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Janitor to millionaire: Invest for the long haul!

If they made a movie about a government janitor who legally became a millionaire, would you see it? Would you believe it?

Believe it!

Well, while Hollywood isn’t calling (yet) we have all the materiel for such a film. At last headcount, June 30, there were 98,897 active and retired federal and military personnel with anywhere from a million to ten million dollars in their Thrift Savings Plan account. The vast majority of them are regular feds, with regular jobs who’ve been investing primarily in the stock index C and S funds during good times and bad for roughly 30 years. And that’s it. We’ve heard from many self-made TSP millionaires. All of them tell the same story. Buy and hold. Don’t panic when the market tanks. Or we have a recession. Or a world-wide pandemic.

Although most of the how-I-did-it stories are similar, they are also different. Representing different people, in different jobs, in different places. Today’s is from a fed who started as a janitor, had a plan and went over the $1 million mark in January 2018. He’s now approaching the $3 million mark.

Here’s his story:

Dear Mike,

Below are my numbers. They just keep getting better in spite of my old mistakes. In mid-January of 2018, I went over a $1M and you wrote the story. At the end of that year the market was down and I had lost on paper over $175,000. You can see the number in red for 2018. But I closed my eyes and rode it out. By the end of 2019 I had recovered all of my paper loss of $175,000 and made another $100,000, giving me a balance of $1.1M.

I was thrilled. Then came 2020 and COVID. I got nervous and saw my account dip. I tried to wait it out but instead I sold and went into the G Fund. I did what I told everyone not to do. I was probably down about $300,000 or somewhere around there on paper and I should have ignored it. But instead I moved my money. I’m unsure how much of the recovery I missed. I am actually too embarrassed to look. Within a week I recognized my mistake and tried to jump back, but in that short time I missed a ton of money in the recovery. I probably lost between $50-100K. If I had stayed the course and never moved, I would have seen no loss because it was all just on paper. By the way, many years ago I thought I was smart and tried to time the market in the TSP and lost $17,000. I should have remembered that mistake and I would not have made this bigger one.

I am happy to say that I just kept riding again and ended 2020 at $1,320,005. It’s an amazing feeling and a learning experience. I should not have tried to time the market. I should have sat back and ridden the market in 2020. The market has continued to climb and I now sit on over $1.4M in my TSP. But if I had not timed the market (poorly), I think I would be sitting on at least $1.5M. Please realize I only hit a million dollars in January of 2018 and have ridden the market down hundreds of thousands of dollars and I have ridden it right back up and am now up over $400,000 since hitting that million just two years ago.

This is my 40th year of government service, but I have only been in the TSP since 1997, 23 years.

Janitor to Millionaire


Not bad, as they say, for government work!

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Alazar Moges

Despite its name, over 80% of Greenland is covered in ice. It received its name from a Norse explorer Erik the Red. According to historians, the Viking named it Greenland as a way to attract more people to come.

Source: National Geographic 

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