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TSP Board Mulls Major Changes to L Funds

Lifecycle Funds could see more aggressive allocations in the future.

Just weeks after new federal employees began placing their retirement savings into riskier, higher-earning Lifecycle Funds by default, the board that governs the plans is considering changing how it invests the funds as well as who invests in them.

At least one member of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board suggested at a monthly meeting on Tuesday making the L Fund allocation more aggressive. The L Funds are made up of the Thrift Savings Plan’s other offerings -- the G, S, C, F and I funds -- and are crafted to provide participants with higher-yielding returns through diversity.

The makeup of the L Funds, which are designed to move participants toward safer offerings as employees near retirement, is deliberately conservative, said FRTIB’s Executive Director Greg Long. Board member William Jasien took issue with that strategy, saying the path “makes no sense.”

“We should match the industry,” Jasien said.

Long acknowledged the L Funds’ breakdowns can be determined by the board, but warned that coming out of the recession, then-board members and the federal employee groups that advise it were saying, “Thank God we took a conservative position.”

He added that does not preclude the board from shifting to a different strategy now. “This is your call,” Long said. He and the board members agreed to task the L Funds’ manager, Mercer, to examine why the TSP is not in step with the industry standard.

Some board members also raised the possibility of defaulting not just new federal employees into the age-appropriate L Fund, which TSP began doing in September, but also employees that have long been participating in the retirement benefit. Employees defaulted into the G Fund, as all workers were prior to the recent change, often leave their allocation in the safe-but-low-yield offering when they could benefit from more diversity.

Some plans each year re-enroll participants into their versions of lifecycle funds, Long said. Doing so, he added, would risk alienating many of the participants who want to control where their investments go. He warned that any attempt to institute such a change would meet significant pushback.

For now, TSP has sought to get existing participants to voluntarily enroll in the higher-yielding Lifecycle Funds. Through a targeted mailing, the agency recently urged younger federal workers enrolled primarily in the G Fund to consider a more aggressive allocation. About 1 percent of those who received the appeal elected to make a transfer.

Long said the automatic L Fund enrollment for new federal hires is starting a “long, slow march” toward 40 percent of the TSP’s assets being allocated in the diversified offering. Currently, just 17 percent of TSP investments are in the Lifecycle Funds.

“We’re on our way,” Long said. 

(Image via ImageFlow/Shutterstock.com)

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