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Retirement fund tries to reassure workers in anticipation of debt ceiling maneuver

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The federal government once again may resort to a financial maneuver involving federal employee retirement savings to stave off a default, and the Thrift Savings Plan once again is seeking to assure investors that there would be no personal cost to them.

The Treasury Department has said it can use several short-term maneuvers, including one involving the Thrift Savings Plan’s government securities fund, to buy time during the debt ceiling standoff.

That fund, called the G Fund, is available only through the 401(k)-style TSP program for federal employees. It yields returns that are nearly comparable to those of mid-term Treasury bonds, although investments are made daily.

In a “disinvestment” period, the Treasury stops issuing the securities that make up the fund.

Though the Treasury has yet to use the measure, TSP managers released a statement in hopes of calming any possible anxiety.

“G Fund investors are always fully protected and G Fund earnings are fully guaranteed by the Federal Government due to statutory protections in the Thrift Savings Plan Investment Act of 1987,” TSP executive director Greg T. Long said in a statement Monday.

“This protection, known as the ‘make-whole’ provision, will work to ensure that G Fund investors are completely unaffected by the limitation on securities issued by the U.S. Treasury. G Fund account balances will continue to accrue earnings and be updated each business day, and loans and withdrawals will be unaffected.”

Under the make-whole procedure, after the debt ceiling is raised, the TSP and the Treasury reconstruct securities in the fund to replicate what they would have been without an interruption in their issuance.

The TSP disinvestment maneuver has been used numerous times in similar situations.

This time, the Treasury already has used a separate maneuver involving the civil service retirement fund, which it similarly said will not affect benefits to federal retirees.

As of year-end 2012, the G fund held $142 billion, 43 percent of the $330 billion on investment with the TSP.

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