When Is The Best Time To Invest In Equity Mutual Funds?

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The year-end curtains have been drawn; it is time to bid adieu to the old and unveil the New Year to embrace the new. It is a time to set resolutions and goals for ourselves, which will enhance our physical, mental and financial well being. The first two are health related and we try to keep up with them while ignoring our financial well-being as the year goes by. When we say financial well being, we mean investment decisions.

We don’t invest thoughtfully in equity because we try to follow the mantra “buy low, sell high” and fail to do it. It is seen that when markets hit rock bottom, most investors focus on exiting their investments to preserve their capital rather than trying to take advantage of lower prices and deploying additional capital. Or they do not think long term and put off their investment. 

 The common reasons investors give when they wish to avoid or postpone their investment are…

“It’s too late!”

Or “It’s not a good time.” 

Or “Why should I invest now?” 

Or “When should I invest in Mutual funds?”

Or “What is the best time to invest in mutual funds?”

If you too are giving these reasons when it comes to investing, then you are making a big mistake. Remember, you should not delay investing; start your investment journey right away! The best time to start your investment journey, if you haven’t already started, is ‘Today’! 

Here are a few tips to help you begin your investment journey.

1. Do Not Delay, It Can Cost You 

When we stall or avoid investing, we are simply delaying or completely evading successful wealth creation. Delay in investing reduces the power of compounding as the investment term decreases.

To understand better, let us see the amount three friends – Ajay, Vijay and Ram – would get at the end of their investment tenure. If Ajay starts investing INR 2,000 per month at the age of 25, for his retirement at age 60, and two of his friends, Vijay and Ram, begin investing 5 and 15 years later, respectively, then the future values of each will be different.

It is seen in Table 1 that the future value reduces with the reduction in the investment term (subtract the age of the person from the retirement age).

Table 1: Effect of delayed investment

Even though they have all earned the same rate of returns per annum on their investment, Ajay who started investing early will have the biggest corpus by far at the time of retirement. Therefore, starting the investment journey early is a boon, if you want to build a huge corpus for your financial goals.

In fact, let us assume that even though Vijay delays his investment by five years, he invests an additional sum of INR 1.20 lakh per annum to catch up with Ajay, and Ram invests INR 3.60 lakh per annum to catch up with both. Even then, the corpus will be INR 1.11 cr for Vijay and INR 99.05 lakh for Ram, which is less compared to Ajay’s future value. The difference is nothing but the cost of delay.

2. Choose the Right Asset to Deal with Volatility and Risk

Choosing the right asset is important as it will help in growing wealth for you. Equity as an asset class can help you grow your wealth manifold but along with higher returns comes its volatile nature, which investors tend to confuse with risk.

Volatility reduces over a period of time but risk may not. Risk is about choosing the right product. For example, if you chose a company with bad management, it could be a risk; irrespective of how the market moves, the price of the share may never appreciate.

The stock of Kingfisher Airlines is a perfect example (graph 1). The stock in 2006 was at INR 76, and later in 2007 it reached its peak of nearly INR 300+ only to fall drastically and never recover. In the end, an investor would have lost all his money because the stock was delisted. This is a classic example of a risky proposition which resulted in a permanent loss; but it was not volatility.

Graph 1: Price movement of Kingfisher Airlines

Source (Ventura Research)

Now, if instead you choose a company with good management, the price may be stagnant and may not move for a really long period of time, but eventually it will deliver results. Choosing a management is risk and the price movement is about volatility. Volatility is a market related phenomenon and risk is more intrinsic.

For example, the price of Reliance Industries remained within the range of INR 400 to INR 500 from 2010 till January 2017. Later, the stock rallied and has kept its momentum (as seen in graph 2). The stock price moved from INR 544 in February 2017 to INR 2,370.25 in December 2021.

Graph 2: Price movement of Reliance Industries

Source (Ventura Research)

When you choose equity mutual funds you are investing in a basket of multiple stocks of various companies. This diversification prevents you from larger losses when the market gets tepid. So while you still have to deal with volatility, the risk factor is reduced. This is one of the primary reasons that mutual funds are an ‘all season’ investment plan.

