The Six Million Dollar Man (or Woman) really is a fed

For five seasons in the 1970s, the hottest show on TV (or so my parents told me) was “The Six Million Dollar Man.” He was an astronaut with NASA who, after some major ($6 million) bodywork, could do lots of incredible things.

Fast forward to August 2017. Turns out there really is a $5.8 million person out there, and he or she works for Uncle Sam. Thanks to the rising stock market, his or her Thrift Savings Plan balance is up from $4,654,000 in January 2016 to $5,823,556 this month. And he (or she) has been around for a while, so they are unlikely to be an appointee of the Trump administration.

Having quickly established that this person is not you, the next question is, how’s your TSP? Followed by the response, “compared to what?”

How about everybody else’s, all 4.9 million active and retired feds, military personnel and former feds who left money in the federal version of a 401(k) plan? The numbers are all good, and staggering. The vast majority of TSP millionaires did it the hard way. They started investing as soon as the TSP program began or they joined government. Many have been in it for 28-plus years.

Feds who stuck with the C and S (stock index) funds have done very well over time. While there have been major downturns, including the Great Recession, the overall trend has been up. People who bought the C, S and I funds during the Great Recession have seen them jump in value dramatically. They bought low and are now enjoying the benefits, at least on paper.

So where do you stand in the TSP lineup? Check this out:

  • 2.8 million account holders have account balances of $50,000 or less. On average, they’ve been in the TSP for 6.89 years.
  • 1.4 million have between $50,000 and $249,000 in their accounts. The average participation for this group is 16.45 years.
  • 436,509 workers and retirees have between $250,000 and $499,000 in their TSP accounts as of mid-August. On average, they’ve been investing for 22 years.
  • 135,789 account holders have balances between half a million dollars to $749,000. That’s almost triple the number at that level in January 2016. They have been in the TSP an average of 25 years.
  • A whopping 46,088 have account balances ranging from $750,000 and $999,000 after an average of 27.5 years of investing. Many of them are on the brink of breaking into the millionaires club if the stock market remains strong.
  • Of the 4,951,949 TSP participants, the average time they’ve been investing in the TSP is 11.8 years.

Almost all have several things in common. They invested as soon as they were able. They maxed out their contributions to get the government match of 5 percent, and they invested in the C and S funds, in good times as well as bad.

Back to the future: For a then-versus-now, two-minute read looking at TSP balances, click here.

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

The novel “The Cyborg,” written by ex-Air Force pilot and NASA public relations man Martin Caidin, served as the inspiration for “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV series.

Source: IMDB

Read more of Mike Causey’s Federal Report.