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Asset Classes in Mutual Funds: A Guide to Making Prudent Investment Decisions

Posted on 14-May-2024

6 min read

Ever found yourself confused between the different asset classes to invest in? Read this guide by Shriram AMC to quickly resolve all your queries.

Table of Content

Whether you are a seasoned investor aware of the ins and outs of the financial market, or an amateur just starting out, one key term that you will often find in abundance in this domain is ‘diversification.’ Diversifying your investments minimizes the risk while offering you potential high returns.  

So how do you diversify your investment? Enter asset classes—a group of securities sharing similar characteristics, that help you allocate your savings strategically and manage your overall investment risks.  

Some common asset classes examples are stocks, bonds, cash, commodities and real-estate. Now that you have a primer of sorts on what asset classes are, let’s dig deeper into the topic, gaining more insight and understanding to make informed financial decisions. 

What Are Asset Classes? 

An asset class is a group of investments that share similar characteristics. They behave in similar ways in the market and offer different levels of risk and return. Think of it like sorting clothes – your shirts go in one pile, pants in another, and so on. In investing, asset classes are your piles, categorizing investments based on their features.  

Now asset classes might work on the same underlying principle, but no asset class can be considered a perfect substitute for the other. Also, factors such as taxation, liquidity, risk, returns, volatility and tenure vary among asset classes.  

Types of Asset Classes in Mutual Funds 

Asset classes can be widely bifurcated into five different categories based on factors such as investment structure, liquidity, and market capitalization. Let us now take a look at these different categories: 

Equity (Stocks): Owning a piece of a company. Equities are known for high growth potential but also come with higher risk. Examples: Shares of companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) or National Stock Exchange (NSE). 

Fixed Income (Debt): Loaning money to a government or company in exchange for regular interest payments. Fixed income offers lower risk and steadier returns compared to equities. Examples: Government bonds, corporate bonds, fixed deposits (FDs). 

Real Estate: Investing in land, buildings, or property for rental income or capital appreciation. Real estate offers the potential for high returns but can be illiquid (difficult to sell quickly). 

Commodities: Investing in raw materials like gold, oil, or agricultural products. Commodity prices can fluctuate significantly. 

Cash and Cash Equivalents: Highly liquid assets like savings accounts, money market instruments, and short-term debt. These offer low risk and low returns. 
 

There is also another category, including private equity, venture capital and hedge funds, that can be considered as an asset class. These can offer high returns but are often illiquid and require a high minimum investment. 

What is the Importance of Asset Classes in Mutual Funds? 

We have seen so far how asset classes help in portfolio diversification, shaving off a certain amount of risk and increasing your chances of potential high returns. But there’s more than just this to the story. Asset classes are the building blocks of a successful investment strategy in India, offering several key benefits: 

Liquidity and Income Generation: As mentioned earlier, different asset classes provide different levels of liquidity and potential of income. For instance, stocks can be a great way to gain capital appreciation and yield dividends. Real-estate, on the other hand, can provide a source of rental income.  

Achieving Investment Goals: Different asset classes cater to different goals. Saving for retirement decades down the line allows for a longer investment horizon, making equities a potentially good option for growth. However, someone saving for a down payment on a house in a few years might prioritize the safety and liquidity of cash equivalents. Understanding asset classes empowers you to choose the right tools to reach your specific financial goals

Risk Management: Not all investments are created equal. Stocks offer the potential for high growth but also carry higher risk. Cash equivalents, on the other hand, offer low risk but also low returns. By understanding the risk-return profile of each asset class, you can create a portfolio that aligns with your risk tolerance. Someone comfortable with taking on more risk might allocate a larger portion to equities, while someone risk-averse might favour the stability of fixed income and cash equivalents. 

Protection against Potential Losses: Asset classes can protect investors against losses that may arise due to market fluctuations. For instance, holding onto bonds when the stock market is volatile might help stabilise your portfolio. Similarly, buying commodities like gold can act as a buffer against inflation. 

In a nutshell, a holistic understanding of asset classes and their characteristics can help you create a well-balanced and diversified portfolio.  

Asset Class and Investment Strategy 

Your investment strategy should determine which asset classes you invest in. Are you saving for retirement (long-term) or a down payment on a house (short-term)? Your time horizon will influence your choices. Generally, younger investors can tolerate more risk and may allocate more towards equities, while those nearing retirement may prioritize fixed income for stability. 

Simply put, different investment strategies achieve different goals. Whether its maximizing returns, minimizing your risk or striking a balance between the two, how you choose to invest in different asset classes ultimately decides the asset classes you allocate your funds to.  

Asset Allocation and Risk Tolerance 

Asset allocation is the process of dividing your investment portfolio among different asset classes. Your risk tolerance – how much risk you're comfortable with – is a key factor in determining your asset allocation. Someone with a high risk tolerance might allocate more to equities, while someone risk-averse might favour fixed income and cash. 

However, it is important to note that your risk appetite depends on several factors like age, financial circumstances, etc. Therefore, it can change over time. It is probably a good idea to review your portfolio over time and make the necessary changes consulting an investment advisor.  

Asset Classes and Diversification 

Not to keep harping on the same string, but diversification, as discussed, is one of the more important jargons dominating the investment domain. Diversification is a strategy that investors to use allocate funds across asset classes, reducing their exposure to high risks.  

It’s basically following the classic investment rule—don't put all your eggs in the same basket. Diversification is crucial in the world of investments and asset allocation since different assets function differently under different market conditions.  

For instance, stocks might perform poorly over a certain period. But having your investments diversified into bonds and commodities that have been performing well over the same period, may protect you from major losses.  

Conclusion 

Understanding asset classes is a powerful tool for Indian investors. By knowing the different types and how they fit into your investment strategy, you can build a diversified portfolio that works towards your financial goals. Remember, consulting a financial advisor can help you create a personalized investment plan based on your specific needs and risk tolerance. And Shriram AMC can be just the trusted partner you are looking for in this journey.  

FAQs 

Here are a few frequently asked questions on asset classes to help you navigate your investment journey: 

1. What if I'm new to investing? How do I choose asset classes? 

For beginners, a good starting point is to consider your risk tolerance and investment goals. A financial advisor can help you create a diversified portfolio based on your individual circumstances. 

2. How often should I rebalance my portfolio across asset classes? 

There's no one-size-fits-all answer. Ideally, you should rebalance periodically to maintain your target asset allocation. This could be annually or more frequently if market conditions change significantly. 

3. Are there any asset classes I should avoid? 

It's not about avoiding specific classes, but rather understanding the risks involved. If you're unsure about a particular asset class, do your research or consult a financial advisor before investing. 

4. How much should I invest in each asset class? 

The ideal asset allocation depends on your age, risk tolerance, and financial goals. Generally, younger investors can take on more risk and might allocate more towards equities for growth. As you approach retirement, you might gradually shift towards fixed income for stability. 

5. Can I invest in all asset classes directly? 

Not necessarily. Some asset classes, like real estate, require significant capital or involve complexities. Mutual funds and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) offer a convenient way to gain exposure to a variety of asset classes within a single investment. 

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