I have always had my reservations on bank fixed deposits and this has been from years ago even when fixed maturity plans (FMP expanded just so you know ) were an unknown entity, Finally mutual fund institutions have found a new way to lay their hands on your money and provide "safe and secure" returns to you. Welcome to the world of Fixed maturity plans or FMPs. Think of this as a mutual fund equivalent of an FD (is it really an equivalent? we will talk about that soon) where the returns nowadays match a fixed deposit.
What are they
These instruments are essentially debt mutual funds which are typically close-ended with a maturity period ranging from one month to five years. FMPs are typically setup by the fund manager by purchasing debt instruments that align with the fund's maturity period so that they can protect the returns and meet market expectations
Why are they touted to be better
The key to FMP's fame is the tax treatment viz a fixed deposit. Since these are debt mutual funds, they enjoy all the benefits that a debt fund gets, ie.
Short-term capital gains
Short-term capital gains on debt-oriented funds are added to income and taxed as income tax.
Long-term capital gains
Long-term capital gains on debt-oriented funds are taxed at higher of the two i.e.10% without indexation and 20 per cent with indexation. To help understand the benefits, the following table below illustrates the comparison between Bank deposits, FMPs both dividend plan and growth plan.
The last row shows the returns for various options
The detailed spreadsheet that shows the calculations is found here on google docs
Essentially three things stand out here
- FMPs are far superior to bank deposits in terms of net returns
- When buying FMPs less than one year always prefer the dividend option
- When buying FMPs greater than one year, always pick the growth option
- If possible try to get double indexation benefit by buying FMPs at the very end of a financial year that redeems at the very beginning of a future financial year
Given that FMPs are superior and everybody is rooting for it (if you looked at the recent spam that you have received from your favorite financial institutions, its FMP galore. So what are the key problems?
What are the pitfalls
There are a few underlying assumptions in the spreadsheet above that I want to call out so that you can understand the key issues with FMP.
- Returns: The above sheet assumed that banks and FMPs return the same returns. While that is helpful to compare apples to apples, the real truth is that returns in an FMP is neither guaranteed nor secure. The Hindu carried a dated but detailed article on how FMPs fare with respect to bank deposits and they concluded that short term FMPs really do fare badly. I had personally tried out one FMP for 4 months and received a fabulous 7.7% returns in 4 months which is > 20% annualized.
- Risk : FMPs typically invest in commercial paper of many businesses. Commercial papers have various CRISIL/ICRA ratings and FMPs announce their intent on investment spread across various ratings in their prospectus. An aggressive FMP can put your capital at risk in a bad economic situation where the business can default on payments thereby putting principal at risk.