If you belong to the same generation as me (born in mid-late 80s), then chances are that you would have heard about NSCs, but would not have invested in them. But if you are of a generation prior to me, then chances are high that some of your money might be invested in this instrument.
NSC stands for National Savings Certificates. These are reliable, tax efficient (tax exempt under section 80C) and guaranteed by the govt. You can read more about it here.
National Savings Certificate
So why is it that my generation is neglecting this instrument?
The main reason behind this is instrument’s so called ‘lower returns’. Lower when compared to more glamorous returns claimed by riskier ones like equities, mutual funds and ULIPs. Returns offered by NSC are between 8.5% and 8.8% depending on the flavour (5 year or 10 year) you chose. But since interest is calculated six monthly, the effective rate ranges between 8.78% and 9.00%. And that is not all. Investment in NSC can be claimed as a deduction under Section 80C. Also, the interest income is tax-exempted. So returns are much higher than what it seems at first glance. And these are assured returns with almost no risk, unless the govt. decides to default. 🙂
But there is another problem with NSCs. These instruments have a lock-in of 5 years and 10 years. Now this is an extremely long period for our impatient generation. But there is a way in which this lock-in can be managed in a way that an investor receives some money at the end of every year. The approach which I’ll discuss increases the liquidity of NSCs, with a little help from Fixed Deposits. This approach reduces the return a little. But that is a price we need to pay for increased liquidity. 🙂
I’ll refer to this approach as the NSC-LADDER. We use NSCs and Bank Fixed Deposits (for initial period of the strategy) in this approach. So here it goes…
Suppose at the start of time (Year 0), you have Rupees One Lac (Rs 1,00,000) to invest. Though you are ready to invest for long term, you are not very comfortable with the lock-in of 5 years (or 10 years) and want to invest (safely) in some (reliable) instruments which have some amount of liquidity. The interest rates on NSC & FDs of different tenures is as follows –
Interest Rates – NSC & Fixed Deposits
You start by dividing this one lac into five parts of Rs 20,000 each. You invest first in a bank FD with maturity period of One Year. Invest the second in a FD of 2 Years, third for 3 years, fourth for 4 years and finally fifth for 5 years.
After this, what happens is that you receive maturity amounts from respective FDs at the end of first, second, third, fourth and fifth year. The maturity proceeds are in turn invested in 5 year NSCs starting from start of Year 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
NSC Ladder : Click to enlarge
This is what exactly happens –
1st Tranche: Invested Rs 20,000 in FD for One Year – Received Rs 21,600 at end of Year 1 – This sum is invested in NSC for 5 Years – Received Rs 32,750 at end of Year 6.
2nd Tranche: Invested Rs 20,000 in FD for Two Years – Received Rs 23,545 at end of Year 2 – This sum is invested in NSC for 5 Years – Received Rs 35,699 at end of Year 7.
3rd Tranche: Invested Rs 20,000 in FD for Three Years – Received Rs 25,901 at end of Year 3 – This sum is invested in NSC for 5 Years – Received Rs 39,271 at end of Year 8.
4th Tranche: Invested Rs 20,000 in FD for Four Years – Received Rs 28,232 at end of Year 4 – This sum is invested in NSC for 5 Years – Received Rs 42,805 at end of Year 9.
5th Tranche: Invested Rs 20,000 in FD for Five Years – Received Rs 30,073 at end of Year 5 – This sum is invested in NSC for 5 Years – Received Rs 45,597 at end of Year 10.
As illustrated above, you keep receiving maturity proceeds at the end of year 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. These proceeds in turn can be reinvested in further NSCs of five years, maturing at end of year 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. This system creates a Ladder-like System, where every year there is a payout. Our initial concern was that NSCs have a long maturity period with long lock-ins. This results in money getting stuck and reduction in liquidity. But this LADDER approach addresses this concern and generates cash (maturity proceeds) at the end of each year.
Money available at end of each year : Click to enlarge
Now, you can continue this ladder for as long as you like and see the magic of compounding take shape. I know it is tough to plan for 10-15 years. But here, the best part is that once you have invested Rs 1,00,000 in first year, it keeps on rolling without any further investments. Also, interest earned by NSC in first 4 years is tax exempt as it is reinvested and paid out only once at maturity. So tax benefits are immense.
So, is this product for everyone?
No. It is for those who believe in long term wealth building using stable, reliable and risk free instruments. NSC can be one of the instruments if you want to diversify your portfolio.
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