Debt funds generate income by investing in fixed-income securities, government and corporate bonds, treasury bills, commercial paper, certificates of deposit and other money market instruments. Though debt funds are less risky than equity funds, they must be chosen wisely to generate good returns.

Here’s how you can pick the right debt fund for your portfolio:

Understand Your Investment Horizon and Risk Appetite

Invest in direct mutual funds

  • Enjoy 0% commission
  • SIP starting at ₹500

Before understanding where to invest, an individual should first understand his/her personal investment goals, i.e., when the funds will be needed and his / her risk-taking capacity.  On the basis of these parameters, you can decide which debt fund to invest in for how long, when do you need that investment and what are your return expectations. This is where knowing the different types of debt funds comes in to play.

Know About the Different Types Of Debt Funds

Even though debt funds are less risky than equity funds, the subcategories of debt funds have varying risk levels and investment duration. Hence just knowing that you want to allocate a certain sum of money to debt funds will not suffice. You also need to look at the different types of debt funds available. 

For example, credit risk funds are considered riskier than liquid funds under the same debt fund category. Because of such differences, you must know about the different types of debt funds available.

Debt funds invest in bonds issued by companies and governments, which may either be categorised based on maturity tenure or the nature of the bond.

Here are the different types of debt funds as categorised by the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

Debt funds Underlying Security
Overnight funds Overnight  securities with a maturity of 1 day
Liquid funds Debt    and  money market  securities  with  maturity  of up to 91 days
Ultra-short duration funds Investment in debt and money market instruments with a Macaulay duration between 3 and 6 months
Short duration funds Investment in debt and money market instruments with a Macaulay duration between  1 and 3 years
Long Duration Fund Investment in Debt & Money Market Instruments with a Macaulay duration of more than 7 years
Dynamic Bond Fund Investing across duration
Credit risk funds 65% minimum  investment  in  corporate bonds – (investment  in low  rated instruments)
Gilt fund 80% minimum investment in government securities (across maturity) 
Banking and PSU Funds 80% minimum     investment     in     debt

instruments of banks, public sector undertakings, public financial institutions

Corporate bond funds 80% minimum  investment  in  corporate bonds  (only  in highest rated instruments)
This is not an exhaustive list of debt fund categories. This is also not a recommendation that one should invest in only these debt funds. Please research well before investing.

Read More on Groww: Debt Funds

Quick Take: What is Macaulay Duration?

Macaulay duration is a measure of how long it takes for the price of a bond to be repaid by its internal cash flows. It is used only for a debt instrument with fixed cash flows.

Know About The Nature Of Different Debt Funds

Debt funds are considered less risky than equity funds. Amongst the debt funds, liquid funds have a very low risk, while Gilt Funds & Bond/Income Funds are riskier. Further, investors should also consider the credit rating given by credit rating agencies – which ranges from AAA+ to D, AAA+ being the highest. 

In simple words, a fund with a higher rating is safer than a fund with a lower rating. Funds with lower ratings tend to offer higher interest rates. Risk and returns go in opposite directions. While a high returning instrument will be risky, a low returning one mostly has a moderate risk profile. 

Hence, it is essential to keep in mind your risk appetite before investing in a debt fund.

Beware Of Risks Involved in Investing In a Debt Fund:

There are 2 significant risks involved while investing in a debt mutual fund – interest rate risk and credit risk.

Interest rate risk is the risk of fluctuation of the interest rate. Interest rate and Net Asset Value (NAV) are inversely related, i.e., if the interest rate increases, NAV falls and vice versa. The interest rate risk mostly does not impact the immediate short term funds but impacts the NAV of long duration funds.

Credit risk is the risk that the fund may not pay on time. Credit rating agencies like CRISIL and ICRA give ratings to mutual funds. Credit ratings keep on changing from time to time. For example, if the fund holds papers downgraded by the market, the fund may also get a lower credit rating and consequently a lower NAV.  


You need to diversify your investments to get the best of everything. A suitable exposure to equities may help in adding that extra zing to your portfolio in terms of long term capital appreciation. A 100% allocation in any single category of funds, be it debt or equity, can be detrimental.

Key Takeaways

  1. Choose a debt fund whose duration matches your financial needs. 
  2. Liquid and overnight funds carry the lowest credit risk, ultra short term to short term funds are moderately riskier, and the long duration funds carry the highest risk amongst the debt funds. 
  3. Ratings provided by the credit rating agencies must be a guiding factor. 
  4. Higher AUM of a debt fund indicates good public response and success of a debt fund.
  5. A fund with a longer weighted average maturity is riskier than a fund with a lower weighted average maturity. 

General FAQs About Choosing the Right Debt Fund

  • Can I choose a debt fund solely based on its AUM?

The answer is no. Let’s assume that an individual finds that ABC Fund has a huge AUM and a credit rating of AAA+. However, the fund has a very high weighted average maturity. It means that the ABC Fund holds many long-term investments and may be subject to interest rate fluctuations in the long term. If the individual does not wish to take that risk, he may decide to go for a lower weighted average maturity fund. Also, deciding where to invest solely based on one factor can be misleading.

  • Why does the NAV rise when the interest rate is falling?

When the interest rates are falling, investors will flock to invest in funds that hold debt papers of a longer maturity at high interest rates, and consequently, the NAV of that debt fund would rise. In a reverse situation of rising interest rates, the NAV of a debt fund would reduce.


Investment in securities market are subject to market risks, read all the related documents carefully before investing. Please read the Risk Disclosure documents carefully before investing in Equity Shares, Derivatives, Mutual fund, and/or other instruments traded on the Stock Exchanges. As investments are subject to market risks and price fluctuation risk, there is no assurance or guarantee that the investment objectives shall be achieved. NBT do not guarantee any assured returns on any investments. Past performance of securities/instruments is not indicative of their future performance.