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You wrote, I feel like I learned a lot yesterday (9/25/12), but I am afraid I may have wasted $39. I'm a Fed and I have a decent amount built up in our 401k, aka the Thrift Savings Plan. I thought it might be fun and a new challenge to start an independent portfolio. Then I got to thinking, maybe instead of buying stocks and paying broker fees, I ought to just sink more into my 401k. What do you think?

I'm curious. What was the $39 for?

And when you say you're a "Fed", do you mean you're an FBI agent? Or do you work for the Federal Reserve? Or are you just employed by some other federal bureaucracy? And in any case, how does that fact affect this discussion - other than the fact that the TSP offers federal employees retirement investment options that usually beat the options available to private sector employees through their employer's 401(k) plans?

BTW, I suspect the main reason for you to invest outside your TSP would be:

1. You expect to hit the ($17K/$22.5K) contribution limit this year; and/or,
2. You would like to try an investment strategy that cannot be replicated with the limited set of funds available in the TSP.

The questions here involve two things:

Taxes: If you do not expect to hit the contribution limit, can you beat the tax-advantaged returns of your TSP?

Rate of Return: Do you have a plan to obtain at least as good a rate of return as your TSP options, adjusted for inflation?

I could ask more questions; but I really wonder where the $39 went. I think that might guide further questions ... and answers.

- Joel
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