Hi fellow investors

Have you recently checked returns of debt investment options like Fixed deposits/Liquid Funds? I am sure you would have been very disappointed by the return numbers there.  The approx interest from some of the popular debt investments today are::

1. Overnight/Liquid Debt Funds (Up to 90 days): 3.5% - 4.0%
2. Short term Debt Funds (1-3 yrs): 5.5% - 6.5% 
3. Fixed Deposits (1-5 years): 5.5% - 6.5%
4. Bharat Bond ETF (5-year bond) - 5.46%
5. Public Provident Fund (PPF) (15 years) - 7.1%

Clearly, the returns have reduced by 3%-5% across different debts in the past few months and debt as an investment category doesn't look very attractive. With the latest inflation number hovering at 6%, our money invested in the above debt options barely covers the impact of inflation on our expenses.

What if I told you that there was an option to earn 8.5% per annum?

For salaried fellow investors, it is something you deal with every payslip; Employee Provident Fund (EPF), giving an interest rate of 8.5% (for FY 2020-21) which is not only risk free, but also tax free. 

How can you make the most of it? 

If you are a salaried individual and your company has a provident fund and you have not opted for EPF,  you could opt for it as in the current market scenario no other debt investment is giving returns as high as 8.5% p.a.

1. Maximize your EPF Limit 

 If you are just contributing only INR 1,800 (the minimum required under EPF rules) towards your EPF account, you could consider increasing it making it to 12% of your basic salary. That way you can make the full use of the EPF limit available to you.

2. Invest as VPF (Voluntary Provident Fund) 

Where you are already investing 12% of your Basic Salary towards EPF and want to invest more to earn 8.5% you have an option to increase your contribution in EPF by opting for VPF (Voluntary Provident Fund). You can invest an amount up to your entire 'Basic' salary with the EPFO and earn the same interest rate of 8.5%. Please note your employer is not obliged to match this higher contribution and hence, it is called a 'voluntary' provident fund.

Features of VPF that you must know of 

  • It will earn you the same interest as your EPF i.e. 8.5% per annum (currently)
  • It will have a lock-in period of 5 to 10 years but you can withdraw for some specific reasons. Check out when can you withdraw from your EPF here.
  • Your employer will not match the contribution of your VPF unlike EPF
  • our contribution to VPF is eligible for tax deduction under section 80C.
  • The interest earned from VPF would also be tax-free (provided it is not withdrawn within the first 5 years).

So, if you have funds that you want to invest in risk-free investments and can park it for a while, (EPF + VPF) is a good debt investment option and can be mapped to your retirement goal. 

How much should you invest in VPF?

We are not advising you to invest your entire salary as VPF and have no money to pay your bills or cover your short term goals. We also don't want you to miss out on your equity investments that result in wealth creation over the long run. You can compute how much to invest as your VPF as under:

For example, if your in-hand salary is INR 1,50,000 per month (A basic component of INR 50,000):  

  • 12% of your basic salary i.e. INR 6,000 would be invested as your EPF.
  • A matching amount of INR 6,000 will be contributed by your Employer.
  • If your monthly expenses are INR 100,000, you have a monthly savings of INR 62,000 (INR 50,000 + INR 12,000).

Now if you are looking to invest in VPF, the lower of the 2 parameters will help you compute the same.

Limit I: 
Not more than 40% of your total portfolio holding should be in illiquid investments (Know about the step-by-step process to withdraw your EPF). You can ensure this by not contributing more than 40% of your monthly savings towards Illiquid investments.
Accordingly, 40% of your savings (INR 62,000) will be INR 24,800 out of which INR 12,000 is already invested as EPF. So the balance you could additionally invest is INR 12,800 as per this.

Limit II: 
It should be considered as a part of the contribution you make towards your retirement goal. Now if your retirement goal requires you to invest 18,000 per month for the next 25 years to achieve your corpus to retire peacefully (based on Wealth Cafe Investing tool) and you are already investing INR 12,000 from the EPF, then only the balance of INR 6,000 should be invested towards VPF.

Limit III:
You are already investing INR 12,000 towards EPF. A maximum of another INR 38,000 can be invested by you in VPF.

Based on the above limits, INR 12,800 or INR 6,000 or INR 38,000 whichever is lower can be additionally invested in your VPF.

For simplicity sake, the above computation assumes that you are not investing your money in any other illiquid investments and are not saving for your retirement in any fund apart from EPF and VPF. If you are doing so, the amount invested in that could be reduced from the amount arrived at in Limit I & II above.

Another advantage of using the VPF route is that it is invested directly from your salary and then the balance salary comes to you, ensuring the consistency of your investments. 

Do review your numbers and you will have to contact your HR/accounts team to start contributing to VPF. Let us know if you have any questions about this in the comments section of our blog.

Disclaimer: - The articles are for information purposes only. Information presented is general information that does not take into account your individual circumstances, financial situation, or needs, nor does it present a personalized recommendation to you. You must consult a financial advisor who understands your specific circumstances and situation before taking an investment decision.