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Thanks to modern computers and the Internet, investing in mutual funds has never been easier, though there are many important considerations an investor should take into account before adding shares of a mutual fund to their portfolio. Mutual funds come in a multitude of varieties including those that focus on different asset classes, those that seek to mimic an index (also known as index funds), those that focus on dividend stocks; the list goes on and on covering everything from geographic mandates to those that specialize in investing in securities that fall within a certain market capitalization.

By answering the following three questions, it is my hope you'll gain a better understanding of what mutual funds are, how they work, and how they can be added to your investment portfolio

Types of Mutual Funds based on asset class

  • Equity Funds: These are funds that invest in equity stocks/shares of companies. These are considered high-risk funds but also tend to provide high returns. Equity funds can include specialty funds like infrastructure, fast moving consumer goods and banking to name a few. THey are linked to the markets and tend to
  • Debt Funds: These are funds that invest in debt instruments e.g. company debentures, government bonds and other fixed income assets. They are considered safe investments and provide fixed returns. These funds do not deduct tax at source so if the earning from the investment is more than Rs. 10,000 then the investor is liable to pay the tax on it himself.
  • Money Market Funds: These are funds that invest in liquid instruments e.g. T-Bills, CPs etc. They are considered safe investments for those looking to park surplus funds for immediate but moderate returns. Money markets are also referred to as cash markets and come with risks in terms of interest risk, reinvestment risk and credit risks.
  • Balanced or Hybrid Funds: These are funds that invest in a mix of asset classes. In some cases, the proportion of equity is higher than debt while in others it is the other way round. Risk and returns are balanced out this way. An example of a hybrid fund would be Franklin India Balanced Fund-DP (G) because in this fund, 65% to 80% of the investment is made in equities and the remaining 20% to 35% is invested in the debt market. This is so because the debt markets offer a lower risk than the equity market.

Types of Mutual Funds based on investment objective

  • Growth funds: Under these schemes, money is invested primarily in equity stocks with the purpose of providing capital appreciation. They are considered to be risky funds ideal for investors with a long-term investment timeline. Since they are risky funds they are also ideal for those who are looking for higher returns on their investments.
  • Income funds: Under these schemes, money is invested primarily in fixed-income instruments e.g. bonds, debentures etc. with the purpose of providing capital protection and regular income to investors.
  • Liquid funds: Under these schemes, money is invested primarily in short-term or very short-term instruments e.g. T-Bills, CPs etc. with the purpose of providing liquidity. They are considered to be low on risk with moderate returns and are ideal for investors with short-term investment timelines.
  • Tax-Saving Funds (ELSS): These are funds that invest primarily in equity shares. Investments made in these funds qualify for deductions under the Income Tax Act. They are considered high on risk but also offer high returns if the fund performs well.
  • Capital Protection Funds: These are funds where funds are are split between investment in fixed income instruments and equity markets. This is done to ensure protection of the principal that has been invested.
  • Fixed Maturity Funds: Fixed maturity funds are those in which the assets are invested in debt and money market instruments where the maturity date is either the same as that of the fund or earlier than it.
  • Pension Funds: Pension funds are mutual funds that are invested in with a really long term goal in mind. They are primarily meant to provide regular returns around the time that the investor is ready to retire. The investments in such a fund may be split between equities and debt markets where equities act as the risky part of the investment providing higher return and debt markets balance the risk and provide lower but steady returns. The returns from these funds can be taken in lump sums, as a pension or a combination of the two.

Types of Mutual Funds based on risk

  • Low risk: These are the mutual funds where the investments made are by those who do not want to take a risk with their money. The investment in such cases are made in places like the debt market and tend to be long term investments. As a result of them being low risk, the returns on these investments is also low. One example of a low risk fund would be gift funds where investments are made in government securities.
  • Medium risk: These are the investments that come with a medium amount of risk to the investor. They are ideal for those who are willing to take some risk with the investment and tends to offer higher returns. These funds can be used as an investment to build wealth over a longer period of time.
  • High risk: These are those mutual funds that are ideal for those who are willing to take higher risks with their money and are looking to build their wealth. One example of high risk funds would be inverse mutual funds. Even though the risks are high with these funds, they also offer higher returns.

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