Are ELSS investments entirely risk-free?

Equity Linked Savings Scheme, widely popular among Indian investors as ELSS is the only mutual fund scheme that comes with a tax benefit. ELSS can be considered as a modern investment tool to save tax and earn capital appreciation over the long term. Earlier, the Indian investors had only conservative tax saving schemes to choose from. These conservative tax saving instruments came with a lengthy lock-in periods. Furthermore, the interest rates that these schemes offered was always on the low end. With such low fixed interest rates, one might fall short of achieving their life’s long term financial goals. But thanks to the introduction of ELSS, investors can now expect high capital appreciation. Also, ELSS comes with a short lock in period. ELSS fund investors cannot redeem or withdraw their funds for a minimum period of 36 months from the date of investments. That’s because ELSS comes with a predetermined lock in period of 3 years. Having said that, this is probably the shortest lock in as compared to other tax saving instruments.

In order to understand how ELSS works here’s an example:

Madhavi Mehta is a data scientist with a gross annual income of Rs. 12.75 lakhs. This lands Madhavi in the 30 percent tax slab. After learning from her HR that she needs to submit tax investment proof, Madhavi decides to invest Rs. 1.5 lakhs in ELSS fund. According to Section 80C of the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961 one can invest up to Rs. 1.5 lakhs in ELSS and claim tax deductions for the same. Thus, by investing in ELSS, Madhavi’s gross taxable income has come down to Rs. 11.25 lakhs. Thanks to ELSS, she was able to bring down her tax liability.

Things to consider before investing in ELSS. Are ELSS risk free?

ELSS is an equity oriented scheme which means the fund predominantly invests (minimum 80 percent) in company stocks and other equity related instruments. Thus, one can say the ELSS is a high risk portfolio carry mutual fund scheme. However, every scheme carries some amount of risk with also. Also, if you are investor with a short term investment horizon then you might be exposing your finances to market’s volatile nature. Mutual funds like equity funds tend to get affected by daily market fluctuations. However, over the long term these investments have shown positive outcome. If you invest in ELSS with a long term investment horizon, not only will you have to not worry about the market vagaries, but your investments might also succeed in overcoming inflation. 

However, before investing in this tax saver fund it is better that you determine your risk appetite. You can even consult a mutual fund expert or a financial advisor who might be able to help you determine whether you hold the appetite for risk for investing in ELSS. There are multiple ways to invest in ELSS. You can either make a onetime lumpsum investment or you can opt for a SIP. A lumpsum investment in ELSS is made by deciding an amount and investing this amount right at the beginning of the investment cycle. SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) on the other hand, gives investors an opportunity to make small investments at regular intervals.  Opting for a SIP in ELSS with a long term investment horizon can even reduce the overall risk of the investment. Every month on a fixed date, a predetermined amount will be debited from the investor’s savings account and electronically transferred to the ELSS fund. This allow minimum exposure to market risk as compared to lumpsum investment.

Although ELSS investments aren’t risk free, they do offer a tax benefit and capital appreciation over the long term.