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2 mins Read | 7 Months Ago

Debt Funds - Definition, Types & How they work

Debt Funds Investment


What are Debt Funds?

A Debt Mutual Fund is an investment avenue, which primarily invests in fixed income securities like treasury bills, bonds, government securities and other debt instruments. These funds offer an opportunity for investors to earn stable returns with lower risk compared to equity investments. 

Debt funds pool money from multiple investors and are managed by professional fund managers who make investment decisions on behalf of the investors.

Top Debt Mutual Funds

Aditya Birla SL Medium Term Reg-G

Aditya Birla SL Medium Term is a popular debt fund with a moderately high-risk profile. It has no lock-in period and an exit load of 1% in 730 days.

SBI Magnum Gilt-G

The SBI Magnum Gilt is a moderately risky debt fund with a zero lock-in period. It has offered high returns in the last ten years with no exit load.

DSP Gilt-G 

DSP Gilt is a consistent debt fund with decent returns in the last ten years. The fund has no exit load and comes with no lock in period and a moderate risk profile. 

Bandhan GSF Investment Reg-G 

Bandhan GSF from Bandhan Bank has no lock-in period and no exit load. Investors looking for a high-return debt fund can consider it. 

Nippon India Nivesh Lakshya Reg-G 

The Nippon India Nivesh Lakshya is a popular debt fund with a 1% exit load within one month. The fund also offers a moderate risk profile with zero lock-in period and consistent returns. 

How do Debt Funds work?

Debt Funds function by investing in a diversified portfolio of fixed income securities. Here is how they work:

  1. Diverse Portfolio :

    Debt Funds spread investments across various debt instruments, reducing the risks associated with individual bonds.

  2. Professional Management :

    Expert fund managers make investment decisions based on the market conditions and the fund's objectives.

  3. Risk and Returns :

    Debt Funds offer a predictable income stream as interest or dividends. The interest rates and credit quality of the underlying securities influence the returns.

  4. Liquidity :

    Investors can buy or sell units in Debt Funds quickly, providing high liquidity

Who should invest in Debt Mutual Funds?

Debt Mutual Funds are an excellent choice for investors who are seeking safety and stability. Consider investing in Debt Funds if:

  • You are risk-averse and prioritise capital preservation

  • You seek regular income, like the retirees

  • Your investment horizon is short to medium-term

  • You prefer professional fund management over individual bonds

Investing in Debt Mutual Funds can be integral to a well-balanced investment portfolio, offering stability while aiming for returns higher than traditional Savings Account or Fixed Deposit.

Why should you invest in Debt Funds?

Investing in debt funds offers several compelling reasons:

  1. Professional Expertise and Returns: Debt funds provide access to money markets and wholesale debt markets, offering retail investors the chance to earn interest and capital gains on debt managed by professionals.

  2. Investment Options: With a range of maturity and credit risk options, investors can choose funds that match their risk tolerance. Short-term funds offer consistent income, while longer-duration funds are suited for those comfortable with higher NAV volatility.

  3. Low Risks: Compared to equity funds, debt mutual funds possess lower risks, offering stability to investment portfolios. Systematic allocation to these funds can capitalise on short-term yield opportunities, minimising overall risk.

  4. Liquidity: Debt funds feature high liquidity, with speedy redemption, usually within one or two working days. Unlike fixed deposits, there's no lock-in period, but some funds may impose minor exit costs for early withdrawal.

These factors collectively make debt funds an attractive investment option for those seeking steady returns with manageable risk levels and flexibility.

How to Pick the Best Debt Fund

When deciding on the ideal debt fund for your portfolio, monitoring the selection process effectively is necessary. Follow these tips to make the right choice:

  1. Align the fund choice with your investment duration. Liquid and ultra-short-term funds suit short-term goals (a year or less), while short-term bonds are suitable for 1-3 years. Medium-term objectives (3-5 years) benefit from corporate or dynamic bond investments.

  2. Reflect on your personal objectives. Whether it's post-retirement income or liquidity needs. Ensure your chosen fund aligns with these goals to augment benefits.

  3. Although debt funds generally carry lower risk, they aren't risk-free. Consider credit and interest-rate risks associated with the fund's investments. Understanding these risks and the fund's strategy aids in risk minimisation.

