Worldwide, the Mutual Fund, or Unit Trust as it is called in some parts of the world, has a long and successful history. The popularity of the Mutual Fund has increased manifold. In developed financial markets, like the United States, Mutual Funds have almost overtaken bank deposits and total assets of insurance funds. As of date, in the US alone there are over 5,000 Mutual Funds with total assets of over US $ 3 trillion (Rs. 100 lakh crores). In India,the Mutual Fund industry started with the setting up of Unit Trust of India in 1964. Public sector banks and financial institutions began to establish Mutual Funds in 1987. The private sector and foreign institutions were allowed to set up Mutual Funds in 1993. Today, there are 36 Mutual Funds and over 200 schemes with total assets of approximately Rs. 81,000 crores. This fast growing industry is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
A Mutual Fund is a trust that pools the savings of a number of investors who share a common financial goal. Anybody with an investible surplus of as little as a few thousand rupees can invest in Mutual Funds. These investors buy units of a particular Mutual Fund scheme that has a defined investment objective and strategy The money thus collected is then invested by the fund manager in different types of securities. These could range from shares to debentures to money market instruments, depending upon the scheme's stated objectives. The income earned through these investments and the capital appreciation realised by the scheme 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.
There are a wide variety of Mutual Fund schemes that cater to your needs, whatever your age, financial position, risk tolerance and return expectations. Whether as the foundation of your investment programme or as a supplement, Mutual Fund schemes can help you meet your financial goals.a. By Structure Open-Ended Schemes
These do not have a fixed maturity. You deal directly with the Mutual Fund for your investments and redemptions. The key feature is liquidity. You can conveniently buy and sell your units at net asset value ("NAV") related prices.Close-Ended Schemes
Schemes that have a stipulated maturity period (ranging from 2 to 15 years) are called close-ended schemes. You can invest directly in the scheme at the time of the initial issue and thereafter you can buy or sell the units of the scheme on the stock exchanges where they are listed. The market price at the stock exchange could vary from the scheme's NAV on account of demand and supply situation, unitholders' expectations and other market factors. One of the characteristics of the close-ended schemes is that they are generally traded at a discount to NAV; but closer to maturity, the discount narrows. Some close-ended schemes give you an additional option of selling your units directly to the Mutual Fund through periodic repurchase at NAV related prices. SEBI Regulations ensure that at least one of the two exit routes are provided to the investor.Interval Schemes
These combine the features of open-ended and close- ended schemes. They may be traded on the stock exchange or may be open for sale or redemption during pre-determined intervals at NAV related prices.b. By Investment Objective Growth Schemes
Aim to provide capital appreciation over the medium to long term. These schemes normally invest a majority of their funds in equities and are willing to bear short- term decline in value for possible future appreciation.
These schemes are not for investors seeking regular income or needing their money back in the short-term. Ideal for:
Aim to provide regular and steady income to investors. These schemes generally invest in fixed income securities such as bonds and corporate debentures. Capital appreciation in such schemes may be limited. Ideal for:
Aim to provide both growth and income by periodically distributing a part of the income and capital gains they earn. They invest in both shares and fixed income securities in the proportion indicated in their offer documents. In a rising stock market, the NAV of these schemes may not normally keep pace, or fall equally when the market falls. Ideal for:
Aim to provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income. These schemes generally invest in safer, short-term instruments, such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and inter- bank call money. Returns on these schemes may fluctuate, depending upon the interest rates prevailing in the market. Ideal for:
These schemes offer tax rebates to the investors under tax laws as prescribed from time to time. This is made possible because the Government offers tax incentives for investment in specified avenues. For example, Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS) and Pension Schemes. Recent amendments to the Income Tax Act provide further opportunities to investors to save capital gains by investing in Mutual Funds. The details of such tax savings are provided in the relevant offer documents. Ideal for:
