What is a step-up or top-up option in mutual fund investments and how to calculate returns?

The step-up or top-up facility offered by mutual funds allows investors to increase their SIP investment amount at pre-defined intervals. This helps counter the negative effects of inflation and lets investors build their corpus faster. 

What is a step-up SIP?

A step-up SIP allows investors to gradually increase their SIP installment amount by a fixed predefined amount, usually on an annual basis. 

For example, if an investor starts an SIP of ₹5,000 per month in an equity fund, they can opt for a step-up of ₹1,000 per year. So, in the second year the SIP amount increases to ₹6,000, in the third year it becomes ₹7,000 and so on. The incremental amount can also be a percentage rather than a fixed rupee amount.

Benefits of a step-up SIP

  1. Combats Inflation – A step-up SIP ensures your investment amount increases with inflation every year, maintaining the purchasing power.
  2. Boosts Investments – It disciplines investors to invest higher amounts each year, which speeds up wealth creation through the power of compounding.
  3. Rupee Cost Averaging – Increasing installments allow investors to buy more units when the market falls and vice versa, reducing risk.
  4. Flexibility – Investors can choose the step-up amount and even pause step-ups for a year if required. 

How a step-up SIP beats traditional SIP?

Let’s say an investor saves ₹5,000 per month through SIP in an equity fund that gives 12% annual returns. With a traditional SIP, the monthly investment remains the same over the years.

But if they opted for a step-up SIP with ₹1,000 annual increase, the monthly investment amount rises by ₹1,000 every year. 

After 10 years, the traditional SIP corpus grows to ₹11.25 lakhs. But with step-up SIP, the corpus would grow to ₹13.5 lakhs, a good 20% higher!

This example demonstrates the power of step-up SIP in growing your mutual fund investments.

Calculating returns from step-up SIP

You can use online step-up SIP calculators to estimate maturity returns from step-up SIPs. 

Simply input details like starting SIP amount, step-up details, investment tenure and expected return to get the maturity amount. 

For example, for a ₹25,000 initial SIP with a ₹5,000 annual step-up at 10% expected return for 5 years, the corpus is ₹19.68 lakhs.

You can also do a manual calculation using the Future Value formula in Excel:

FV = Regular SIP Amount x ((1+Annual Return)^Number of Years – 1) / (1+Annual Return – Step Up Return)

Here, the step-up return is the incremental percentage increase in the SIP amount every year. 

For the above example: 

FV = 25,000 x ((1+0.1)^5 – 1) / (1+0.1 – 0.2) = ₹19.68 lakhs

The second part of the formula (1+ step up return) accounts for the yearly SIP increase.

Step-up SIPs help investors counter inflation and accelerate their wealth creation by systematically increasing investments. Calculate maturity values accurately to estimate the benefit of opting for this facility.

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