  4. Check a fund's historical performance against prevailing market conditions. This insight helps anticipate future performance, especially in fluctuating interest rate environments.

  5. Given that debt funds usually offer lower returns, assess expense ratios. Go for funds with lower ratios to maximise your net returns, especially for long-term investments.

  6. Understand the tax implications based on the investment duration. Short-term capital gains (STCG) within three years are taxed at applicable income slab rates, while long-term capital gains (LTCG) after three years incur a fixed 20% tax with indexation benefits.

Things to Consider Before Investing in Debt Mutual Funds

When considering to invest in debt funds, several factors should be kept in mind:

  1. Fund Returns

Analyse long-term returns spanning three, five, or ten years, seeking consistency in outperformance against benchmarks and peer funds across diverse time frames. However, align the fund's performance analysis with your investment objectives, as past performance doesn't guarantee future results. 

  1. Fund History

Prioritise fund houses with a promising history of sustained performance over at least five to ten years in the investment market.

  1. Expense Ratio

Assess how much of your investment covers fund management expenses. Opt for lower expense ratios as they provide higher take-home returns, especially when comparing funds with similar asset allocations and returns.

  1. Financial Ratios

Utilise metrics like standard deviation, Sharpe ratio, alpha, and beta to evaluate funds. Higher standard deviation and beta indicate increased risk compared to lower counterparts. Prefer funds with higher Sharpe ratios, signalling enhanced returns per unit of risk undertaken.

Each factor plays an essential role in developing a well-informed investment strategy in debt funds.

Types of Debt Funds

Debt Funds come in several types that cater to the different needs of the investors. Here are some common types:

  1. Liquid Funds :

    Ideal for short-term investments with high liquidity. They invest in very short-term debt instruments.

  2. Income Funds :

    These funds are suited for regular income and invest in a mix of government and corporate securities.

  3. Short-Term and Ultra Short-Term Funds :

    Aimed at investors with a short-term horizon, these funds invest in debt instruments with shorter maturities.

  4. Gilt Funds :

    These invest primarily in government securities and are considered low-risk.

  5. Dynamic Bond Funds :

    Managed actively to adapt to the changing market conditions, they have the potential to offer higher returns.

  6. Credit Opportunity Funds :

    Invest in debt instruments with varying credit qualities, potentially providing higher returns with higher risk.

  7. Fixed Maturity Plans (FMPs) :

    Close ended funds with a fixed maturity date, providing a clear investment horizon.

  8. Corporate Bond Funds :

    Potentially offering higher returns than government securities

Taxation on Debt Funds?

Taxation rules for Debt Mutual Funds vary based on the duration of unit holding:

Gains for periods up to three years are considered short-term capital gains (STCG). These gains are added to taxable income and taxed according to the applicable income tax slab.

For periods exceeding three years, gains are deemed long-term capital gains (LTCG). LTCG is taxed at a rate of 20%, with the benefit of indexation.

Understanding these variations is important for investors to plan their investments and project tax liabilities effectively. Short-term capital gains are subject to regular income tax rates, while long-term gains enjoy a preferential tax rate of 20%, offering potential tax savings over the short term. Indexation benefits further minimise tax liabilities on long-term gains, providing investors with additional advantages in managing their tax obligations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do Debt Funds have a lock-in period?

No, debt funds do not impose a lock-in period. This, alongside potentially higher post-tax returns, represents another notable advantage debt funds offer over Fixed Deposits.

Are Debt Mutual Funds risk-free?

A few debt funds, such as Overnight and Liquid Funds, pose a minimal or near-zero risk. Nevertheless, certain categories of debt mutual funds carry inherent risks, so a thorough assessment before investing is recommended.

Should you invest in a short term Debt Fund?

Short-term debt funds can be a good option for investors looking for safer investment options with a timeframe of 1-3 years. They generally offer higher returns than traditional savings and are less volatile than equity funds.

Debt Funds offer an excellent opportunity for investors in India to diversify their portfolios, earn steady returns and minimise risks. Whether you are looking for short-term liquidity or stable long-term income, there is a Debt Fund tailored to meet your financial goals.

Reach out to a financial advisor to understand the best fit for your unique needs and start your journey towards secure wealth creation.

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