It’s great when funds are rising, rising, rising. But it’s easy to forget that they can fall, fall, fall too!

Or at least, some of them can.

The below are boxplots of each of the index-specific funds and the L funds. They represent monthly changes since their respective inceptions: the G, F, and I Funds in the late 1980s, the S and I Funds in 2001, and the L Funds in 2005. (I haven’t plotted the L 2050 Fund yet, sorry!)

Notice how little the G Fund fluctuates compared to the other funds. This is a literal representation of how steady it is. It doesn’t lose value - it is in fact the only TSP fund that has not declined in any given month since its inception as you can see below - but it doesn’t gain that much over time either.

Compare that to the S and I Funds - in some months, they’ve lost as much as 20%!

Scroll over each of the boxplots, and you can see additional statistical information about the monthly returns of each of the funds: the median return (on a percentage basis, monthly), the upper Q3 and lower Q1 quartile ranges of returns (again, percentage change monthly), the upper and lower ranges, and outliers.

It is interesting to see that, despite or perhaps because of the variability of the funds, steady investing over time can yield some impressive results.

(Update: I’ve added a post with returns broken out by month here.)

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

*Note: some older browsers such as IE are unable to display interactive charts and graphs.

Related topics: long-term-investing c-fund f-fund g-fund s-fund i-fund l-funds