Investing in ELSS – Growth, Dividend Payout or Dividend Reinvestment?

In response to one of my previous post about Tax Savings Mutual Fund (ELSS), I got a query – While investing in an ELSS which option should I choose – Growth, Dividend Payout or Dividend Reinvestment?

This is a question that haunts most of the new/ First time investors. Actually the problem is most of us don’t know the difference between Dividend paid by a Stock & the dividend paid by Mutual Fund. So let me explain this difference first by taking an example.

In the table below we have taken a hypothetical situation of Idea & Fidelity Tax Advantage Fund. Both of them declare dividend of 15% on face value.

Company/Mutual Fund NameIdea Cellular Ltd.Fidelity Tax Adv-D
Face Value of each Unit1010
Dividend Declaration (%)15%15%
Dividend (Rs) / unit1.51.5
Market Value (NAV) before Dividend Payout6016.51
Market Value (NAV) after Dividend Payout6016.51 – 1.5 = 15.01
Total Value of Investment +Gains60+1.5 = 61.515.01+1.5 = 16.51

As you can see the NAV of Fidelity Tax Advantage is reduced by the amount of Dividend paid by the fund. So in the end you don’t gain anything extra. It’s just your money paid back to you. While in case of Idea you make a gain of Rs. 1.5/share after dividend payout.

Unfortunately most Mutual Funds declare dividend just to attract investors, while truly speaking there’s no gain for investors.

Now that we are clear about Dividend – Let’s see which option is best suited for an Investor in ELSS. Usually if this question was asked for Regular Equity Funds, I would have straight forward recommended Growth Option. But ELSS is a bit different and slightly more complicated product. It has a locking period of 3 Years i.e. you cannot redeem your investment before completion of 3 years. Let’s see one by one what are the pros & cons of these 3 options.

Growth: Here you leave your money to grow and cash out anytime after 3 years. Here the advantage is: Your gains get accumulated till the end without any erosion. So you can get handsome return at end of 3 years. The disadvantage being: There is no cash flow from the investment for 3 years in terms of Dividend.

Dividend Options: There are two sub options in this case

Dividend Payout: In this case the dividend is paid in cash back to you. Here the advantage is: You get some cash flows from your investment before completion of 3 years. But this is unpredictable & erratic and is totally fund’s manager decision. The disadvantage being: The final value of investment gets eroded.

Dividend Reinvestment: In this case the dividend declared is used to buy more units of the same fund for you. But in ELSS the problem is every time a unit is purchased you can redeem it only after 3 years. So if you initially invested on 1st Jan 2010 and dividend is paid and reinvested on 1st Feb 2010 then you cannot redeem the dividend reinvestment units before 1st Feb 2013. This Dividend Reinvestment is considered at par with fresh purchase for all purposes. I don’t see any reason why anyone should choose this option.

To conclude:

I personally prefer Growth option for all my Mutual Fund Investments as it lets me build a sizeable corpus at the end without any erosion in between. Most of the times when we get dividend, we splurge it without even thinking of reinvesting.

But there may be situation where you need some cash flows from your investment and don’t want to wait for 3 years, then go for Dividend Payout. But always keep in mind the dividend declaration is totally fund manager’s prerogative. You cannot predict how much you would get and when. So it hardly helps!

8 thoughts on “Investing in ELSS – Growth, Dividend Payout or Dividend Reinvestment?”

  1. Can you please suggest some good mutual funds to invest in for 5 years? I am in the 30% tax bracket. Have invested 5k in Axis Bank long term fund and would like to invest in 4 more funds.


  2. Dear Amit,
    I invested 15K in 3 different Dividend ELSS MFs SBI, Sundaram & BSLI. Over 3.5 years post investment, I got total Dividend of 7.5K. NAV appreciation as on date is of 4.1K. Total gain is 11.6K, i.e. 77.8% over 15K of investment.
    However, from my 20K invested 2year before in HDFC growth ELSS MF, there was no dividend and NAV got depreciated by over 10%. There is a loss of over 2K.
    Dividend payout gives back you money which you can use or invest, however in the growth one, all your money is subject to market risk. Even if NAV is high at present, it may go down at any point of time.
    Kindly share your views.

    1. Yes with dividend option you take profits at various times, but the point is what you do with that money? As in your case did you invest the money back or it just vanished in regular expenses!
      With Growth option you get a lump sum and can plan for your goals. Also you can sell a part of your holding and en-cash in good times. Here at-least you can control the timing of redemption while in dividend option, its at fund’s manager discretion.
      As far as risk is concerned its inherent in equities 🙂

      1. I totally agree with you and this was helpful for me in deciding between Growth or Dividend option for my ELSS investment.

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