Military Finance Report: June 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Being Fearful When Others Are Greedy, Moving Into The G Fund


Warren Buffett once said, “Be FearFul When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful.” With the stock market hitting all-time highs...I’m fearful.

In November of 1999, the NASDAQ (major index tracking mostly technology stocks) hit an all-time high of 4,303 during the “dot.com” bubble. Now in June of 2015, the NASDAQ is sitting at 5,160 jumping from a bottom of 1,476 in November 2008. While most people are encouraged by this upward movement, I am fearful.

Military members and federal government employees can take advantage of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) which allows them to invest in specific funds in a 401(k) like program. When an investor contributes to the TSP it automatically invests in the “G” Fund which invests in Government Securities. It’s the safest fund yet offers very little returns. Since 2008, I’ve been advising people to move their money out of the “G” Fund to take advantage of returns after the financial collapse in 2008. For most people I’ve recommended not being in the “G” Fund at all. That advice was spot on for those that listened. For those that kept their money in the “G” Fund, their portfolios have barely moved.

For nearly 7 years, we’ve enjoyed a stock market rally fueled by historically low interest rates and two administrations (Bush and Obama) with uncontrollable government spending. Both of these have artificially pumped cash into the pockets of corporations and the people who, then in turn, spend it quickly. With our National Debt over $18T, these low interest rates and government spending can’t last forever. Despite gas prices going lower, all others commodities in our lives have seen price increases. As I joked in a Facebook post, “Inflation is coming”; borrowing the ominous warning from Game of Thrones.

I believe there will be a stock market drop soon. I believe Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) investors should consider moving money back into the “G” Fund to protect against major market drops. Each investor is different, but if the investor is under 30 then they should consider putting about 10-15% in the G Fund. If the investor is 31-45, then I recommend 15-35% in the “G” Fund. Anyone over 45 should very carefully analyze their current financial position and evaluate retirement goals before deciding on how much to put in the “G” Fund. If the retirement goal is to retire at 55, then there should be a larger percentage in the “G” Fund and if the retirement goal is later, then less in the “G” Fund. Retirees should be careful not to take all their money out of the stock market though with average life spans reaching 85 years old—they’ll need to make their money last better. As interest rates rise to fight inflation, investors will see increased returns in the “G” Fund as well.

Investors can either go to MyPay or change their allocation to start moving money into the “G” Fund or they can use one of their two a month Interfund Transfers (IFT) to move money out of one fund and into another. They can do this through www.tsp.gov. Please do your own research before making any investment decisions, but I really feel that this 7-year long rally is about to end.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Real Debate about Raising the Federal Minimum Wage


In July 2009, the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 from $6.55.[1] In his 2015 State of the Union, President Obama called on Congress to raise the minimum wage.[2] The minimum wage debate has caused protests and, like all topics, is hard split by the two parties. Most of the debate revolved around raising the federal minimum wage to $15 from $7.25. This is more than doubling the previous wage increase in just six years. The intent of this blog is not to discuss politics but to address personal finance concerns. So this blog post won’t be discussing whether we should or should not increase the minimum wage; but rather, it will focus on what you can learn from what the true debate should be on.

If you’re mathematically or economically inclined, then your first question should or probably is why isn’t $7.25 enough anymore? What’s changed from 2009 to 2015 requiring an increase of over 100%? The real answer and one of the biggest problems in our economy is the damaging impact of inflation. The debate isn’t centered on reducing the cost of Consumer Prices though; it’s simply based on increasing the wage.

If you just analyze simple inflation, using the Consumer Price Index from 2009-2015, then $7.25 is equal to $8 in today’s dollars.[3] So why is the current administration and federal minimum wage supporters asking for $15 instead of $8? The answer and another problem in our country is way we handle of our current income (regardless of what we’re currently making).

  • Inflation: Every adult has experienced inflation in almost every commodity. College tuition, health care costs, movie prices, gas, food, utilities, etc. Most of us aren’t seeing our income keep pace with this inflation either. So even in times of low Consumer Price Index (which doesn’t capture all commodities) increases, inflation is still outpacing our incomes. To protect yourself, you need to start saving money for your short-to-long term goals, retirement and long-term health care costs. The economic principles of time value of money and compounding interest relies on timing to help protect you against inflation. The sooner you start saving, the better protected you’ll be against inflation.
  • Handling of our current income: One of the main reasons that people want it increased to $15 versus the inflation adjusted $8 is because we don’t know how to handle our current income. People can become financially independent by making $8 an hour or by making $200 an hour. Conversely, people can be in extreme debt and financial ruin while making $15 an hour or $200 an hour. There is too much focus on how much we make and not what we’re doing with the money we’re currently making. When I help people with their finances, the first thing I do is track expenses. By raising the minimum wage to $15 we’re not solving the problem of helping people financially. To help protect yourself, you need to track your expenses and maximize the income you currently earn. I’ve always recommended to people that before you seek and pay for professional financial guidance, you need to track all expenses for 30 days. About 60% of people I’ve dealt with quickly saw where they could make life changes without earning more income.

So regardless of whether you oppose or support a federal minimum wage increase, you can still implement changes in your life to protect yourself from the real problem.


[1] http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/chart.htm
[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/20/remarks-president-state-union-address-january-20-2015
[3] http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=7.25&year1=2009&year2=2015