If they made a movie about a government janitor who legally became a millionaire, would you see it? Would you believe it?
Well, while Hollywood isn’t calling (yet) we have all the materiel for such a film. At last headcount, June 30, there were 98,897 active and retired federal and military personnel with anywhere from a million to ten million dollars in their Thrift Savings Plan account. The vast majority of them are regular feds, with regular jobs who’ve been investing primarily in the stock index C and S funds during good times and bad for roughly 30 years. And that’s it. We’ve heard from many self-made TSP millionaires. All of them tell the same story. Buy and hold. Don’t panic when the market tanks. Or we have a recession. Or a world-wide pandemic.
Although most of the how-I-did-it stories are similar, they are also different. Representing different people, in different jobs, in different places. Today’s is from a fed who started as a janitor, had a plan and went over the $1 million mark in January 2018. He’s now approaching the $3 million mark.
Below are my numbers. They just keep getting better in spite of my old mistakes. In mid-January of 2018, I went over a $1M and you wrote the story. At the end of that year the market was down and I had lost on paper over $175,000. You can see the number in red for 2018. But I closed my eyes and rode it out. By the end of 2019 I had recovered all of my paper loss of $175,000 and made another $100,000, giving me a balance of $1.1M.
I was thrilled. Then came 2020 and COVID. I got nervous and saw my account dip. I tried to wait it out but instead I sold and went into the G Fund. I did what I told everyone not to do. I was probably down about $300,000 or somewhere around there on paper and I should have ignored it. But instead I moved my money. I’m unsure how much of the recovery I missed. I am actually too embarrassed to look. Within a week I recognized my mistake and tried to jump back, but in that short time I missed a ton of money in the recovery. I probably lost between $50-100K. If I had stayed the course and never moved, I would have seen no loss because it was all just on paper. By the way, many years ago I thought I was smart and tried to time the market in the TSP and lost $17,000. I should have remembered that mistake and I would not have made this bigger one.
I am happy to say that I just kept riding again and ended 2020 at $1,320,005. It’s an amazing feeling and a learning experience. I should not have tried to time the market. I should have sat back and ridden the market in 2020. The market has continued to climb and I now sit on over $1.4M in my TSP. But if I had not timed the market (poorly), I think I would be sitting on at least $1.5M. Please realize I only hit a million dollars in January of 2018 and have ridden the market down hundreds of thousands of dollars and I have ridden it right back up and am now up over $400,000 since hitting that million just two years ago.
This is my 40th year of government service, but I have only been in the TSP since 1997, 23 years.
Despite its name, over 80% of Greenland is covered in ice. It received its name from a Norse explorer Erik the Red. According to historians, the Viking named it Greenland as a way to attract more people to come.