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Investments in India : Why Investing is Important & Where to Invest?

What are the different investment options available in India and how should you decide where to invest?

Updated on :  

08 min read

Investing is allocating money towards assets in the hope of making your future better. Investments are made with the view of earning returns, which grows your amount invested to a higher sum. We have covered the following in this article:

Why Should You Invest?

Investing is essential to achieve your goals. It is the only way to make your future better. By making investments, you are also saving and accumulating a corpus for a rainy day. Apart from that, making regular investments forces you to set aside a sum regularly, thereby helping you instil a sense of financial discipline in the long run.

Impact of Inflation and the Importance of Investing

Inflation, in simple terms, is a surge in the price of materials and services. It decreases the worth of your money and reduces your purchasing power. When there is a rise in the inflation rate, you buy fewer things with the same amount of money. You have no control over the inflation rate. If you are to stay ahead of inflation, you need to have more money to purchase the extent of the goods you intend to in the future with the money you have today. But, money doesn’t grow on its own. If your money has to grow, then it has to earn returns. To earn returns, you need to invest. Therefore, making investments is necessary to tackle inflation. Inflation at the rate of 8% means that you need 8% more money than what you have to purchase the same item next year. Here’s how inflation at 8% reduces the worth of Rs 1 lakh over eight years:

Amount in hand nowRs 1,00,000
After one yearRs 92,000
After two yearsRs 84,640
After three yearsRs 77,869
After four yearsRs 71,639
After five yearsRs 65,908
After 6 yearsRs 60,636
After 7 yearsRs 55,785
After 8 yearsRs 51,322

It is very important to earn inflation-beating returns, if not, you may not be able to afford materials and services in the future from the savings you are making now.

Types of Investments

You have numerous investment options to choose from. You have to assess your requirements and risk profile before deciding to invest in any particular investment option. Investments are broadly divided into active and passive. Active investment requires you to dynamically change assets in your portfolio, depending on the market and economic developments. You need to have enough time and knowledge of investments to indulge yourself in active investments. Equity investments are the best example of active investments. On the other hand, passive investments do not require you to be hands-on with your investments. You invest your money and stay invested for a certain duration of time. It is also referred to as the buy-and-hold strategy of investment. This strategy of investment is advisable for those who can’t spare time to manage their investments. The following table shows the major differences between active and passive investments:

ParameterActive InvestmentsPassive Investments
SuitabilityIndividuals with an in-depth understanding of financesEveryone
Cost of investmentHigher as you frequently trade securities (mostly equities) in your portfolioLower as you buy and hold securities for a longer period
Risk involvedHigher as you frequently buy and sell securitiesLower as you hold securities for a longer time
Return potentialHigherLower

You have to choose to adopt either an active or passive strategy after you have assessed your requirements and risk tolerance level.

You have numerous investment options to choose from. However, you have to ensure that you are investing in only those options that fall under your risk tolerance and serve your requirements.

The following are the top 7 investment options in India:

