By Babar Zaidi | ET Bureau | Aug 22, 2016, 01.56 PM IST
Investors saving for goals that are 4-6 years away are advised to go for balanced funds. These funds invest in a mix of equities and debt, giving the investor the best of both worlds. The fund gains from a healthy dose of equities but the debt portion fortifies it against any downturn. They are suitable for a medium-term horizon. Mumbai-based Koyel Ghosh has been investing in a balanced scheme for the past two years for funding her entrepreneurial dream. She will need the money in about 2-3 years from now.
“I want to save enough to be able to start my own business in 2-3 years.”
What she has done
She has been investing in an equity-oriented balanced fund for the past two years. She should redirect future SIPs in a debt-oriented scheme to reduce the risk.
Balanced funds are of two types. Equity-oriented have a larger portion of their corpus (at least 65%) invested in stocks and qualify for the same tax treatment as equity funds. This means any gains are tax-free if the investment is held for more than one year. These schemes are more volatile due to the higher allocation to stocks.
On the other hand, debt-oriented balanced funds are less volatile and suit those with a lower risk appetite. However, the price of this relative safety is that they offer lower returns and the gains are not eligible for tax exemption. If the investment is held for less than three years, the gains will be added to your income and taxed at the normal rate. The tax is lower if the holding period exceeds three years. The gains are then taxed at 20% after indexation benefit, which can significantly reduce the tax.
Balanced funds have done very well in recent months because both the equity and debt markets have rallied in tandem. But this performance might not sustain, so investors should tone down their expectations. Also, investors might note that the one-year returns of debt-oriented balanced funds are more than those from equity-oriented schemes. But this changes when we look at the medium- and long-term returns. The five-year returns of the top five equity-oriented balanced funds are significantly higher than those of debt-oriented balanced schemes. This statistic should be kept in mind if the investor plans to remain invested for 4-6 years.
Beware of dividends
Balanced funds have attracted huge inflows in recent months, but some of this is for the wrong reasons. Some fund houses are pushing balanced schemes that offer a monthly dividend. This might sound attractive because dividends are tax-free, but in reality this is your money coming back to you. Unlike the dividend of a stock, the NAV of the fund reduces to the extent of the dividend paid out.
Also, experts view this as an unhealthy practice and point out that the dividend payout might not be sustainable. “The dividend is not guaranteed, and the fund is under no obligation to continue paying a dividend,” points out Amol Joshi, Founder, PlanRupee Investment Services. “If the market declines, the chances of dividend payout and the quantum of dividend will be lower.”
Even so, several fund houses are using this gimmick to attract investors. In some cases, fund houses have even told distributors to alert clients about future dividend announcements and reel them in. This is also an unhealthy practice aimed at garnering AUM by mutual funds.
What the investor wants
*Moderate risk to capital
*Higher returns than debt
*Flexibility of withdrawal
*Favourable tax treatment