Expert advice

Dec 07, 2016,14.57 IST

How to use liquid mutual funds to your advantage

Manikaran Singal

Liquid mutual funds as the name suggests are those which have a portfolio of very short term debt instruments, mainly below 91 days. Such a portfolio focuses on maintaining liquidity and safety of the investments. It is considered as the least risk category in mutual funds, as it does not invest in long term bonds, and thus does not get affected much by interest rates movements. Thus it is meant to park money for very short time frame.

Another similar category of funds are ultra short term bond (USTB) funds which were earlier known as liquid plus funds. These funds in comparison to liquid funds have a slightly longer tenure portfolio. Like liquid funds these funds also invest in less than 91 days papers, but a small portion of the total investments can be made in longer tenure papers.

Liquid funds and USTB funds are mainly used by corporates to park the surplus they have in their current account. Compared to zero interest payable on current account, corporate entities make some gamins in these funds.

At retail level, liquid mutual funds are not very popular. They get compared with bank deposits like saving bank account and fixed deposits, which are a fixed interest instruments, so at personal level people prefer parking funds in bank accounts only.

This is also because of the lack of awareness on how to make best use of these funds at personal finance level. This article is about different ways one can make use of liquid and USTB funds.  

1.    Emergency fund:

Liquid / USTB funds are best instruments to accumulate and maintain an emergency fund. Emergency fund should always be kept separate from other regular deposits. Though interest is not a consideration in deposits meant for emergency but there is no harm in earning on the same if the basic requirement of safety and liquidity is being taken care of.

The other main consideration in emergency fund is the liquidity aspect. It should be into investments that can be liquidated easily, so emergency requirements can be managed.

Investment in these liquid funds will always be a separate account folio, and thus will not get mixed with other deposits. The return of the instrument depends on the debt market forces and market interest rates. The last one year returns of these funds has been in the range of 7%-8%, and these will always remain in comparable range to bank deposits for that particular time period. So the separation of funds and interest earnings is not a concern with these funds.

Liquidity wise there used to be an issue with these funds. As Investor needs to put the redemption request on a working day before cut off time and redemption proceeds will get credited in bank account on next working day. Thus there could be an unacceptable delay in case of extreme emergencies. But nowadays with the technology advancements, these issues have been sorted out.

Now some mutual funds have come up with a debit card which can be used to withdraw cash or can be used at POS swipe machines to make immediate payments. Some fund houses have announced instant withdrawal facility from liquid funds, through which you get your redemption proceeds in maximum of one hour time, and on any day including  non-working days too.

Where majority of the banks give 4% interest on saving bank account, and fixed deposits have different slab rates, these funds can be a good investment alternative. Also the instant redemption feature makes it more attractive for use as for emergency fund.

2.    Provisioning for annual payments:

Liquid funds can be used as a useful tool to save or provision towards annual expenses and also in personal budgeting. Look into your cash flow and you will find some expense heads which are not monthly, but quarterly or annual. For e.g. your insurance payments (Life, health, Car, home etc.) are paid on annual basis, Your vacations frequency is also not monthly, children school fee may get due on quarterly basis…and so on.

It’s always better to make provision for these expenses from your regular income so you should be able to pay them conveniently whenever they get due. Money kept in regular bank accounts is prone to be spent on unnecessary things. By making monthly provisions for annual mandatory / fixed expenses you put yourself into a discipline and can get better control on your cash flows.

This way you can put yourself on a strict budget too, like if you say that Rs 100000 is the amount you spend on your vacations then you should start transferring Rs 8300 on monthly basis into your liquid fund account, and limit spending within this budget only.

3.    Strategize the STPs:

Systematic investment plan or SIPs is a well-known term among Investors, but systematic transfer plan or STPs has not gained much attraction yet.

Where SIPs are linked to your bank accounts, and make you invest a fixed amount into a specific mutual fund on monthly basis, there in case of STPs, you park lump sum money into a liquid or USTB fund, and a fixed amount as per your instruction will get transferred in your choice of fund on daily/weekly/fortnightly or monthly basis.

Both SIP and STP is meant to average out the cost of investment, but in case of STP you have more frequency choices available.

Moreover in case of STP, since this is internal to fund house you can strategize your purchases. Like some fund houses offer feature of flex STP where more money will be transferred to your choice of funds if markets have fallen below a specific level. Some come with a trigger feature too, which redeems your investment to book profit and transfer back to liquid fund when your investment value has advanced to a specific level.

Nowadays one AMC has come up with an interesting feature of PE based STP, where more funds will be transferred from liquid to the other if the market valuation based on PE multiplies is low, which means that more purchase when markets are fairly or lower valued.

Mutual funds are the products which has answers to all yours investment requirement. It is upto you how you use it. These are much flexible to use in comparison to the other traditional bank instruments. Use it wisely to your advantage.
Manikaran is a member of The Financial Planners’ Guild , India (FPGI). FPGI is an association of Practicing Certified Financial Planners to create awareness about Financial Planning among the public, promote professional excellence and ensure high quality practice standards.
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