances ranging from $750,000 to $999,000. And another group of 160,760 people had built up accounts worth $500,000 to $749,000 by contributing on average for just under 27 years.

A huge number of employees and retirees — 467,883, to be specific — had accounts worth between $250,000 and $499,000 by investing for an average of 21 years. That is through thick and thin, boom times and the Great Recession. When stocks plummeted as they did in 2008 most investors stayed the course and continue to buy shares in the stock-indexed C and S funds which, because of the recession, were on sale.

Three million individuals — civilians in the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System programs as well as members of the uniformed military — had account balances of up to $50,000 after an average investment time of 6.48 years.  All of the FERS participants were eligible for the 5 percent government match to their accounts.

So we know how they did it collectively. They maxed out in the C and S funds and sometimes the higher risk, higher reward I fund.  They didn’t retreat to the G fund when the market plummeted in 2008. And they stayed (mostly or exclusively) with stocks even when stocks didn’t look so hot.  By contrast many people who moved into the “safety” of the G fund have never returned to stocks.

But how did they do it individually? I personally “know,” in that I’ve heard from or talked to, at least four TSP millionaires. One is a postal worker based in Florida, two are D.C. area feds and one is in California. The Florida fed wrote a guest column which appeared here this summer when I sneaked off for a vacation.

What about you? Are you a TSP millionaire, are you close? Are you in the $500,000 to $749,000 club? Are you a relative newcomer whose pre-bucket list includes making the seven-figure club? And if so, how did you do it? What’s your secret? What’s your plan, because a lot of people would like to know:

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Voltaire, the Enlightenment-age philosopher and author of “Candide,” supported himself in part by scamming the French national lottery, due to a mathematical loophole in the prize-awarding system.


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