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What's a mutual fund SIP?
Rachna C
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November 09, 2005

What type of a mutual fund is a SIP?"

I was taken aback by this question before I realised the person posing it thought a SIP was a type of mutual fund.

Unfortunately, many new investors seem to be under this misconception.

A Systematic Investment Plan is not a type of mutual fund. It is a method of investing in a mutual fund.

Here's to coming to terms with it.

How you can invest in a mutual fund

There are two ways in which you can invest in a mutual fund.

1. A one-time outright payment

If you invest directly in the fund, you just hand over the cheque and you get your fund units depending on the value of the units on that particular day.

Let's say you want to invest Rs 10,000. All you have to do is approach the fund and buy units worth Rs 10,000. There will be two factors determining how many units you get.

Entry load

This is the fee you pay on the amount you invest. Let's say the entry load is 2%. Two percent on Rs 10,000* would Rs 200. Now, you have just Rs 9,800 to invest.


The Net Asset Value is the price of a unit of a fund. Let's say that the NAV on the day you invest is Rs 30.

So you will get 326.67 units (Rs 9800 / 30).

2. Periodic investments

This is referred to as a SIP.

That means that, every month, you commit to investing, say, Rs 1,000 in your fund. At the end of a year, you would have invested Rs 12,000 in your fund.

Let's say the NAV on the day you invest in the first month is Rs 20; you will get 50 units.

The next month, the NAV is Rs 25. You will get 40 units.

The following month, the NAV is Rs 18. You will get 55.56 units.

So, after three months, you would have 145.56 units. On an average, you would have paid around Rs 21 per unit. This is because, when the NAV is high, you get fewer units per Rs 1,000. When the NAV falls, you get more units per Rs 1,000.

Here are some FAQs on the SIP

1. Is there a load?

An exit load is a fee you pay the fund when you sell the units, just like the entry load is a fee you pay when you buy the units.

Initially, funds never charged an entry load on SIPs. Now, however, a number of them do.

You will also have the check if there is an exit load. Generally, though, there is none. Also, if there is an entry load, an exit load will not be charged.

An exit load may be charged if you stop the SIP mid-way. Let's say you have a one-year SIP but discontinue after five months, then an exit load will be levied. These conditions will wary between mutual funds.  

2. What is the minimum investment?

If you do a one time investment, the minimum amount that you have to invest is Rs 5,000.

If you invest via an SIP, the amount drops. Each fund has their own minimum amount. Some may keep it at least Rs 500 per month, others may keep it as Rs 1,000.

3. How often does one have to invest?

It would depend on the fund.

Some insist the SIP must be done every month. Others give you the option of investing once in three months or once in six months.

They also give fixed dates. So you will get the option of various dates and you will have to choose one. Let's say you are presented with these dates: 1, 10, 20 or 30. You can pick any one date.

If you pick the 10th of the month, then on that day, the amount you have decided to invest in the fund has to be credited to your mutual fund.

4. How must the payment be made?

You can opt for the Electronic Clearance Service from your bank; this means the mutual fund will, as per your instructions, debit a certain amount from your account every month.

Let's say you have a SIP of Rs 1,000 every month and you have chosen to invest in it on the 10th of every month. Under this option, you can instruct your mutual fund to directly debit your bank account of Rs 1,000 on the due date.

If you don't have the required money in your account, then for that month, no units will be allocated to you. But, if this continues periodically, the mutual fund will discontinue the SIP. You need to check with each mutual fund what their parameters are.

Alternately, you can give cheques to your mutual fund. In this case, they may ask for five Post Dated Cheques upfront with your first investment.

Since these cheques are dated ahead of time, they cannot be processed till the date indicated.

5. Must I state for how long I want the SIP?

Yes. You will have to state whether you want it for a year or two years, etc. If, during the course of this period, you realise you cannot continue with the SIP, all you have to do is inform the fund 15 days prior to the payout.

The SIP will be discontinued. You can continue to keep your money with the fund and withdraw it when you want. 

6. Do all funds offer SIP?

No. Liquid funds, cash funds and floating rate debt funds do not offer an SIP. These are funds that invest in very short-term fixed-return investments. Floating rate debt funds invest in fixed return investments where the interest rate moves in tandem with interest rates in the economy (just like a floating rate home loan).

All types of equity funds (funds that invest in the shares of companies), debt funds (funds that invest in fixed-return investments) and balanced funds (funds that invest in both) offer a SIP.

7. Tax implications

Let's say you have invested in the SIP option of a diversified equity fund.

If you sell the units after a year of buying, you pay no capital gains tax. If you sell if before a year, you pay capital gains tax of 10%.

Let's say you invest through a SIP for 12 months: January to December 2005. Now, in February 2006, you want to sell some units.

Will you be charged capital gains tax?

The system of first-in, first-out applies here. So, the amount you invest in January 2005 and the units you bought with that money, will be regarded as the units you sell in February 2006.

For tax purposes, the units that you sell first will be considered as the first units bought.

8. How will an SIP help?

When you buy the units of a fund, you may do so when the NAV is really high. For instance, let's say you bought the units of a fund when the bull run was at its peak, leading to a high NAV.  

If the market dips after that, the value of your investments falls and you may have to wait for a long while to make a return on your investment. But, if you invest via a SIP, you do not commit the error of buying units when the market is at its peak. Since you are buying small amounts continuously, your investment will average out over a period of time.

You will end up buying some units at a high cost and some units a lower price. Over time, your chances of making a profit are much higher when compared to an one-time investment.

* This figure was originally published as Rs 1,00,000 and the error was pointed out by a reader on the Message Board.

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