  1. Direct Equity Direct equity, commonly referred to as investing in stocks, is probably the most potent investment vehicle. When you buy a company’s stock, you buy partial ownership of that company. You directly invest in the company’s growth and development. You need to have enough time and possess the market knowledge to benefit from your investment. If not, then investing in direct equity is as good as speculation. Stocks are offered publicly listed companies through the recognised stock exchanges and can be bought by any investor who has Demat account and undergone KYC verification. Stocks are ideal for long-term investments. You have to actively manage your investments as various economic and business factors influence stocks. Also, you need to understand that the returns are not guaranteed and be willing to assume the associated risks.
  2. Mutual Funds Mutual funds have been around for the past few decades, and are gaining popularity amongst millennials. A mutual fund pools investment from various individual and institutional investors who have a common investment objective. The pooled sum is managed by a finance professional called the fund manager, who invests in securities and assets to generate optimum returns for investors. Mutual funds are broadly divided into equity, debt and hybrid funds. Equity mutual funds invest in stocks and equity-related instruments, while debt mutual funds invest in bonds and papers. Hybrid funds invest across equity and debt instruments. Mutual funds are flexible investment vehicles, in which you can begin and stop investing as per your convenience. Any individual may consider investing in mutual funds. You don’t need to have time or knowledge to invest in mutual funds as the fund manager takes care of portfolio constitution, and you only have to invest. However, it is advisable to invest in only those funds whose risk levels and objectives match yours. The returns are not guaranteed as they are dependent entirely on the market movements. Note that past performance of a fund does not indicate future returns.
  3. Fixed Deposits Fixed deposits are an investment option offered by banks and financial institutions under which you deposit a lump sum for a fixed period and earn a predetermined rate of interest. Unlike mutual funds and stocks, fixed deposits offer complete capital protection as well as guaranteed returns. However, you compromise on the returns as they remain the same. Fixed deposits are ideal for the conservative investor. The interest offered by fixed deposits change as per the economic conditions and are decided by the banks depending on the RBI’s policy review decisions. Fixed deposits are typically locked-in investments, but investors are often allowed to avail loans or overdraft facilities against them. There is also a tax-saving variant of fixed deposit, which comes with a lock-in of 5 years.
  4. Recurring Deposits A recurring deposit (RD) is another fixed tenure investment that allows investors to invest a fixed amount every month for a pre-defined time and earn a fixed rate of interest. Banks and post office branches offer RDs. The interest rates are defined by the institution offering it. An RD allows investors to invest a small amount every month to build a corpus over a defined time period. RDs offer complete capital protection as well as guaranteed returns. Like fixed deposits, RDs are recommended for risk-averse investors. v)
  5. Public Provident Fund Public Provident Fund (PPF) is a long-term tax-saving investment vehicle that comes with a lock-in period of 15 years. It is offered by the Government of India and the sovereign guarantees back your investments. The interest rate offered by PPF is revised on a quarterly basis by the Government of India. The corpus withdrawn at the end of the 15 years is entirely tax-free in the investor’s hands. PPF also allows loans and partial withdrawals after certain conditions have been met. Premature withdrawals are permitted to meet certain conditions, and you can extend your investment in a five-year block upon maturity.
  6. Employee Provident Fund Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is another retirement-oriented investment vehicle that helps salaried individuals get a tax break under the provisions of Section 80C of the Income Tax Act, 1961. EPF deductions are typically a percentage of an employee’s monthly salary, and the same amount is matched by the employer as well. Upon maturity, the withdrawn corpus from EPF is also entirely tax-free. EPF rates are also decided by the Government of India every quarter, and the sovereign guarantees back your investments in EPF. You can contribute more than the minimum prescribed amount under the Voluntary Provident Fund (PPF). However, you need to note that you can access your EPF investments only on meeting specific criteria and your EPF account matures only when you retire.
  7. National Pension System The National Pension System (NPS) is a relatively new tax-saving investment option. Investors subscribing under the NPS scheme will mandatorily stay locked-in until their retirement and can earn higher returns than PPF or EPF. This is because the NPS offers plan options that invest in equities as well. The maturity corpus from the NPS is not entirely tax-free, and a part of it has to be used to purchase an annuity that will give the investor a regular pension. You can withdraw only up to 40% of the entire corpus accumulated as a lump sum, while the remaining goes towards an annuity plan. Some government employees are compulsorily required to subscribe to NPS.

Which Investment Option Should You Choose?

Since there are numerous investment vehicles, it is normal for an investor to get stuck when selecting one. If you are new to investing, then it is likely that you are not sure as to where you should invest your money. Making the wrong investment choice can lead to financial losses, which you would not want.

Hence, we recommend that you base your investment decisions on the following parameters:

  1. Age Typically, young investors have fewer responsibilities and a longer investment horizon. When you have a long professional life in front of you, you can invest in vehicles with a long-term view and also keep increasing your investment as your income increases over time. This is why equity-oriented investments like equity mutual funds would be a better option for young investors than fixed deposits. But on the other hand, older investors can opt for safer avenues like FDs. You have to modify your investments as you grow old.
  2. Goal Investment goals can be either short or long-term. You should opt for a safer investment for a short-term goal and consider the high return-generating potential of equities for long-term goals. Some of your requirements can also be negotiable and non-negotiable. For non-negotiable goals like children’s education or down payment for a house, guaranteed-return investments would be a good choice. If the goal is negotiable, which means that it can be pushed back by a few months, then investing in equity mutual funds or stocks can be beneficial. Do not forget that if these investments perform well, you can even meet your goals much sooner than expected.
  3. Profile Another factor to consider while choosing an investment option is your profile. Factors like how much you are earning and how many financial dependants you have are also critical. A young investor with a lot of time in hand may not be able to take equity-related risks if he also has the responsibility to take care of his family. Similarly, someone older with no dependents and a steady income source can choose to invest in equities to earn higher returns. This is why it is said that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to investments. Investments have to be chosen carefully and appropriately planned to get the most out of them. The following table summarises the various investment options covered in this article:
InvestmentTypeReturn PotentialPotential to Beat InflationRisk Involved
Direct EquityActiveVery highVery highHigh
Mutual FundsBoth active and passiveModerately HighVery highHigh
Fixed DepositsPassiveModerately lowHighNo risk
Recurring DepositsPassiveModerately lowLowNo risk
Public Provident FundPassiveHighLowNo risk
Employees’ Provident FundPassiveHighModerately HighNo risk
National Pension SystemBoth active and passiveModerately HighModerately HighModerate

How should I plan my investments?

