We assess where the rate cycle stands, the FD options you have, and what your FD strategy should now be.
With popular NBFCs such as Sundaram Finance, HDFC and Bajaj Finance revising their deposit rates in the past year, FD investors can finally look forward to better returns, after a long drought. Rising demand for loans in an improving economy, is forcing NBFCs to compete actively for deposits once again, prompting even top-rated ones to roll out deposit schemes for longer tenures of 4 to 5 years with ‘special’ rates. Sundaram Home Finance is offering 7.65% on its 4-year FD and HDFC has a special offer of 7.6% running its 45-month Sapphire Deposit scheme.
But are these rates special enough for you to lock in your money for longer tenures of 4 or 5 years?
It is the fashion for personal finance gurus and social media influencers to begin their talks by dissing FDs. FDs are dumb investments, they say, before urging you to migrate to equities, or exotic things like options trading or covered bonds.
But the humble fixed deposit can serve a very useful purpose in your portfolio by acting as a source of ready liquidity and acting as a bedrock for your safe money. That’s why we have Prime Deposits, our list of FD recommendations. It is quite possible to generate positive real returns on your FDs through an active strategy. But can an active strategy really go with FDs? Of course! Here’s how you can do it.
Some folks still have a fatal fascination for ‘better-than-FD’ returns advertised by unregulated entities – whether it is cryptocurrency exchanges offering interest rates of 12-14% on staking one’s crypto holdings, or peer-to-peer lending platforms promising you a 14% return from becoming part of a lending club. Informal entities ranging from unregistered chit funds run to the street corner jeweller tempt you to ‘deposit’ money with them promising high returns.
If you are an NRI, the chances are that you usually keep an eye out for places to park your surplus earnings in India that are safe, will protect you from exchange rate changes and fetch a respectable return. You probably already have NRE deposits and FCNR(B) deposits, the bank FD equivalents for NRIs. But did you know that there have been recent regulatory relaxations by RBI that give you a window of opportunity to lock into higher rates on these tried and tested savings tools? Here is a closer look.
“When facts change, it is best to change your mind.” It is not clear if this pragmatic statement was made by John Maynard Keynes or Winston Churchill. But it definitely applies to the world of investing where one needs to scout for the best opportunities after factoring in constantly changing asset prices, interest rates, macroeconomic conditions and regulations.
Covid or no Covid, stock markets in the last six months have been quite kind to equity investors. But debt investors have had no such luck. Even though India’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has been in pause mode since June after slashing its repo rate from 5.4% to 4% in the preceding eight months, the returns that savers get on their bank and corporate FDs, bonds and debt funds have continued to plumb new depths.
These are extraordinary times for fixed income investors. Interest rates, after recent rate cuts by the MPC, are ruling at lows not seen in the last two decades. The repo rate of 4.4% today is even below levels seen during the global financial crisis. Keeping all this in mind, we have made significant changes to our curated list of deposits. Here are the three key sets of changes to the list and why we made them.