REITs, Gold, IT and the TSP

Disappointed with the limited number of investment options in your TSP?

Wish you could invest in gold and other precious metals within your federal 401(k) plan?

Have you ever wished you could put those tax-deferred dollars in a “socially responsible” fund? Or an environmentally green fund? Or high-tech or a REIT (real estate) fund?

If so, you are not alone.


With so many investment options out there, why are federal and postal investors limited to broad market index funds?

We asked that question in a column last week and it generated some interesting comments from TSP investors. Such as:

  • “At $1,200 per ounce, the buy-high, sell-low crowd must be itching to invest. The time to ask for a gold fund was when gold was $300 per ounce. Steven Levine
  • “Gold has always held an allure for many people. It shines and (like many commodities) can rise to unimagined heights. But (like pork bellies, orange juice and others commodities) it can fall in value quickly, depending on unforseen circumstances. Of course, we know any equity fund can similarly fall, but the volatility is lower and easier to live with.

    “The TSP is not for speculation, it helps build a solid foundation for retirement. Just like real estate and dot.coms, gold has all the potential of a real bust.” Denis S.

  • “Pearl S. Buck in The Good Earth had a line about buying land because there is a finite amount available to ‘own’ as if there is anything tangible we really own in this life. The American Natives really got it when it came to the earth.

    “Anyway, I really feel for my FERS coworkers who have to depend on a 401(k) program that only does well in good times and requires them to stuff it in the mattress (G fund) until the economic tornado passes in bad times.

    “When most large employers had defined benefit pension plans, many could look forward to their golden years. When the demise of defined benefit pensions replaced by caveat emptor defined contribution plan, only the very smart or the luck few who roll the dice well will have something to look forward to when their body and souls are worn out from a lifetime of toil.” Doug In Denver

  • “The TSP does a good job of protecting us from ourselves. Judging by what arrives in the mail and by e-mail, there are people out there who will invest in anything (in the interest of honest disclosure I am selling stock in the San Francisco-Honolulu Railroad which is in pre-construction, and also a company that will digitize water.) When the technicalities are worked out you will be able to plug a faucet into the UBS port of your computer and download into your glass.” Stanley F.

AFGE’s Loss

Mark Roth, general counsel of the giant AFGE union, is retiring after 35 years years. He held the top legal post for the last 27 years, working on issues from whistleblower relief, labor-management partnerships and the rollback of the National Security Personnel System. Nice going Mark!

5-Day Delivery

The Postal Service proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery would hurt poor customers, according to the American Postal Workers Union’s Mike Morris. He told a regional (Memphis) hearing of the Postal Regulatory Commission that affluent customers would cut deals with private delivery services to continue Saturday service which many others need but couldn’t afford.

The 5-day delivery plan, which Congress would have to approve, is revived every four or five years. But long-time postal watchers say this time the threat, if it is that, is very real.

Immortalized in Lucite

Jennie Liming of the General Services Administration and Neil Barofsky of the Treasury Department have checked in to pick up their well-deserved Causey Awards for public service. Listen to them and you’ll know why they won. You can hear them Wednesday (10 a.m. EDT) on our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show, 1500 AM in the DC area or anywhere on the internet.

To reach me:

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

This month’s full moon will occur on Thursday. While it’s commonly known as the “full flower moon” according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “some Algonquin tribes knew this full Moon as the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.”

Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast
Among the headlines this morning in the Federal Newscast: Federal retirements hit seven year low, Unanimous Senate passes Telework bill, Cyber security expected to have bigger impact on Maryland than BRAC and Air Force secret space plane spotted. For more, click here.

The TSP as a model for other 401(k)s?
We chat with Senior Correspondent Mike Causey and Tom Trabucco, Director of External Affairs for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investments Board. Causey says it’s kind of hard to find a disgruntled TSP investor, though there are some out there who want more options, but overall the plan is a pretty good value. Trabucco says part of the reason why many like the TSP is that the money is invested wisely. Read more here.

Hiring reforms could mean big changes for veterans
The Office of Personnel Managment’s sweeping hiring reforms could mean big things for U.S. Veterans. Right now, only three government agencies hire significant numbers of veterans: the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. Tim Embree is the legislative associate with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He says the federal government is ahead of the curve when it comes to hiring veterans, but more needs to be done. Read more here.