Equity markets by nature will be volatile. It is a given. In the short term the volatility will be more and as the time horizon increases, volatility reduces.

The best way to understand volatility is to look at rolling returns. In the table 2 given below the maximum and minimum rolling returns over 20-year periods have been taken.

What this means is that if you had invested on any day during this period and held the investment for one year, your minimum return was -51.70% and maximum return was 97.32%. As the time period increases the difference between the two becomes less. In the third year, the minimum returns are negative still, but the gap between the negative and positive maximum returns reduces.

Further, in the 5th year, the minimum returns have turned positive along with maximum returns and the difference between the two has decreased further. Lastly, in the 10th year, the difference between the minimum and maximum returns narrows and both are positive. So, if an investment was held for 10 years, an investor never made a loss and the minimum return made was 6.38% and the maximum was 22.08%. In reality, the investor’s actual return would be somewhere in between.

Table 2: Volatility range

So, to grow wealth by investing in equity mutual funds, you should think long term as the volatility tapers and only the minimal market risk remains.

3. Invest Regularly and Diligently

While investing in equity mutual funds, do it via systematic investment plans (SIPs) as you are reducing the risk factor further by investing a fixed amount at regular intervals, irrespective of prevalent market conditions. This is because when markets are down, you get more units and when markets are up you buy fewer units.

For example, if you are investing INR 10,000 monthly in a SIP and assuming that the Sensex drops by 5% every month for the next 6 months and then it rises 5% every month for the remaining six months, at the end of the year, the amount you receive is INR 1,45,971 on an investment of INR 1.20 lakh even though you saw a rise of 30% and then a drop of 30% in the markets.

If you observe, you started with an NAV of INR 10 and at the end it was again back to around INR 10 after a year (refer table 3 below).

The Sensex is just a reference point to show market movements.

Table 3: Rupee Cost Averaging benefit illustration:

So, SIP investing in an equity mutual fund, irrespective of market movements, is an extremely helpful tool in the hands of the investor.

4. Be Patient and Disciplined

The road to wealth generation requires patience and discipline, just as Rome was not built in a day. Over a short term period, the market is very volatile and the returns generated are in a broader range. But over the longer time period, market volatility subsides and the returns are within a narrow range.

For example, look at the performance chart given below of a large cap fund vis a vis the S&P BSE Sensex over 15 years. You can see that despite the sharp falls in the years 2008-2009 (Lehmann crisis), 2015-2016 (post-election) and March 2020 (COVID crisis) in the graph 3, the fund has done well and outperformed the S&P BSE Sensex.

If an investor had invested INR 10,000 in HDFC Top 100 Fund in Jan 2006, when the Sensex was up in December 2007, the value reached INR 19,451. Later when there was a market fall between 2008 and 2009, the value crashed back to 10,602 (March 2009). However, if the investor continued to stay invested, the value was at INR 55,202 in Jan 2018.

Now if the investor had been patient, for a span of 12 years, the value increased nearly 5x, but in March 2020, the value dropped to INR 39,495 consequent to the Covid scare. However, if the investor continued to hold on, the value as on date would be INR 77,516.

This shows that when you invest in equity, being patient helps you grow wealth.

Graph 3: Long-term growth despite short term volatility

(Source: Morningstar; Ventura Research)

Values taken to the base of INR 10,000

When you invest in equity mutual funds you don’t have to worry about the stock selection process. Instead, you should focus on your goal and continue investing systematically, without giving in to market turbulence related panic.

There are roughly 250 trading days a year, making it 2500 days for a decade. A large portion of a stock’s return in a decade happens in 50 to 60 trading days. This means that what happens in 2% of the days, decides your decadal returns.

Even market guru Warren Buffet, advocates that, “Successful Investing takes time, discipline and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things take time: You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”

Therefore, when you invest in equity mutual funds, be patient, show perseverance, diligence and let your funds grow, without timing the market. Time in the market is of essence.

Bottom Line 

We earn monthly and we spend monthly; so why shouldn’t we cultivate the habit of investing on a monthly basis? Treat an investment journey as a marathon not a sprint. So think long term, and equity mutual funds are an ideal product to create long term wealth if you follow two mantras for investment: the best time to invest is now and the best way to invest is regularly, in other words every month.

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