Saturday, July 30, 2005

Good bye to Mutual Funds

The Ground rules of Mutual Fund Investing

Try to understand where the money is going: It is important to identify the nature of investment and to know if one is compatible with the investment. One can lose substantially if one picks the wrong kind of mutual fund. In order to avoid any confusion it is better to go through the literature such as offer document and fact sheets that mutual fund companies provide on their funds.

Don't rush in picking funds, think first: one first has to decide what he wants the money for and it is this investment goal that should be the guiding light for all investments done. It is thus important to know the risks associated with the fund and align it with the quantum of risk one is willing to take. One should take a look at the portfolio of the funds for the purpose. Excessive exposure to any specific sector should be avoided, as it will only add to the risk of the entire portfolio. Mutual funds invest with a certain ideology such as the "Value Principle" or "Growth Philosophy". Both have their share of critics but both philosophies work for investors of different kinds. Identifying the proposed investment philosophy of the fund will give an insight into the kind of risks that it shall be taking in future.

Invest. Don’t speculate: A common investor is limited in the degree of risk that he is willing to take. It is thus of key importance that there is thought given to the process of investment and to the time horizon of the intended investment. One should abstain from speculating which in other words would mean getting out of one fund and investing in another with the intention of making quick money. One would do well to remember that nobody can perfectly time the market so staying invested is the best option unless there are compelling reasons to exit.

Don’t put all the eggs in one basket: This old age adage is of utmost importance. No matter what the risk profile of a person is, it is always advisable to diversify the risks associated. So putting one’s money in different asset classes is generally the best option as it averages the risks in each category. Thus, even investors of equity should be judicious and invest some portion of the investment in debt. Diversification even in any particular asset class (such as equity, debt) is good. Not all fund managers have the same acumen of fund management and with identification of the best man being a tough task, it is good to place money in the hands of several fund managers. This might reduce the maximum return possible, but will also reduce the risks.

Find the right fundsFinding funds that do not charge much fees is of importance, as the fee charged ultimately goes from the pocket of the investor. This is even more important for debt funds as the returns from these funds are not much. Funds that charge more will reduce the yield to the investor. Finding the right funds is important and one should also use these funds for tax efficiency. Investors of equity should keep in mind that all dividends are currently tax-free in India and so their tax liabilities can be reduced if the dividend payout option is used. Investors of debt will be charged a tax on dividend distribution and so can easily avoid the payout options.

Investments in mutual funds too are not risk-free and so investments warrant some caution and careful attention of the investor. Investing in mutual funds can be a dicey business for people who do not remember to follow these rules diligently, as people are likely to commit mistakes by being ignorant or adventurous enough to take risks more than what they can absorb. This is the reason why people would do well to remember these rules before they set out to invest their hard-earned money.

When to say goodbye to your Mutual Fund

A major change in any basic attribute of the fund When the fund changes any basic attribute as mentioned by it in its offer documents, the investors have a choice of getting out of it. Even SEBI has provided for an exit route being made available to the investors. Changes like a change in Asset Management Company or in investment style of fund or change of structure say from closed-end to open-end etc. are good enough reasons for an investor to consider switching or exiting from it as they are certainly likely to affect the fund in a major way.

Fund does not comply with its objectiveOne of the important parameters in the selection of the fund is alignment of the risk profiles of the investor and fund. The objective of the fund says a lot about how the fund plans to invest. If the objective is not being complied with, it is one of the exit points worth considering. For example, the three funds discussed above, Alliance Equity, Birla Advantage and ING Growth all claim to be diversified equity funds yet they had huge exposures to select ICE sector scrips that not only added volatility than is expected out of diversified funds but also in a way, went against their stated objective.

The Fund's Expense Ratio RisesA small rise in an expense ratio is not a big deal, however a significant rise can result in substantial reduction of yields and so it would be better to exit the fund. In the case of bond funds or money market funds, it is highly unlikely that the fund can increase its returns enough to justify an increase in the fund's expenses.

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