Mutual funds have witnessed a growth in popularity over the past few years. The trend has seen retail investors increasingly participating in mutual funds. However, there is also a high level of misinformation and myths surrounding mutual fund investing in the minds of the common investor. The low awareness levels breeds many misconceptions that refrain both existing and prospective investors from making the most that mutual funds has to offer.
In this article, we debunk 10 of the common mutual fund myths often heard on the streets....
Myth 1: “Mutual Funds invests only in equities.”
Fact: Mutual Funds is a like a vehicle carrying which can carry any investment product. The underlying investments of a mutual fund scheme can be in any asset class, be it equities, pure debt products, money market instruments or a mix of these. The fact is mutual funds offers schemes in all of these asset classes. This can be known from the Average Assets Under Management (AAUM) which in Equity oriented schemes is Rs.2.35 Lac Crores and in Debt oriented schemes is Rs.4.44 Lac Crores (Dec. end, 2010).
An investor can easily come to know where the investments would be made from scheme objective and stated asset allocation. Mutual Funds have different schemes like Equity or Growth Fund which invest predominantly in stocks of equity markets, Debt funds which invest into debt products like government bonds, corporate debentures and treasury bills. Balanced Funds mix equity and debt both, Money market or Liquid Funds invest in short term debt instruments.
Thus, mutual funds is not just about equities but it also offers a lot more choice to suit the needs of any investor.
Myth 2: “I invest in Direct Equity. So there is no need to invest in Mutual Funds.”
Fact: As explained, mutual fund does not only invest only in equity and investor may look at mutual funds for all asset classes, including equities. Investing directly in equities requires proper research, time and adequate capital. Often investors end up investing in few companies and a small number of equities of a company which are not backed by thorough research but on 'tips'. Mutual Fund helps investor to invest in number of equities with the same amount of capital. Thus there is a strong benefit of diversification as the investments do not get concentrated in very few of the stocks or in a single stock which is very risky. Further still, there is the benefit of experience and professional expertise of the Fund Manager and the research team which makes the investment decisions on your behalf. This is again a major benefit since most of us do not have the time, expertise and infrastructure to actively manage our direct equity investments.
It is thus, wiser to invest in mutual funds and gain from the diversification and professional expertise of the fund house.
Myth 3: “Mutual Funds are very risky as mentioned in their advertisement - “Mutual Funds are subject to market risks.”?
Fact: The warning is a statutory requirement to make investors aware that the investments made by mutual funds are in products, the value of which is driven by markets and hence cannot be guaranteed. In other words, it means that the funds cannot promise guaranteed returns to the investor.
Investors should understand that the risk depends a lot on which scheme are you investing in and for what duration. One can reduce risk by choosing the right asset class and investing for the right duration. The risk for a debt scheme will be far lesser compared to a sector specific or small-cap focused equity scheme. Investing in equities through SIP or Systematic Investment Plan, where you contributed at regular intervals, also helps reducing risk a lot. Further, the diversification into multiple stocks /products and asset classes in a mutual fund scheme also helps reduce the risk as compared to investing directly. Rather than fearing risk, one should understand the same and invest wisely according to one's own risk appetite and investment objective.
Myth 4: “Mutual fund investments do not give handsome returns.”
Fact: This is not a correct statement to make as it generalises all mutual fund schemes for performance. When comparing performance of products, the underlying asset class should be similar in nature and comparison should be made with relevant benchmarks. Historically, in general, mutual fund schemes have proven to be a very good performing investment vehicle for investors. There have been visible benefits of professional expertise and diversification of portfolio on the returns of mutual fund schemes. Mutual fund schemes have also largely outperformed general market indices in past. This can be seen from the average returns of diversified equity schemes, as a group, which is at 23.58% in 10 years as compared to the Sensex which has given 17.77% (as on 11/03/2011). (Source : Internal, calculated taking 36 schemes in to consideration)
Myth 5: “It is always better to invest in the mutual fund with the low NAV than high NAV.”
Fact: There is no difference in returns when investing in a higher or a lower NAV of a mutual fund scheme. The NAV is quite different from a stock price. An investment of Rs.10,000 in two mutual fund schemes of NAV say 15 & 45 will yield the same returns to you, assuming similar performance of the schemes. The NAV is a mathematically calculated price of the scheme based on the price of underlying securities. An NFO at Rs.10/- or an existing NAV of Rs.15 or 45, will invest in the same stocks at the prevailing market price. Thus, a lower NAV or higher NAV doesn't matter while investing between two mutual fund schemes. This perception is can also be seen when an investor invests in a NFO thinking that the NFO is available at unit price of say Rs.10/-. Investors should look at other important factors while investing in schemes rather than looking at NAV.
Myth 6: “It is better to invest in a mutual fund that gives good dividends.”
Fact: While investing in a mutual fund, investors can choose between the growth and the dividend options. Most mutual fund schemes offer the choice of Growth / Dividend Reinvestment and Dividend Payout option to the investors. It is not mandatory for mutual funds to pay dividends regularly if they are offering such options.
Between a growth option and a dividend reinvestment option of a mutual fund equity scheme, there is the no difference in the returns. While in growth option, the NAV increases, in a dividend reinvestment option, the units increases proportionately. However, an investor can choose an option of dividend payout if there is a need of liquidity. The decision as to which option to opt should be on the basis of returns performance. An investor should consider other important factors of a scheme and his own requirements while investing in an scheme or opting for an option.
Myth 7: “My funds get locked if I invest in mutual funds.”.
Fact: There is no lock-in period in mutual fund schemes per say and it depends on the actual scheme being purchased. For a person investing in an open-ended schemes, there is complete freedom to enter and exit the scheme at any time. There is a lock-in period of 3 years in ELSS (Equity Linked Savings Scheme) since it offers tax savings under section 80C. In a closed ended fund, the option to resale to the mutual fund AMC is not available, though one can sale in on stock exchange, if it is listed there.
Myth 8: “One cannot invest in mutual funds online like in stocks.”
Fact: Mutual funds are now also available on stock exchange trading platform and one can make online transacts in mutual funds. The mutual funds will be held in your demat account and you can transact with your Trading Account as provided by your broker. This is a recent development and now brings a lot of flexibility and convenience to investors as they can transact without making any physical application. Mutual funds, however, also continue to be available through the physical route and most investors are yet to switch to the online mode. With growing awareness about the benefits of this online route, more & more investors will find it easier to manage their investments in the online mode than through the physical route.
Myth 9: “SIP is a scheme and every AMC is having an SIP scheme.”
Fact: SIP is not a scheme floated by mutual funds. It is a way of investing in mutual funds. Through SIP, an investor can invest a specific amount and at regular period of interval in mutual fund schemes. As SIP is a way of investing in mutual funds, it can be done with any scheme of mutual funds.
SIPs are popular because they help you invest a small amount, often as low as Rs.500, regularly in schemes and accumulate considerable wealth in long term. SIPs also help in automatically timing the markets. This disciplined approach has historically seen investments perform very well for the investors.
Myth 10: “SIP should be started only when market falls.”
Fact: SIP can be best started at any time. Through SIP investor can take advantage of market volatility as he will be investing a specific amount at regular time interval. By doing this, his money gets invested in the mutual fund scheme when the NAV of the schemes is high and at the same time when NAV of the scheme is low. By doing this the investment will be done at the average market price over a longer period of time. If the investor is investing through SIP, it really will have no effect whether the SIP is started when the market is at peak or the market has seen a fall.