Better safe than sorry

This article was originally published in Postnoon on August 11th, 2012

Prof. Nicky had not been to Laxmiamma’s house since sometime and on her way to the campus, decided to stop by her house to relish her Irani chai and enquire about her well being. On her advice, Laxmiamma had opened a savings bank account and had also started saving through a recurring deposit. She was happy with this arrangement as it gave her peace of mind and assurance of safety for her money, as against the constant fear of theft when she kept it at home.

There was an agent at the bank who was advising her to invest her money in Systematic Investment Plans (SIP) rather than in a recurring deposit. So as soon as Prof. Nicky came in, after the pleasantries and having settled on the sofa with the chai, Laxmiamma asked him about SIPs.

Laxmiamma: This man at the bank says that SIPs give a much higher return when compared to the recurring deposit. What are SIPs? Is it true that they give more return? Why and how do they give more returns? Why did you ask me to put my money as deposits when SIPs give more return?

Prof. Nicky: Now, now…slow down amma! Let me answer your questions one by one.

What are SIPs

SIPs are instruments which allow you to invest in Mutual Funds on a periodic basis, as against a lump sum. SIPs are to mutual funds, what recurring deposits are to fixed deposits.

Performance of SIPs

When you put your money in a SIP, every month or every quarter, depending on your preference, the money is used to buy the units of mutual fund schemes. The units are bought at the price or the NAV of the fund on a specified date of that month/quarter. In this way, you get more units when the NAV is lower and lesser units when the NAV is higher. So it helps you average out the highs and the lows. This means that is helps reduce risk by spacing out your investments.

But, we cannot say that they will perform better than recurring deposits. Because the performance of the SIPs will depend on the performance of the fund in which you are putting your money. And the performance of the fund depends on where the fund put their money. If it is an equity fund, the performance of the fund will depend on the performance of the stocks in which the fund invested. So yes, they may give more returns than recurring deposits on some occasions and give lesser returns on the other.

Risk and risk taking ability

A person who can take the risk of either getting lesser returns or even losing a part of their principal, should invest in SIPs. They are less risky than investing directly in Mutual funds and even lesser risky that investing directly in the stock markets, yet, they are risky. On the other hand, recurring deposits are safe instruments, with practically no risk, unless the bank goes bankrupt.

Laxmiamma, you are too old to take risk. And you are not so rich that you can afford to lose your hard earned money. That’s the reason I asked you to invest in recurring deposit rather than SIPs.

Laxmiamma: Ah…next time that agent bugs me, I can now tell him that I do not have the risk taking ability to buy SIPs. I wonder if he will understand it though (winks)! More chai?

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