Beginners Guide to Mutual Funds

Mutual fund investments are becoming very popular with individual investors because of the benefits they provide. Among the many advantages, the most important factors that drive investors to mutual funds are that Investors can

  • Start with any amount (as low as 500)
  • Diversify across multiple stocks and other instruments like debt, gold etc.
  • Start automated monthly investments (SIP)
  • Invest without requiring to open DMAT account

In this mutual fund investment guide for beginners, we have selected few articles to help you learn about Mutual Funds and get started with them. We would suggest bookmarking this page so that you can read these articles at your own pace.


If you already know about mutual funds and different types of mutual funds, you can skip directly to the next section. These five articles cover the basics of mutual funds and their various types. We also cover a special article on tax-saving funds.


The right way of investing is to build a mutual fund portfolio. A portfolio is a collection of mutual funds that helps you meet your investment goals. Your overall returns matter on your overall portfolio and not a particular fund. In this section, we learn about the basics of building a mutual fund portfolio.


A lot of first-time investors do not invest in mutual funds because they find the investing process too complicated. These articles help mutual fund beginners to get started with investing.


While investing in mutual funds, there are some important things beginners need to consider. Without understanding these things, one can have serious implications on their investment returns.


Here is a list of commonly used terms when talking about mutual funds. While mutual fund beginners do not need to learn all of these, you can use this as a glossary to look for any term you want to learn.