This category includes index schemes that attempt to replicate the performance of a particular index such as the BSE Sensex or the NSE 50, or industry specific schemes (which invest in specific industries) or sectoral schemes (which invest exclusively in segments such as 'A' Group shares or initial public offerings). Index fund schemes are ideal for investors who are satisfied with a return approximately equal to that of an index. Sectoral fund schemes are ideal for investors who have already decided to invest in a particular sector or segment. Keep in mind that any one scheme may not meet all your requirements for all time. You need to place your money judiciously in different schemes to be able to get the combination of growth, income and stability that is right for you. Remember, as always, higher the return you seek higher the risk you should be prepared to take. A few frequently used terms are explained here below:Net Asset Value ("NAV")
Net Asset Value is the market value of the assets of the scheme minus its liabilities. The per unit NAV is the net asset value of the scheme divided by the number of units outstanding on the Valuation Date.Sale Price:
Is the price you pay when you invest in a scheme. Also called Offer Price. It may include a sales load.Repurchase Price:
Is the price at which a close-ended scheme repurchases its units and it may include a back-end load. This is also called Bid Price.Redemption Price:
Is the price at which open-ended schemes repurchase their units and close-ended schemes redeem their units on maturity. Such prices are NAV related.Sales Load:
Is a charge collected by a scheme when it sells the units. Also called, 'Front-end' load. Schemes that do not charge a load are called 'No Load' schemes.Repurchase or 'Back-end' Load:
Is a charge collected by a scheme when it buys back the units from the unitholders.
The advantages of investing in a Mutual Fund are:
All investments whether in shares, debentures or deposits involve risk: share value may go down depending upon the performance of the company, the industry, state of capital markets and the economy; generally, however, longer the term, lesser the risk; companies may default in payment of interest/ principal on their debentures/bonds/deposits; the rate of interest on an investment may fall short of the rate of inflation reducing the purchasing power. While risk cannot be eliminated, skillful management can minimise risk. Mutual Funds help to reduce risk through diversification and professional management. The experience and expertise of Mutual Fund managers in selecting fundamentally sound securities and timing their purchases and sales, help them to build a diversified portfolio that minimises risk and maximises returns.
Your financial goals will vary, based on your age, lifestyle, financial independence, family commitments, level of income and expenses among many other factors. Therefore, the first step is to assess your needs. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
Once you have a clear strategy in mind, you now have to choose which Mutual Fund and scheme you want to invest in. The offer document of the scheme tells you its objectives and provides supplementary details like the track record of other schemes managed by the same Fund Manager. Some factors to evaluate before choosing a particular Mutual Fund are:
Investing in just one Mutual Fund scheme may not meet all your investment needs. You may consider investing in a combination of schemes to achieve your specific goals. The charts could prove useful in selecting a combination of schemes that satisfy your needs.Step Four - Invest regularly
For most of us, the approach that works best is to invest a fixed amount at specific intervals, say every month. By investing a fixed sum each month, you buy fewer units when the price is higher and more unitswhen the price is low, thus bringing down your average cost per unit. This is called rupee cost averaging and is a disciplined investment strategy followed by investors all over the world. With many open-ended schemes offering systematic investment plans, this regular investing habit is made easy for you.Step Five - Keep your taxes in mind
If you are in a high tax bracket and have utilised fully the exemptions under Section 80L of the Income Tax Act, investing in growth funds that do not pay dividends might be more tax efficient and improve your post-tax return. If you are in a low tax bracket and have not utilised fully the exemption available under Section 80L, selecting funds paying regular income could be more tax efficient. Further, there are other benefits available for investment in Mutual Funds under the provisions of the prevailing tax laws. You may therefore consult your tax advisor or Chartered Accountant for specific advice.Step Six - Start early
It is desirable to start investing early and stick to a regular investment plan. If you start now, you will make more than if you wait and invest later. The power of compounding lets you earn income on income and your money multiplies at a compounded rate of return.Step Seven - The final step
All you need to do now is to get in touch with a Mutual Fund or your agent/broker and start investing. Reap the rewards in the years to come. Mutual Funds are suitable for every kind of investor-whether starting a career or retiring, conservative or risk taking, growth oriented or income seeking.
As a unit holder in a Mutual Fund scheme coming under the SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, ("Regulations") you are entitled to: