Has your MF investment worked out?

To begin with, my apologies to all my readers, many of who have enquired of me as to why I was not writing in my blog, for my long absence from the blog. It was caused by a random occurrence of several factors – a couple of trips abroad, some mentoring work for B school students, my son’s starting of his professional career, my parents visiting Hyderabad etc. Let us see whether I am able to keep up this new resolution !!

Let me take up something which a lot of people have been asking me for much of this year. Has it been beneficial to invest in Equity MF over the years? Many people had started the MF investments through SIP, being lured or convinced by agents or advisors, thinking that an annualized return of 12-15 % on an average was a given. Yes, it was understood that equity as an asset class will be having the ups and downs, but over the long run it was kind of given to undestand your money will double every 6 years. A lot of financial planning for most people have been based on this premise over the last 10 years and it is a good time to take stock of how things have panned out.

As I have been dealing with equity for nearly a quarter of a century now, I probably have a lot of knowledge and experience to speak somewhat definiteively of this. In January 2008, Nifty scaled 6000 for the first time before the now famous crash of that year. Even if we assume that Nifty will reach 12000 in January 2020 ( a fairly tall order some may say, though I am hopeful), it would have only doubled in 12 years. This is a return of only 6 % as opposed to the 12 % that most investors have been sold into. Even if you looked at a supposedly stodgy product such as PPF, you would have earned nearly 8 %. More importantly, if you had planned some goal for 15 years in 2010, you are now probably faced with the prospect of being way short of your goal. This is fine if you have 20 plus years of your career left but for people in their 40’s and 50’s this is a fairly tough situation. People who are interested in financial independence and looking at doing different things will now need to re-evaluate their options.

Does this mean that the MF investment has been wrong? Not at all – equity as an asset class is really the only sensible way to beat inflation in a country like India and MF is a good vehicle for this. Also, though Nifty returns are only 6 % annually, most of us invested in well managed active funds and these returns are somewhat better, though nowhere near the 12-15 % that were touted without any real sense. With the changes in MF categories by SEBI, it may also make more sense to stick to funds that invest in the top 150 or 200 companies, unless you have a lot of time on your hands. Finally, do not put all your eggs in one basket, invest in fixed income products and other instruments that can serve as a hedge and provide you stable returns even if unglamorous.

The above is all very fine for people starting now but what of people who have been investing for long and have now not got enough in their kitty for their goals? They will definitely need to work out different strategies – I will take up one case study from a person who wanted some advice from me recently.

Bottom line – MF investments are good for your financial life but you need to do these by being more aware of it as compared to before. The old method of deciding on a SIP amount and letting it be in the auto mode will not work any more.

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Building an equity MF portfolio in new FY

Much as I would like to write regularly for the blog, of late I find it difficult to get the time to do so. In the last 3 months I have been rather busy mentoring B school aspirants and very recently went on a vacation to Phuket for a week. The blog remains close to my heart though and in this new FY I will make a renewed attempt to be regular in writing.

I get a lot of reader queries on how to create an ideal long term portfolio of equity MF schemes. There have been several posts written on this and you can search the blog to read those up. However, fund performances and the market dynamics keep changing, so it will make sense to revisit that now. With the new SEBI classification of MF categories it is easier to build a portfolio now. You can have a set of choices in each category and then select one from each to get your 4-5 funds. I have given a choice of a few funds in different categories below and any selection of these will result in creation of a robust, long term portfolio of equity MF. These are all well known funds that have been recommended by several analysts and I have done my own fact finding about these too, so I can suggest them with complete confidence.

Here are the MF scheme suggestions in the different categories :-

  • Large cap funds
    • HDFC Top 100
    • ABSL Front Line Equity
    • ICICI Blue Chip
  • Multi cap funds
    • Franklin India Equity
    • Mirae Asset India Equity
    • Kotak Standard Multi cap
  • Mid cap funds
    • Franklin Prima fund
    • DSP Mid cap fund
  • Small cap funds
    • DSP small cap fund
    • HDFC small cap
  • ELSS funds
    • Axis Long term equity
    • Franklin India Tax shield

If you want you can add an international fund to this mix but that is only required for sophisticated investors. Most of you can simply select funds from the categories here and build a portfolio where you can invest for the long term. Some pointers for this :-

  • If your risk appetite is low and you are disagreeable to market volatility then you may want to stick to only large cap and multi cap category, with a small investment in mid caps. Avoid small cap funds in this case.
  • If you believe in the India growth story and are looking at the long term for your portfolio then have a mix of all categories with sufficient allocation to mid cap and small cap funds.
  • If you are well off and looking at this portfolio to have high growth with tolerable risks then put most money in mid cap and small cap funds. There will be a lot of volatility but over the next 15-20 years you will be able to get good benefits.

What about the likely returns from these fund categories and where should we invest for fixed income then? I will cover these in other posts, hopefully soon !!

How has my first Mutual fund investment performed?

Over the last week, I have been taking a closer look at some investments I have done in my early days as an investor and trying to see how they have worked out. While readers will know by now that I started investing in stocks since 1990, my foray into the Mutual fund world was only in the year 2001. This was after we had shifted to Chennai in 1998 and, despite having 2 young kids with high expenses, happily found that we had quite a bit of invest-able surplus every month, thanks to a strategic job change that had resulted in a pretty decent take home compensation.

When we were approached by a Financial adviser who wanted us to invest in equity through the vehicle of MF, it seemed a natural progression from my investments in stocks. To start with we wanted to look at a large cap fund and see how things worked out for a while. The choice of Franklin Blue Chip fund was a logical one among the schemes that were in vogue then. We started off with a 10000 Rs investment in February 2001 and over the next 12 months this investment went to 50000 Rs. The NAV of the scheme was around 10 Rs only during those days, courtesy the markets having tanked due to the Harshad Mehta scam and we got 4722 units for our investment. With one thing and another I did not keep up with my investments in this after January 2002 – our focus shifted to buying an apartment in Chennai, we started a stock portfolio in a meaningful way and my professional life got busy. When we did start our MF investments again in 2008, the MF universe had changed quite a bit and there were many schemes on offer. 

So the long and the short of the story is that I have had the investment in FT Blue chip fund for nearly 17 years now. This makes it an ideal investment candidate to check if equity investments in the long run have really worked. We had invested in the dividend option  and the fund has declared a dividend unfailingly every year since 2002. Some basic data on the fund performance is as follows :-

  • Dividends over the year have added up to 2.85 lacs
  • Current value of my units in this scheme is 1.83 lacs
  • As I said earlier, our investment between Feb 2001 and Jan 2002 was 50000 Rs
  • From the FT site, I can see that this translates to an XIRR of 30 % plus.

Without getting into any discussions of relative performance etc, one can see quite easily from the above that the investment has done rather well. Though future projections are fraught with risks, this should encourage all investors to invest in MF schemes for the long term. The expectations should not center around the XIRR here, but even with an 18 % XIRR your investment will grow 16 fold in 16 years, which is remarkable.

Was a dividend option a good idea? Yes, for us it was as it enabled us to spend on some things during the years when money supply was tight, despite my high income, due to our buying the Chennai apartment and trying to pay it off quickly. I also have a feeling that taking some money off the scheme has worked well in the bad years of the market. This has to be corroborated by data and I will do a separate post on that soon.

The bottom line though is this – investment in MF is a very viable option in the Indian markets for the long term. If you have time on your side, start this now. In fact, any investor with more than 10 years till he needs the money must do so.

Build a long term portfolio through focus on sectors

In some of my blog posts I have covered the topic of building a portfolio for a new investor. While there are many ways to do this, building a long term robust portfolio is best done through sectoral focus. This has several advantages and one should keep these in mind while building the portfolio. Firstly, investing in a few important sectors will ensure that your portfolio is a representative one and reflects the indices in some manner. Secondly, a combination of such stocks will act as a natural hedge against any serious downfall in the markets. Thirdly, it will be easy to review and change such a portfolio as you are having both the industry and company dimension to look at.

Which will be the sectors to put in money now? Given the economy and demography of India, anything which is related to the domestic infrastructure building or domestic consumption will be great areas to bet on. Remember, you are building a portfolio for the long run, it does not matter if it tanks by 20 % in the present year. The important thing is to identify good companies in the sector – these must have good market presence and asset base to ensure longevity in a positive manner. Avoid flashy companies where results go all over the place and which are in high debt.

For people starting off here is a set of sectors and some suggested companies in them :-

  • Financial sector (Banks)
    • Large private bank – choose between HDFC Bank / ICICI / Kotak / IndusInd
    • Large PSU bank – SBI / PNB
    • Smaller private banks – Yes Bank / Federal Bank / RBL
  • Housing Finance companies
    • LIC Housing Finance / HDFC
    • Indiabulls Housing Finance
  • Cement / Paint companies
    • ACC / Ultratech 
    • Heidelberg / Ambuja
    • Kansai Nerolac / Asian Paints / Berger Paints
  • Auto companies
    • TVS Motors / HeroMotocorp
    • Maruti / M & M
  • Pharma companies
    • Cipla / Lupin / DRL
    • Shilpa Medicare
    • Ajanta / Granules / Aurobindo
  • FMCG
    • Marico / Dabur
    • HUL / ITC
  • Engineering
    • L & T
    • BHEL / BEML
  • IT Services
    • Infosys / TCS
    • Hexaware / KPIT / Mindtree

Avoid Telecom companies and also any other businesses which are cyclical in nature like Sugar and other agro based ones.

Once you have the above framework, all you need to do is to get a low cost Demat account where you can buy stocks without paying high brokerage or annual charges. Based on how much money you have, decide on a quarterly allocation of funds and start buying based on the right time. Remember, you always buy in small lots and check the DMA figures to make sure there is some basic logic to the price. Also, do not go overboard on the number of stocks. You should buy from each of the above but not more than 2/3 from each of them.

Let me give a typical portfolio created out of this strategy :-

  • HDFC Bank
  • SBI
  • Federal Bank
  • Indiabulls Housing Finance
  • Kansai Nerolac
  • Ultratech Cement
  • TVS Motors
  • Maruti
  • Cipla
  • Shipa Medicare
  • Marico
  • ITC
  • L & T
  • BEML
  • Infosys
  • Mindtree

These 16 stocks should be a good one to go with, though you can definitely change some as per your personal preferences. For example, you can replace Maruti by M & M and Mindtree by Hexaware and ITC by HUL and the basic nature of the portfolio will not be altered. Try to have only about 16-20 stocks as with any more you will be spreading the portfolio too thin. In any case, you will review the portfolio once every year and can replace some stocks if you are not happy with their performance.

What should be the investment in this portfolio. It can be anything really but I think you need to invest about 25-50 K in every stock for it to be meaningful. Ideally you should build up this portfolio between now and 2019 end. So we are talking about 4-8 lacs over the next 15 months. If you do not have these resources, you can still build a portfolio with above logic but lesser number of stocks. Put in 1-2 lacs in about 4-8 stocks to start with and you can keep adding more as and when you get money available.

Now to the million Dollar question – how will this portfolio perform in the long run? Well, though it is difficult to predict equity performance over any duration, for 10 years it becomes a little easier. At a conservative estimate this portfolio, with a thorough annual review and change, should deliver at least 15 % annual growth. So a 8 lac portfolio will become about 32 lacs in 10 years. You can therefore assume a multiple of 4 to your invested amount. 

This is a great time to build a portfolio by investing in good stocks. If you have a goal in 10 years time of 40 lacs, just build a portfolio of 10 lacs with these stocks and let the markets do the rest. If you are just starting off and can invest only 2 lacs over the next year then do so – maybe in 10 years you can buy a car of your choice.

I hope to see you getting started today so that you reap the benefits in 2019 !!

Building a stock portfolio with expert recommendations

The past few months have been very interesting ones for the Indian markets. Most people will agree that the valuations of a large number of stocks were stretched and unsustainable, so the correction, though brutal, have had the benefits of bringing down the markets to levels where one can look at investing. The mid cap and the small cap space may well witness more pains, even though the large caps seem to have stabilised for now. The quarterly results were largely good, though not spectacular, and with the festive season falling in Q3 it can be expected that the current quarter results will be good. Is this the time to build a portfolio for the future then?

In my opinion, if you do not have a stock portfolio now, it is a good time to start building one. Several stocks are available at attractive prices and present a great opportunity of handsome gains between this Diwali and the next. The important thing is to pick the right stocks so that the portfolio is a high performance one. In this regard it is best to go with professional recommendations, even though you must do your due diligence to ensure you are comfortable with the stock in your portfolio and are broadly aware of the risks that are associated with the stock.

I have been following a lot of recommendations over the last 2 weeks and have come up with this selection from different experts, both from Fund houses and brokerage houses:-

  • Birla Cable
  • Engineers India
  • Escorts
  • Federal Bank
  • Heidelberg Cement
  • Hindustan Oil Exploration 
  • Himadri Speciality Chemicals
  • ICICI Bank
  • L & T Finance Holdings 
  • NALCO
  • NBCC
  • Petronet LNG
  • Sonata Soft
  • South Indian Bank

You can start investing in these with the basic rules in place – buy in small lots, stagger your purchases, be aware of important events such as state election results, be in cash to take advantage of sudden market changes etc. If you have 5 lacs plus to invest, you can look at the next 4-5 months to put your money in. With a lower amount, look at the next 2-3 months and invest in fewer stocks, not the whole lot.

