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Correction to This Article
In the Oct. 18 Federal Diary column, the average number of government employees signing up to invest in lifecycle funds at the Thrift Savings Plan was incorrect. The actual number is 2,000 a day. An official gave the incorrect number in a briefing to the TSP board.

Lifecycle Funds Off to Strong Start as Newest TSP Offering

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By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The lifecycle funds are the newest investment options in the Thrift Savings Plan, and they appear to be off to a good start.

More than 3 percent of TSP participants have stashed $4.3 billion in the L Funds, Gary A. Amelio , executive director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, said at yesterday's board meeting.

Five L Funds opened for business in August, and Amelio said about 20,000 people are signing up for the accounts each day. "The trends that we can see are very promising," he said.

The enrollments in the L Funds suggest that workers are selecting the fund that meshes with their retirement goals and when they expect to be drawing down their savings.

Amelio said employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System -- probably the longest-serving federal workers -- are choosing the program's L Income Fund and the L 2010 Fund. Armed forces members -- probably among the youngest federal workers -- are investing in funds with drawdown dates of 2030 and 2040, he said.

Pamela-Jeanne Moran , director of benefit services, told board members that an education campaign on the L Funds is underway. About half of TSP's 3.5 million participants have received a DVD that explains the new options, and about 100,000 discs are being mailed every day to the rest of the TSP account holders, Moran said.

The L Funds are designed to serve as a diversification tool for participants. With the L Funds, participants turn over their asset allocation and rebalancing chores to professional managers who seek to grow their savings while taking no more risk than necessary. The funds use the TSP's investment menu -- stock and bond indexes and Treasury securities -- as their foundation.

Employees with many working years ahead of them see their L Fund shift from aggressive to conservative investments as they near the time they will start withdrawing money. Employees near retirement may choose a fund that minimizes stock holdings and market risks.

Tracey A. Ray , the board's chief investment officer, told the board that the L Funds provided returns ranging from .52 percent to 1.35 percent for the month of September, primarily because of the strong market performance turned in by international stocks.

Andrew M. Saul , the board chairman, called the L Funds "a real success story" and praised TSP staff for launching them in a "very professional" manner.

The board hopes that, over time, the L Funds will become a leading investment choice for government employees, who have traditionally put most of their savings into the TSP's common stock fund, the C Fund, and the plan's government securities fund, the G Fund. About 80 percent of TSP's assets -- $167 billion in September -- are in the C and G funds.

As of Sept. 30, the average account balance of an employee covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System was $56,494. The average account balance was $47,319 for a CSRS-covered employee and $5,856 for members of the uniformed services, including the military. The average account balance is lower for members of the uniformed services because they were not allowed to begin making TSP contributions until January 2002.

Amelio noted that the TSP appears to be taking hold in the military. TSP data show that 41.4 percent of active-duty Navy personnel are making contributions and that 30 percent of active-duty Marine Corps personnel have signed up, he said.

Taking Care of Justice

Members of Congress introduced legislation yesterday that would permit Justice Department lawyers to claim time off for travel during weekends and other off-duty hours.

The department has maintained that a 2004 law creating compensation time for travel did not apply to Justice lawyers because of a 1999 congressional prohibition that limits overtime pay for the lawyers. The interpretation triggered a protest from the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys.

Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.), chairman of the House federal workforce subcommittee, introduced the bill to make the Justice lawyers eligible for the comp time. He was joined by Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced a similar bill in the Senate, an Akaka aide said.

By most accounts, the 2004 law has provided a morale boost for employees who travel on official business during off-duty hours, such as flying on a Sunday to attend a meeting Monday morning. Previous rules made it difficult for employees to qualify for compensation while traveling outside normal business hours.

E-mail:barrs@washpost.com


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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