House GOP budget targets TSP’s G Fund

House Republicans spy savings in the Thrift Savings Plan’s popular G Fund, but the changes wouldn’t be to participants’ liking.

Tucked into the 265-page Budget Committee report accompanying their fiscal 2016 budget proposal is a sharp, but poignant, criticism of the G Fund.

“Securities within the G Fund are not subject to risk of default. Payment of principal and interest is guaranteed by the U.S. government. Yet the interest rate paid is equivalent to a long-term bond. As a result, those who participate in the G Fund are rewarded with a long-term rate on what is essentially a short-term security,” the report said.

The report suggests, in essence, basing the G Fund’s interest rate on a three-month average rather than the current four-year average. It estimates the change would save up to $32 billion over 10 years.

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Even though the language is a mere suggestion, it worries the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which operates the TSP.

“It would drop the interest to virtually zero, which would make the G Fund worthless to our participants. It wouldn’t even begin to keep pace with inflation,” said Kim Weaver, the board’s director of external affairs. She plans to contact Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the Oversight Committee.

Source: Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board memo dated March 4, 2015.

“Just because it’s in the Budget Committee report doesn’t mean it would ever happen but, obviously, we can’t sit back and think, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ That’s not helpful,” she said. “Our mission is to operate in the sole interest of the participants and to change the G Fund rate is not in their interest.”

The Senate version of the document is silent on the issue, she added.

The G Fund is the most conservative investment option in the TSP. It’s intended to produce a rate of return higher than inflation and aligned with the Civil Service Retirement Trust Fund and the Social Security Trust Fund. Nearly 35 percent of the plan’s assets are invested in the G Fund.

The House Budget Committee report also fleshed out other money-saving options that would impact federal employees’ wallets. One proposal would base retirement health benefits on the number of years employees work for the government. Reducing premium subsidies for those with shorter federal careers would save $1.2 billion over ten years, the report said.

Another would require federal employees to contribute a greater share of their paychecks—6.6 percent—to their pensions. Right now, employees pay anywhere from 0.8 percent to 4.4 percent of their salaries toward retirement. Should that happen, Weaver expects employees to contribute less money to their TSP accounts.

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