How can you make the best use of a SIP Calculator?

If you’re new to Mutual Fund investing, the first question that you’ll ask is whether you should invest a lump sum or start a SIP (Systematic Investment Plan). If you decide on a latter, a Mutual Fund SIP Calculator  can be extremely helpful. However, a lot of investors who are new to SIP investments tend to remain confused about how to use a SIP calculator to arrive at an investment plan that is optimally suited for their financial goals. Part of this confusion about the SIP calculator stems from the fact that many investors end up confused about how SIP returns are calculated in the first place!

Where the confusion arises…

Let’s take an example. Your SIP calculator may be showing that by investing Rs. 10,000 a month for a year, you will end up with roughly 1.26 Lakhs at a 12% return. However, when you divide the profit (Rs. 6,000) by the principal (Rs. 1.2 Lakhs), the numbers don’t quite add up! Is the SIP calculator inaccurate? In fact, it’s 100% accurate!

The correct method of assessing returns from your SIP Investment  would be to consider the CAGR (Compound Annualized Growth rate) of each Mutual Fund SIP tranche in isolation, and then calculate the weighted average of these returns. Except - since a SIP Calculator considers equal-sized instalments, a weighted average calculation wouldn’t really be necessary – a simple average would suffice. So, in the above example of the SIP investment of Rs. 1,000, we will take the weighted average of the annualized returns earned on each SIP tranche of Rs. 10,000 – which would give you 12%.

How to tailor make a SIP investment plan using a SIP calculator

Most SIP Calculators assume a static scenario that involves investing a fixed sum of money every month for several years. While this is simple and convenient, it can lead to incorrect assumptions and outcomes because life is dynamic.  Your income is bound to go up year on year, and so is your disposable surplus. If you have planned your cash flows smartly with the help of an investment advisor, it’s quite likely that you will be able to step up your SIP investment very year.

This is exactly where a step-up SIP Calculator comes in handy! By allowing you to visualize outcomes based on a fixed amount or percentage step up every year, a step-up SIP Calculator provides you with a much more accurate number when it comes to the projected goal achievement from your SIP Investment. A step-up SIP calculator can prove especially efficient when planning for long term goals, in which even minor adjustments in the investment parameters can have a dramatic impact on the final corpus projection.

What “return” should you assume for your SIP investment?

A lot of investors remain confused about the return assumption that they should make while using the SIP calculator. After all, returns from SIP investments are not linear. There have been well documented instances of SIP investments earning zero to negative returns for several years, only for them to skyrocket to 12% or more on an CAGR basis within a matter of months!

So, to begin with, it’s vital to know that though the SIP Calculator will accept a fixed rate of return, the actual return from your SIP investment would be variable in nature – that is, it could be -5% for 3 years but 40% in the 4th year!

A good thumb rule to use is one based on the tenor of your goal – and subsequent planned tenor for your SIP investment. If your goal if very long term (7 years or more), you could assume a return of 13%. For a 5–7-year goal, you could assume 12% whereas for a 3-5 year goal, a 10% assumption on your SIP calculator return would be ideal.

The above stated assumptions are based on the fact that as your SIP investment tenor goes up, so will the level of aggressiveness with which you can invest. Needless to say, a qualified Financial Advisor can assist you with your choice of SIP investment based on our specific goal.

To sum up – begin by defining your goals before using the SIP calculator. Based on the goal tenor, you can key in variables such as your starting amount, annual step up amount, number of years and annual step up quantum, to arrive at a robust SIP investment plan that suits your objectives.

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