Many troops still confident in investments
February 23, 2009
In these tough economic times, as millions around the world remain unsure about their futures, many servicemembers said they remain confident in their long-term financial security.
In a recent survey, 47 percent of servicemembers who responded said they feel either very confident or somewhat confident about their ability to retire comfortably.
The survey was conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Foundation in cooperation with the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald and Associates. Results were released Thursday.
"[The recession] hasn’t really affected me directly," said Senior Airman Adam Guy, assigned to the 374th Communication Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Guy said even though he invests regularly in his military Thrift Savings Plan, at age 23 he’s not overly preoccupied with how the current downturn will affect his retirement down the road.
He plans to leave the Air Force in about nine months to attend nursing school, and to roll his TSP into a 401(k) and keep saving.
On the other end of the spectrum, Senior Master Sgt. Ron Parks, who retired on Friday, echoed a similar level of confidence.
"Because servicemembers tend to retire at a fairly young age," he said, "the TSP and mutual funds aren’t something we count on right away when we retire." Investors can withdraw funds from TSP without penalties beginning at age 59 ½.
Navy Lt. John Bobo, 38, of Sasebo Naval Base, Japan, said he sensed the markets were heading downhill nearly a year ago and moved his retirement savings from TSP’s International Stock Index Investment Fund (I Fund) to the safer Government Securities Fund (G Fund).
The move helped him weather the fallout in late summer and early autumn and the money has stayed put as the world economy has continued to slide, he said.
"I am just going to leave my money in the G Fund until things start to turn around and the economy comes back online," Bobo said.
Among the more than 20 soldiers at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, queried by Stars and Stripes about TSP funds, almost all said they prefer the low-risk G Funds.
"The G Funds provide a basic safety net," said Lt. Col. Tim Napora, 65th Medical Brigade. "I have some higher-risk mutual funds, but the TSP was just to diversify."
People worried about losing money might be tempted to park their savings in the G Fund, but Jim McDaniel, a community readiness technician at Yokota, warned that might not be best for all investors.
He said each person should look at the funds available to see what suits them, based on factors such as their tolerance for risk and the time they have left before retirement.
Craig Banks, 47, a civilian employee in Sasebo, said he is still investing in the I Fund because of the high returns even after the economic crash.
"If you were making 30 to 40 percent and that was cut in half, you are still making money," Banks said.
But he said he has started to move more money into the G fund because it provides a slow but steady amount of interest as part of his retirement plan.
"Hopefully, I can retire soon, maybe in another 10 years," Banks said. "Once I go, I don’t want to worry about money or have to get another job or something. When I retire, I am done."
McDaniel also said that TSP investors can invest in the Lifecycle funds, a combination of securities, fixed and stock index funds that shift from more aggressive to more conservative and secure as the fund matures.
Capt. Scott Mignot, with the 8th Army in South Korea, said he avoids the TSP entirely, preferring to invest in a Roth Individual Retirement Account and mutual funds because they give him more control over his money. He also complained that TSP doesn’t offer the same benefits as its civilian counterparts.
"There’s no matching funds," he said. "The civilian version of TSP offers matching funds like a 401(k)."
But regardless of what you choose to invest in, McDaniel said it’s important for investors to not get scared off by recent bad news.
"People are afraid to invest because they hear all this doom and gloom," he said. "The potential is there for all of us to become millionaires."
Stars and Stripes reporters Travis Tritten and Jimmy Norris contributed to this story.
Helpful financial sitesRetirement pay calculatorhttps://staynavytools.bol.navy.mil/RetCalc/Default.aspx
Military pay Web sitehttp://www.defenselink.mil/militarypay/pay/index.html
The Thrift Savings Plan official Web sitehttp://www.tsp.gov
Free annual credit reporthttp://www.annualcreditreport.com