For an average investor, it is a difficult task to decide what securities to buy, how much to buy and when to sell. By buying a mutual fund, you acquire a professional fund manager who manages your money. This is the person who decides what to buy for you, when to buy it and when to sell. The fund manager takes these decisions after doing adequate research on the economy, industries and companies, before buying stocks or bonds. Most mutual fund companies charge a small fee for providing this service which is called the management fee.
Almost everyone can buy mutual funds. Even for a sum of Rs 1,000 an investor can invest in a mutual fund.
According to finance theory, when your investments are spread across several securities, your risk reduces substantially. A mutual fund is able to diversify more easily than an average investor across several companies, which an ordinary investor may not be able to do. With an investment of Rs 5000, you can buy stocks in some of the top Indian companies through a mutual fund, which may not be possible to do as an individual investor.
Unlike several other forms of savings like the public provident fund or National Savings Scheme, you can withdraw your money from a mutual fund on immediate basis.
Mutual funds have historically been more efficient from the tax point of view. A debt fund pays a dividend distribution tax of 12.5 per cent before distributing dividend to an individual investor or an HUF, whereas it is 20 per cent for all other entities. There is no dividend tax on dividends from an equity fund for individual investor.
Though one can invest in individual stocks directly, it is not a bad idea to invest some amount in mutual funds too.