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FD vs Mutual Fund - Know Difference between Fixed Deposit and Mutual Fund

How mutual funds are better than fixed deposits?

Since fixed deposits are perceived to be relatively risk-free, most people opt for them when it comes to their choice for saving money. Thus, fixed deposits have been a perennial favourite with Indian investors for decades. Saving money in the bank in the form of fixed deposits is equivalent to security and safety. However, it is crucial to introspect whether fixed deposits should continue to be a wise savings choice for millions of Indians. For instance, while fixed deposits can appear to offer attractive returns, the tax payable, based on the current tax slabs, for an investor may be on the higher end if they are investing in numerous fixed deposits of higher amounts. Also, given the rising rate of inflation, investing only in fixed deposits could actually turn out to be disadvantageous or even a loss-making proposition. The best option here could be to consider mutual funds as an alternative or at least an add-on to fixed deposits. Here, we take a detailed look into FD vs mutual fund.

In the debate between mutual fund vs fixed deposit, it is essential to note that currently, both mutual funds and fixed deposits are equally popular among investors. Both these investment avenues offer reasonable returns to investors over a period. However, they have their unique characteristics. The difference between fixed deposit and mutual fund lies in understanding how mutual funds can be better than fixed deposits. To know which is better FD or mutual fund, you may want to analyse both these investment options and weigh their pros and cons. Only then can you take an informed decision.

What are fixed deposits?
Fixed deposits are conventional financial instruments provided by banks and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) to their customers. These fixed deposits, typically, offer a higher rate of interest than a regular savings account. In other words, when you deposit a pre-specified amount for a pre-specified tenure, you get a fixed rate of interest at the end of the tenure. However, if the amount in the deposit is withdrawn prematurely, the bank could levy a penalty and you may lose out on the interest your investments were to fetch. Under the ambit of fixed deposits, banks also offer recurring deposits and flexible fixed deposits, which may overcome some of the above-mentioned flaws but simultaneously reduce your returns.

Understanding mutual funds as an alternative to fixed deposits
Debt mutual funds are a type of mutual funds that offer a wide range of possibilities depending on your risk taking ability and multiple other factors. In actuality, debt mutual funds are almost similar to bank deposits, serving the same function and rivalling each another. However, the main areas of difference lie in taxation, liquidity, returns and safety. Mutual funds top the advantage in terms of tax-adjusted returns, rate of interest and liquidity, while fixed deposits may be considered safer by the larger populace.

Although bank deposits are regarded as the safest avenue to saving money in India, there has been historical precedence of local banks and cooperative banks defaulting on their customers' money. Hence, it may not be entirely true that fixed deposits are the safest savings instruments today. Fixed deposits that are locked in for a lengthy tenure could also face the risk of losing value in a scenario where interest rates are likely to rise. Although the risk can be in terms of opportunity cost, investors may not actually lose value when the deposit matures.

On the other hand, the yields from debt mutual funds are market-linked, thus the returns sometimes may not be as high as promised. Having said that, the mutual fund industry is stringently regulated and monitored by the Securities And Exchange Board Of India (SEBI). SEBI authorities have drawn tightly regulated guidelines that control the risk profile of investments, the risk individual funds are likely to face, valuation of investments, and how rigorously the maturity profile shapes the fund's clear goals. The measures laid down by SEBI have been highly efficient in curtailing risk and ensuring safety.

Why consider mutual funds over fixed deposits?
Coming closest to traditional fixed deposits, in terms of safety, debt mutual funds can be ideal. The primary objective of debt mutual funds is to provide its investors with steady income throughout the investment tenure. Hence, choosing a tenure in line with that of a debt mutual fund can be useful in getting desired returns.

Every fund house offers detailed information regarding various debt funds and their time horizon. This information can be crucial in helping you understand how the fund is performing with regards to interest rates. This can also help you understand market fluctuation and steer you to make informed choices while helping you take advantage of the right fund.
The most crucial difference between mutual funds vs fixed deposits India comes down to taxation. The returns received from fixed deposits are under the purview of interest income and are typically added to one's overall revenue. If you belong in the top tax bracket (30%), the taxed could eat a substantial portion of the returns. Besides, fixed deposits can also be a candidate for tax deducted at source (TDS) if the interest exceeds a certain amount.

On the other hand, tax rates are constant for debt funds, if held for 36 months or less. However, TDS is not generally deducted. If debt mutual funds are held for more than 36 months, the yields are classified as long-term capital gains. These gains are taxed at 20% with indexation.
With regards to liquidity, you could receive the proceeds from an open-ended debt fund within a period of 2 to 3 working days. Fixed deposits, on the other hand, could also be availed within a couple of days’ notice, but can attract penalties if the funds are withdrawn before its maturity.

At the end of the day, debt mutual funds can be a superior savings option over bank deposits with its capacity to offer better tax-adjusted returns, as can be seen in the market. At the same, since there is an element of credit risk and higher interest rate in mutual funds, you can be compensated with higher returns by investing in mutual funds over fixed deposits. But knowing the risks involved and choosing the right mutual fund can help you get the best yields from your savings.


Disclaimer: Investment in securities market / Mutual Funds are subject to market risks, read all the related documents carefully before investing.