A Mutual Fund is a trust that pools the savings of a number of investors who share a common financial goal. The money thus collected is then invested in capital market instruments such as shares, debentures and other securities. The income earned through these investments and the capital appreciation realized are shared by its unit holders in proportion to the number of units owned by them. Thus a Mutual Fund is the most suitable investment for the common man as it offers an opportunity to invest in a diversified, professionally managed basket of securities at a relatively low cost. The flow chart below describes broadly the working of a mutual fund:
The first thing an aspiring unit holder must do is to establish what type of portfolio he wants to build. In other words, to decide the right asset allocation. Asset allocation is a method that determines how you invest your money in different investments with the proper mix of various asset classes. Remember, the type or class of security you own i.e. equity, debt or money market, is much more important than the particular security itself.
The popular thumb rule for asset allocation says that whatever the investor's age, he should keep that percentage of his portfolio in debt instruments. For example, if an investor is 25, he should have 25% of his investments in debt instruments and the rest in equity. However, in reality, different circumstances and financial position for each individual may require different allocation. Portfolio variable is another factor that one needs to understand to practice asset allocation. These are age, occupation, number of dependants in the family. Usually the younger you are, the more riskier the investments you can hold for getting superior returns.
Next, focus on selecting the right funds. The key is to select the funds based on their investment philosophy and consistency in terms of returns. To ensure you are selecting the right type of funds that are appropriate for your needs, consider following:
Determine what your financial goals are.
Are you investing for retirement? A child's education? Or for current income?
Consider your time frame. Do you need money in three months time or three years? The longer your time horizon, the more risk you may be able to take.
How do you feel about risk? Are you in a position to tolerate the ups and downs of the stock market for the possibility of higher returns? It is necessary to know your own risk tolerance. It can be a guide for choosing the right schemes. Remember, regardless of the potential returns, if you are not comfortable with a particular asset class, you should consider other options.
1. It's an expert's field-Let's leave it to them
Management of the fund by the professionals or experts is one of the key advantages of investing through a mutual fund. They regularly carry out extensive research - on the company, the industry and the economy -thus ensuring informed investment. Secondly, they regularly track the market. Thus for many of us who do not have the desired expertise and are too busy with our vocation to devote sufficient time and effort to investing in equity, mutual funds offer an attractive alternative.
2. Putting eggs in different baskets
Another advantage of investing through mutual funds is that even with small amounts we are able to enjoy the benefits of diversification. Huge amounts would be required for an individual to achieve the desired diversification, which would not be possible for many of us. Diversification reduces the overall impact on the returns from a portfolio, on account of a loss in a particular company/sector.
3. It's all transparent & well regulated
The Mutual Fund industry is well regulated both by SEBI and AMFI. They have, over the years, introduced regulations, which ensure smooth and transparent functioning of the mutual funds industry. This makes it safer and convenient for investors to invest through the mutual funds.
4. Market timing becomes irrelevant
One of the biggest difficulties in equity investing is WHEN to invest, apart from the other big question Where to invest. While, investing in a mutual fund solves the issue of 'where' to invest, SIP helps us to overcome the problem of 'when'. SIP is a disciplined investing irrespective of the state of the market. It thus makes the market timing totally irrelevant. And today when the markets are high, it may not be prudent to commit large sums at one go. With the next 2-3 years looking good from Indian Economy point of view, one can expect handsome returns through' regular investing.
5. Does not strain our day-to-day finances
Mutual Funds allow us to invest very small amounts (Rs 500 - Rs 1000) in SIP, as against larger one-time investment required, if we were to buy directly from the market. This makes investing easier as it does not strain our monthly finances. It, therefore, becomes an ideal investment option for a small-time investor, who would otherwise not be able to enjoy the benefits of investing in the equity market.
6. Reduces the average cost
In SIP we are investing a fixed amount regularly. Therefore, we end up buying more number of units when the markets are down and NAV is low and less number of units when the markets are up and the NAV is high. This is called rupee-cost averaging. Generally, we would stay away from buying when the markets are down. We generally tend to invest when the markets are rising. SIP works as a good discipline as it forces us to buy even when the markets are low, which actually is the best time to buy.
7. Helps to fulfill our dreams
The investments we make are ultimately for some objectives such as to buy a house, children's education, marriage etc. And many of them require a huge one-time investment. As it would usually not be possible raise such large amounts at short notice, we need to build the corpus over a longer period of time, through small but regular investments. This is what SIP is all about. Small investments, over a period of time, result in large wealth and help fulfill our dreams & aspirations.