80CSection under Income Tax Act defines exemptions for income tax.
AMCShort form for Asset Management Company – the company that runs a mutual fund. Examples are HDFC Mutual Fund, ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund.
Annualised ReturnsReturns you would make if investments were made for one year. If you invest for less than a year or more than a year, they are aggregated to one year.
Arbitrage FundsArbitrage Funds are special types of mutual funds that invest in equity securities but at the same time take an equal and opposite position in derivatives of these equity securities. These funds effectively give returns similar to liquid funds and risk is also similar. Also, these funds are taxed like equity funds and hence Zero tax post 1 year.
Asset Allocation FundsProcess of allocating your funds across different assets. Assets are things like equity, debt, or gold. We can further classify an asset like equity into large-cap, mid-cap, or small-cap.
AUMShort form for Asset Under Management. The total fund a mutual fund scheme holds for investments.
Average MaturityA weighted average of maturity (years between today and the final payment date of debt security, at which point the principal is due to be paid) of all debt securities held by the fund.
Balanced FundsBalanced Funds, also known as Hybrid Funds – Equity oriented invests in a mix of debt and equity.
BenchmarkSomething you can compare your returns against. Typical benchmarks are Sensex and Nifty. But then there are a lot of them depending on the fund you consider.
BrokerageThe fees you pay to your broker for letting you buy and sell your investments.
Credit RatingAll debt issued by companies or governments is rated by independent rating agencies based on the capacity to pay back. Example AAA-rated debt is good. BB is not good.
CrisilCrisil is a rating agency that rates mutual funds and debts issued by companies.
Debt FundsDebt funds are mutual funds investing in debt instruments.
Direct FundsType of funds you do not buy from distributors. They are bought directly from AMCs.
Dividend SchemesMutual fund schemes provide regular dividends to their investors instead of putting the profits back in the equity or debt.
ELSSShort for Equity Linked Savings Scheme. Also known as tax saving funds – special mutual funds that are exempt from tax under section 80C.
Equity Mutual FundsEquity means the stock of a company. Buying equities is the same as buying stocks of a company. Equity Mutual Funds invest in stocks of public listed companies
ETFShort form for Exchange Traded Funds. ETFs are like mutual funds but traded on stock exchanges and people can buy or sell them like stocks.
Exit LoadWhen you sell a mutual fund, exit load can be applied for certain schemes. It can be as high as 1% for some schemes.
Expense RatioExpressed as a percentage of your investment, this is the money you pay each year to the fund house for managing your money.
Face ValueThe notional value of any security on which dividend, share capital, etc are calculated. Not very important to make investment decisions
Fund ManagerA fund manager is a person who decides where to invest your money in a mutual fund. Performance of a mutual fund largely depends on its fund Manager
Fund of FundsA fund that invests in a portfolio of other funds. Also, knows as multi-manager investment. Most of the global mutual funds are Fund of international funds.
Gilt FundsGilt Funds are mutual funds that invest only in government bonds (debt). They are good for risk-averse and conservative investors who wish to invest indirectly in secure government bonds.
Gold FundsGold Funds are mutual funds that invest in various forms of gold. It can be in the form of physical gold or stocks of gold mining companies.
Growth PlanA growth plan means that any dividend that may be paid out by the stocks in the mutual fund will be reinvested for further growth.
HoldingsHoldings are the contents of an investment portfolio held by a mutual fund
Index FundsAn index fund is a type of mutual fund with a portfolio constructed to match or track the components of a market index.
Investment ObjectiveThis is the objective stated by the AMC for this mutual fund. AMC will operate this mutual fund in this manner only. But most of these objectives are very vague and hence don’t tell you much about the intent of the AMC.
KYCKnow Your Customer is a mandatory requirement by SEBI for declaring identity and address proof for the purpose of investing
Large Cap FundsLarge Cap is a category of an equity fund that invests mostly in the companies with large market capitalization ~ 20,000 Cr or more
Launch DateIts the date on which a Mutual Fund is launched, through New Fund Offer.
Liquid FundsLiquid funds are such Mutual Funds that invest in money markets (FD etc.) with very short maturity and high credibility. Therefore these are almost zero-risk Mutual Funds
Lock-in PeriodThis is the period of time, from the date of investment, for which the investment cannot be withdrawn. Tax saving Mutual Funds have a lock-in of 3 years.
Long TermA horizon of 5 years plus is considered to be long-term in most of the discussion.
Market capMarket capitalization is the market value of the publicly-traded company. It can be calculated by multiplying the number of shares with the current share price.
Mean ReturnsMean returns are the arithmetic average of the returns earned by a fund over a period of time. It is also known as expected returns of the Mutual Fund
Mid Cap FundsMid Cap is a category of an equity fund that invests mostly in mid-sized companies with a market capitalization in the range of 5,000 Cr to 20,000 Cr.
Min Additional InvestmentMin additional investment, as the name suggests, is the minimum amount of money you can invest in the fund if you already have an investment in the fund.
Min InvestmentMin Investment is the minimum amount of lump-sum investment that the fund accepts as a first-time investment.
Money Market FundThe money market is the part of the financial market where highly liquid and very short term maturities are traded
NAVNet Asset Value. It is the value per share of a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF) on a specific date or time.
NFONew Fund Offer. A new fund offer occurs when a mutual fund is launched, allowing the firm to raise capital for purchasing securities. Investors may purchase units of a closed-end mutual fund in an NFO.
NiftyNifty is a major stock index in India introduced by the national stock exchange. The value of Nifty is the weighted average of the value of 50 selected stocks.
NomineeThe nominee is the person who receives the benefit in case of the death of the concerned person.
