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Which is the best SIP?

July 24, 2008 08:49 IST
Last Updated: July 24, 2008 13:46 IST

That's a question we routinely hear nowadays. Ever since the equity markets have been engulfed by volatility, the most frequently heard piece of advice is - invest via the systematic investment plan route for the long-term. While regular visitors and clients of Personalfn have since long bought into the merits of SIP investing, we are rather surprised to note that it took a prolonged volatile phase for most investment experts/advisors to appreciate the importance of SIP investing.

Coming back to the original question - which is the best SIP? Thanks to all the hype around SIPs, several investors have been led to believe that the SIP is an investment avenue. Furthermore, the panacea to the present testing phase is to select the best SIP and get invested therein.

The SIP is simply an investment mode i.e. a means to invest in mutual funds and not an investment avenue. When an investor chooses to invest via an SIP, he makes investments (usually) in smaller denominations at regular time intervals as opposed to making a single lump sum investment. The underlying intention is to benefit from the volatility in equity markets by lowering the average purchase cost. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of SIP investing.

How an SIP helps...
As mentioned earlier, the most important role of an SIP is to lower the average purchase cost of an investment over the long-term. This is possible when equity markets experience a turbulent phase. Since the investment amount for each SIP installment is fixed, the investor gains by receiving a higher number of mutual fund units.

An example will clarify this better. Suppose the monthly SIP is for Rs 1,000 and the fund's net asset value (NAV) is Rs 50; this will lead to 20 units being credited to the investor. However, in the next month on account of the volatile markets, the fund's NAV falls to Rs 40. This will lower the average purchase cost; as a result, the investor will have 25 units credited to his account. This is how an SIP can help investors benefit from volatility in equity markets.

Lack of disciplined investing is one of the major reasons for investors not achieving their financial goals. For example, often monies that are kept aside for investments end up getting used for other purposes. As a result, the investor is even further divorced from his goals. An SIP ensures that the investor stays the course by investing in a disciplined manner.

An often heard excuse for not investing is lack of monies. SIP takes care of this problem by lowering the minimum investment amount. For example, the minimum investment amount for a lump sum investment in a diversified equity fund could typically be Rs 5,000; conversely for an SIP, it can be as low as Rs 500. As a result, investing via the SIP route is lighter on the wallet..

Timing the market is a popular pastime with several investors. Investors have an inexplicable urge for timing markets and aim at getting invested when markets have bottomed out. It's a different matter that timing markets to perfection and doing so consistently is beyond most investors. SIPs make market timing irrelevant.

Having discussed the benefits of SIP investing, now let's consider the situations when an SIP won't deliver´┐Ż

In rising markets
An SIP may not be able to lower the average purchase cost if equity markets rise in a secular manner. In such a scenario, the average purchase cost could actually rise. So in a market rally, SIPs could prove to be more expensive vis-a-vis a lump sum investment.

A directionless SIP
A directionless SIP is one that does not form part of an investment plan; in other words, it's an aimless SIP. The SIP is not an 'end'; instead, it is the 'means' to achieve an end. Hence an SIP in isolation does not make 'financial' sense. Instead, the SIP should form part of an investment plan aimed at achieving a predetermined objective (like providing for a child's education or buying a house).

An SIP in a poorly managed fund
Investing via an SIP doesn't improve the prospects of a poorly managed fund. Such a fund stays the same, irrespective of the investment mode. Its shortcomings will not be eliminated by an SIP. Hence the key lies in first selecting a well-managed fund that is right for the investor and then investing in it via an SIP.

As can be seen, the SIP mode of investing has a fair number of advantages to offer; conversely, there can be instances when it may not deliver as expected. Investors on their part should make well-informed investment decisions after acquainting themselves of both the pros and cons.

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