Market timing 101

Like many saving for retirement, lots of federal-military investors in the Thrift Savings Plan don’t like what they are seeing, reading, hearing and feeling about 2018’s roller coaster stock market.

Although unemployment is at near record lows, inflation seems in check and the overall economy seems to be fine, many investors don’t like the ups and downs which have wiped out most gains made this year.

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It is likely that a lot of people, as they did in 2008 and 2009, are moving money from the C, S and I stock funds into the TSP’s super safe harbor, the treasury securities G fund. Many are convinced this is the time to get out. And that a month ago would have been better still.

While the signs of when-to-bail are clear to many people, less clear is part two: When do you return to the C and S funds? Some 2008 evacuees are still trying to figure that out.

Earlier this week we asked TSP investors how they are holding up? And what their plans for the future are.

Here are some of the responses:

“In 2008 I moved everything into the G fund after taking a big hit with my C and S fund investments. I didn’t return to stocks until last year. I know I missed most of the market comeback. And I missed the chance to dollar-cost-average and buy C and S shares at sale prices. I vowed I wouldn’t do it again. But I’m getting nervous and may repeat my go-safe investment pattern. Much scarier now as I am 10 years older.”

— Hank from Burke, Virginia

*When the Great Recession hit I let inertia be my guide. I did nothing. I kept buying C and S funds but not I. Every statement I got was horrible. Then one day I looked at my balance and thought there had been a mistake. What had been down was way, way up. And I had been buying at the bottom of the market. Sometimes doing nothing is the best plan.”

— B.F.

“The market ebbs and flows based on policies, FED and volatility. You can’t time the market but long-term investors have earned steady profit since 2008. I would ride out this correction since the next election will be mainly based on the economy, market, trade and consumer confidence. Short-term investors and older workers may want to shift percentages to less-riskier TSP options for now.

Just remember, you don’t really lose any money until you cash out. I’m going to ride out the dips/corrections especially leading into the 2020 elections. Purchasing higher-risk TSP option shares cheaper for now.”

— Therm in Kentucky

“As one of the dinosaurs from the [Civil Service Retirement System] who has been quite happily investing in the TSP for many years and rode out the recent unpleasantness of 2008 and 2009 because I had a long enough event horizon until retirement [on] Jan. 3, 2019, there are two factors to consider. When do you need the money and how much risk can you stand? For me this time when the market started to believe the headlines it was time to pull 65 percent into G and go 10 percent in C,S and F. It has always been a dice roll and I’ve never gone more than a minor percentage, here 5 percent, despite what the L funds like to do. If someone was staying or didn’t need the money for five more years they probably should pull back short term, say until the new Congress starts to really roll and then plunge back in with both feet. If you have 10 years or more stay steady and, as you have advised so often, buy those stocks when they are on sale and build your bankroll.”

— John Trosper,  soon-to-be-retired 38-plus years of federal service, loved it all.

“Was in 2050 L fund and previously in the 2040 L and did nothing since 1991 when I first joined. For the first time ever I moved all to the 2020 fund after getting the big gains after the election but not getting the continuing downturn losses that followed the next closing days. I am staying in 2020 until there is a China deal and see how the Democrats act, plus want to watch for any fed rate hikes and how the market gets acclimated to them. No hurry to get aggressive again for now, but will place current contributions in C and S funds. I’m six years away from retirement and will easily top $500,000 before that. Thank you, President Trump.”

— Michael R.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

Anthony Kelly of Australia holds the Guinness World Record for the most paintballs caught whole while blindfolded in two minutes: 11. The paintballs were .68 caliber, shot at 240 feet per second from a distance of 20 meters (65.6 feet) away.

Source: Guinness World Records

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