PANPermanent Account Number is a 10 character alpha-numeric code issued by the Income Tax department. PAN is mandatory for doing any financial transactions in India.
PortfolioFor an individual, a portfolio is a collection of financial investments held by the person. For a Mutual Fund, a portfolio is the current holdings of the fund in various financial securities.
PSUPublic Sector Undertaking is state or union government-owned corporates.
RatingRating is the score given to a product after careful evaluation or assessment of securities based on multiple factors.
RedeemRedeem means to withdraw the invested money by selling the mutual funds
RedemptionA redemption is an act of withdrawing invested money in a mutual fund
Regular FundsRegular funds are the funds bought through an intermediary like advisor, broker, or a distributor
ReturnsReturn is a profit or loss on an investment. It is basically the change in value/principal amount
RiskRisk typically means uncertainty in investment. It is the deviation from the standard or the expected value
Risk-Free RateA risk-free rate is a theoretical rate of return on an investment with no risk. We can use SBI 3 month FD rate as a proxy for the risk-free rate
RTARegistrar and Transfer Agent is an agency appointed by a mutual fund to handle the allocation/ redemption of mutual fund units.
Sector AllocationSplit of holding of mutual funds in various sectors like Financial Services, IT, etc.
Sector FundsA fund that invests only in businesses that operate in a particular sector or industry. Because the funds belong to the same sector, such funds are not diversified.
SensexIt is an indication of an overall stock market. It is essentially a figure which indicates the relative price of 30 companies weighted on free-float market capitalization. The base year of Sensex is FY 1979 and the base value is 100
Sharpe RatioIts defined as Mean Returns earned in excess of the risk-free rate per unit of risk (Std Dev). It’s a measure of risk-adjusted returns. It was developed by Nobel laureate William F. Sharpe
Short TermShort-term is a period of time of fewer than 12 months.
SIDScheme Information Document (SID) is which provides all information about a mutual fund. It’s generally a 50+ page document explaining everything. In some cases, mutual funds issue a combined SID for a whole category.
SIPA systematic Investment Plan (SIP) is a way of investing money in mutual funds at regular intervals. The most famous frequency is monthly.
SIP MinimumThis is the minimum investment amount you need to invest every month (SIP) in this mutual fund. This is decided by mutual funds
Small-Cap FundsSmall-cap is a category of companies that have a market cap of less than Rs. 3,000 Cr. Mutual funds that primarily invest in small-cap companies are categorized as Small Cap Fund.
Standard DeviationStandard Deviation (represented by the Greek letter sigma σ) is a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation of returns from mean returns.
STPSystematic Transfer Plan (STP) is a combination of Systematic Withdrawl Plan (SWP) and Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). This money is redeemed regularly from one fund invested in another fund at the same time. It only works in the same AMC funds.
SWPSystematic Withdrawl Plan is an opposite of a Systematic Investment Plan (SIP). This money is redeemed from a fund at regular intervals.
Ultra Short Term FundsUltra Short Term is a type of Debt Mutual fund that invests in debt securities with Average Maturity of less than 1 year.
USERUnique Transaction Reference (UTR) No. is provided by the bank when you do an NEFT or RTGS transaction.
XIRRXIRR is a modified form IRR (Internal Rate of Return) that helps calculate overall returns when number transaction (Invest or Redeem) are more than two and at irregular intervals. The only way to measure the returns if you are doing a SIP or multiple transactions in a single fund is XIRR.
Suspended FundMutual Funds that stop taking fresh investments via both SIP or Lumpsum are considered Suspended Funds like DSP BR Micro-Cap.
UnitsUnits specify the extent of ownership one possesses in a mutual fund
FolioFolio is a grouping of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
YTMAverage interest rate to be earned by an investor at today’s market price, assuming that all debt securities (bond, loan, etc) will be held until maturity
Modified DurationIt is the sensitivity of debt securities to the interest rate. If Modified Duration is 1 and the interest rate increases by 1%, the value of the debt securities will reduce by 1%.
IFSC CodeShort for Indian Financial Code System used to identify the particular branch of a bank for electronic funds settlement in India like NEFT and RTGS
BillerBiller is someone or something that processes bills and payments
ISIPInternet-based Systematic Investment Plan(SIP), which is a completely paperless way of setting up SIP
StocksStocks are ownership certificates of any company
SharesShares are the stock certificates of any company
BondsIt is a debt instrument in which the investor lends some money to an entity that borrows the funds for a defined period of time at a variable or fixed interest rate
Open-ended FundsA type of mutual fund that does not have a limitation on the number of shares that it can issue
Closed-ended FundsIt is like a mutual fund that raises a fixed amount of capital through an initial public offering and which is traded like a stock on the stock exchange
Global FundsA type of mutual fund, which invests in companies located anywhere in the world.
Min WithdrawlThe required minimum distribution is the minimum amount that should be withdrawn from your account every year.
KIMShort for Key Information Memorandum which is another form of scheme information document, for the investors by mentioning the key sections of the offer document
IndexationIt is a technique to adjust income payments by means of a price index, which is used to maintain the purchasing power of the investors after inflation
Income FundsIncome funds are mutual funds, ETFs, or any other type of fund that are used to generate income for shareholders by investing in securities that offer dividends or interest payments
Government SecuritiesIt is a bond issued by the government authority, with repayment upon maturity
SecuritiesSecurity is a financial instrument that represents some type of financial value
Floating RateA floating rate is an interest rate that shifts up and down along the rest of the market or on the basis of an index
Equity SchemesA mutual fund that invests mainly in stocks are called equity schemes/funds
AMFIAssociation of Mutual Funds in India is an industry standards organization
SEBISecurities and Exchange Board of India is the regulator for the securities market in India

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