A disclaimer here will be in order – I have a few of these stocks and am actively considering the option of adding the rest to my secondary portfolio between now and end of the year.

Stock ideas for potential gains this Diwali

Now that the markets seem to have stabilised a little over the last 2 weeks, there is a return of investor interest in terms of making new Diwali investments. The Muharat trading is traditionally supposed to be a good omen for the rest of the year and with so many stocks being battered down in 2018, there are quite a few opportunities in terms of investing in some that will potentially give good returns in next few months.

I have been going over a lot of expert picks and have also gone over a lot of data recently, to come up with a few stock names that make a lot of sense to invest in. These look good from both a technical and a fundamental standpoint and most can give a return of 6 – 10 % in the coming months. With our markets being hostage to liquidity as well as political news in election season, the risks cannot be disregarded altogether, but life has to go on and these picks are more likely to do well than many others.

So without further ado, here are my suggestions of stocks along with their target prices :-

  • Hindalco with a target price of 258
  • HDFC with a target price of 1910
  • Sterlite Tech with a target price of 390
  • Raymond with a target price of 790
  • CEAT Tyres with a target price of 1260
  • Vedanta with a target price of 235
  • IB Real Estate with a target price of 99
  • HDFC Standard Life with a target price of 430
  • Hero Motocorp with a target price of 3200
  • Intense Technologies with a target price of 75

You will need to do a bit of reading and fact finding on these stocks, mainly in terms of their Q2 results before you take the plunge. As always, buy on dips and in small lots when you are building up the portfolio. Look at this portfolio as a means of making some money between this Diwali and the next ( or well before that ). For long term portfolio building, the considerations are very different and you can read my posts on the secondary portfolio I am currently building.

Wishing all my readers and their families a very happy and prosperous Diwali.

Long term performance of MF – personal example #2

I am currently writing a series on real life MF performances on my blog. The first post of the series was about my portfolio created through monthly SIP between April 2008 and March 2010. Around the same time another portfolio was started by my wife and this too ran for the same period. Of course, in her case there was one fund which continued for 3 years but that will not change the analysis much.

So here is the portfolio and the performance of individual MF schemes in it:-

  • ABSL Frontline Equity fund has XIRR of 12.65 % and has been down nearly 4.75 % this year.
  • HDFC Top 100 fund ( earlier HDFC Top 200 ) has XIRR of 12.07 % and has been down nearly 1.21 % this year.
  • ICICI Prudential Value Discovery fund has XIRR of 18.63 % and has been down only 0.37 % this year.
  • DSP Equity fund  has XIRR of 11.04 % and has been down nearly 10.76 % this year.
  • IDFC Multi Cap fund ( earlier IDFC Premier Equity ) has XIRR of 16.07 % and is down 8.78 % this year.
  • UTI Dividend Yield fund has XIRR of 11.91 % and is up 1.61 % this year !!
  • Sundaram Small Cap fund has XIRR of 11.08 % and is down 31.54 % this year.
  • The overall XIRR of the portfolio is 14.35 %

Now, at first glance, this appears quite good and most MF investors will be happy to get such a result. However, when we buy into equity we need to look a little deeper to get a clear picture. So here then are some critical points to consider.

  • Starting on a positive note, the portfolio XIRR was about 20 % just 2 months back !!
  • Note that these purchases through SIP were between April 2008 and March 2010 ( March 2011 for one fund ), a great time to invest in MF.
  • The data clearly shows our markets have performed well over 10 years – after all Sensex was below 10000 in 2009 and has been to 37000 this year.
  • So even with the best buying price and the best market performance ( discount the last 2 months ) we are looking at a return of less than 18 % over 10 years.
  • Consider also that these are some of the best funds of that time and fairly reputed now too. 
  • These are all regular funds so the expenses are higher as compared to Direct.

Summing up, it is good to invest in MF regularly and if you can do it at a time when the markets are in a downward trend then all the better. However, under most conditions you should temper down your expectations of XIRR to 12 %. If you get more than that it is a bonus but any plan with a return expectation which is greater does not make sense.

In my other posts on this series, I will provide more data and insights on this.