The first step in planning your investments is to figure out the right investment that fits your profile and needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your investments:

  • Choose investments carefully after doing adequate research
  • Don’t fall for quick-buck schemes that promise high returns in a short time
  • Review your stock and mutual fund investments periodically
  • Consider the tax implications on returns you earn on your investments
  • Keep things simple and avoid complicated investments that you don’t understand

The sooner you start, the better

You should get started with your investments as soon as possible. When it comes to investments, time is money. The sooner you get started, and longer you stay invested, the more returns you earn on your investments. Consider the following example. Suppose you start investing Rs 1 lakh a year from the time you turn 25 years old and continue to do so until you turn 58 years, along with your brother who is already 35 years old. Consider you both invest in a scheme which offers returns at 10% a year. Let’s compare how your investments rack up against one another upon maturity:

AgeYou start at the of age of 25 yearsYour brother starts at the age of 35 years
25Rs 1,10,000 
26Rs 2,31,000 
27…..Rs 3,64,100 
…..35Rs 20,38,428Rs 1,10,000
36 …Rs 23,52,271Rs 2,31,000
… 56Rs 2,21,25,154Rs 78,54,302
57Rs 2,44,47,670Rs 87,49,733
58Rs 2,70,02,437Rs 97,34,706

As you can see from the table above, the difference is huge. You earn way more than your brother because you started early. Your brother’s investment horizon is shorter by ten years. You unleashed the power of compounding to the fullest, while your brother didn’t. Hence, the sooner you start investing, the better.

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  130. When stock split takes place, there is an increase in the number of shares of that company without any change in the market capitalization. The number of shares during a stock split goes up but the price per share goes down.
  131. When an investor subscribes to the equity share of a company, he becomes a shareholder. For the company, such a contribution is like a liability on which it needs to give returns to the shareholder.
  132. Gilt funds are those funds which invest in fixed-interest generating securities of the central and state governments. You earn returns from gilt funds in the form of interest accrued and capital appreciation on the amount invested.
  133. Sovereign Gold Bond is an alternative for those who want to invest in gold, but do not want the hassle of paying making charges or storing it safely. A low-risk and tax-free investment indeed!
  134. Repo rate is the rate at which the RBI lends money to commercial banks in case of shortage of funds. Read this article to know about the reverse repo rates and Current Repo Rate.
  135. MCLR, Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate is the minimum lending rate below which a bank is not permitted to lend. MCLR replaced earlier base rate system to determine the lending rates for commercial banks. Read on to explore the intricacies of MCLR vis-a-vis the earlier concept of Base Rate.
  136. ISIN Code Search - The International Securities Identification Number (ISIN) is a unique code that is used to identify specific securities you can serach the fund hiuse name and ISIN number here . Learn more about it here...
  137. A mutual fund portfolio has different stocks, bonds, goods and cash in it - diversified by default. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of mutual funds to choose wisely & earn well.
  138. The CRR or the Cash Reserve Ratio is the share of a bank’s total deposit to be maintained with the latter in the form liquid cash. This is mandated by the RBI with the latter in the form liquid cash. Know about CRR objective, working impact on economy & how is it different from SLR.
  139. Tax-free bonds are types of goods or financial products, which the government enterprises issue. One example for this is the municipal bonds. They offer you a fixed interest rate, and hence is a low-risk investment avenue.
  140. The article discusses Dividend Mutual Funds in detail. A dividend mutual fund is a stock mutual fund that primarily invests in companies that pay dividends.
  141. Money market mutual fund is basically a marketplace where money is bought and sold. Read more about MMMF,features and risks associated with investment
  142. Every investor faces this dilemma: Liquid funds vs. Savings Account, which is better? The article gives in-depth insight of the intricacies of liquid fund.
  143. Non Convertible Debentures are scheme that proved to be a dark horse as they started delivering smaller but steady returns over time. Like traditional corporate FDs, NCD too is a fixed-income investment with a specific term and interest income.
  144. RGESS ( Rajiv Gandhi Equity Saving Scheme ) - One of the government-sponsored schemes for tax saving is the Rajiv Gandhi Equity Savings Scheme or RGESS. Learn more about it here...
  145. Ultra short-term funds can be likened to be close cousins of liquid funds. They can be an important part of your portfolio. Read the article to know more.
  146. Long-term capital gains (LTCG) has been brought under tax net in budget 2018. It will impact the end returns of the retail investors.
  147. Liquid Funds are the best way of creating an emergency fund. Wondering how to go about it? let us give you the lowdown on creating your rainy-day stash!
  148. Index funds are passive mutual funds that track a particular index. These funds are less riskier than actively-managed funds but also earn lesser returns.
  149. KYC / Know your Customer is a one-time exercise that needs to be done to invest in mutual funds & various other applications. Find out the procedure to get it done online through Aadhaar, documents required, learn eKYC with ClearTax and how to check KYC Status.
  150. Complete guide on mutual fund taxation. Know how different mutual funds are taxed in a different manner, depending on the type of mutual fund & the investment holding period.
  151. Indexation helps to reduce the tax on long-term capital gains from debt mutual funds. Here's how indexation works, explained with an example.
  152. Fixed deposits versus debt mutual funds. Why the latter makes a better investment option.
  153. Everything you need to know about investing in the National Savings Certificate to save taxes under Section 80C.