Direct Mutual Fund Investors and Dunning–Kruger effect

Yesterday I received a mail from one of a blog reader requesting me to review his equity portfolio. He started investing from February 2016. All his investments are in DIRECT Funds. This motivated me to write the post.

Before proceeding further, I want to make sure that I am not against DIRECT MUTUAL FUNDS or DIY (Do It Yourself) theory.

I want to link few of these direct mutual fund investors or DIY theory followers to Dunning-Kruger effect. Because these few investors are exactly doing of what it is said Dunning-Kruger effect. Let us know what this effect is.

Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias theory where unskilled persons suffer from illusory superiority. They try to mistake in assessing their ability. This is one part of this effect. This I purely relate to a DIRECT Mutual Fund Investor.

Further, this theory suggests that highly skilled individuals may underestimate the relative competence and may wrongly assume that the tasks, which are easy for them, are also easy for OTHERS. This I purely relate to a few who are EXPERT but assuming others can also do it easily by investing in DIRECT mutual funds.

The miscalibration of an investor about his ability is an error about SELF. However, the miscalibration of an expert is about others. Investors’ miscalibration is natural, he looks for an expert advice, and he simply follows. However, the danger is when an expert advice so easily that others can also be followed by what he is following. It sometimes leads to a disaster.

This Dunning-Kruger effect was inspired by a study, which is explained in Wikipedia as “McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras.”

Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will do as follows-

  • Fail to recognize their own lack of skills-This means you don’t have the skill of understanding how mutual fund investments work or how to identify the right funds. However, you act like an expert and invest in DIRECT Mutual Funds.
  • Fail to recognize their extent of inadequacy- They don’t know what they are doing. They don’t the repercussions of such blind act. However, they ACT.
  • Fail to recognize genuine skill in others-Investors just follow few experts who preach DIRECT funds or promoter of DIY theory. However, fail to understand that they suite to it or not.
  • Recognize their own lack of skill after exposing-They realize their lack of knowledge only after the act turned to be a disaster.

Why I linked this theory to this above-mentioned new investor?Dunning-Kruger Effect

Because I felt and I firmly believe that the above reader of whom I mentioned above  decided to invest in mutual funds on his own. Saving penny of a commission was in his mind. However, he don’t know of what he is doing and where he is heading. Suddenly, after the investments, he felt uneasy due to negative returns in his portfolio.

Within a month of equity investments, he is turning to be so over-reacting means how can he be long-term investor. Choosing online platform is the best for all gadget savvy investors. I completely support that. However, failing to know of what they are doing or acting with overconfidence leads to danger.

Mr.A may be experts in managing his own money. He may preach to all. However, investors must think about whether they are capable like Mr.A to act, monitor, be patience or adjusted for volatility. I feel it a herd mentality. If one preaches direct funds or DIY theory and he is expert means following blindly of him. If he is investing in XYZ fund means I too invest. If he possesses negative view about ABC fund means I too must have same view. I may say madness at its peak.

At the same time, I am not at all against Direct Mutual Funds or DIY theory. I always suggest my clients or readers to take control of their money today or tomorrow. This is the only solution in this financial world. Because at the end of the day it is your money, you know the risk, you know your goals, you know how much important each rupee is. But not the expert or your fellow friend who is investing in direct funds or following DIY theory.

First, understand your limitations. If you are capable of handling your portfolio, then I will suggest of going for DIRECT or follow DIY theory. Otherwise, simply take an advice of adviser whom you believe can handhold you in long run. Remember the point here that finding a right adviser is also the toughest task on this earth. Be cautious, test his each suggestion, cross-question each recommendation, and finally invest after better understanding. This is the only solution to invest and learn your money properly.

We don’t know when we need money. We don’t know our financial goals. But eager to invest in Mutual Funds. I often face the questions like “I am interested to invest in mutual fund for the period of 5-10 years. Hence, recommend me some BEST funds”. Sadly, they don’t know that 5-10 years is a big gap of 5 years. Investing for 5 years has been different than investing for 10 years. Understand yourself first is a first step of investment. Rest of the calculation, choosing products monitoring will come into picture at a later stage.

Again, I am finally repeating and stressing, if you are capable then go for DIRECT or DIY theory. Otherwise, a big NO.

97 Responses

  1. Hi sir,
    thank you for all the effort you have put in. I have been reading ur blogs and other stuff and started investing in Mfs for past 2 months.

    below is the SIP plan for 15 years equity for my goal. Have Debt in PPf and EPf.

    franklin bluechip growth direct – Rs.6000/month
    HDfc mid cap opp fund growth direct – Rs.3000/month (yet to start)
    franklin smaller companies fund growth Direct – Rs.1000/month (yet to start).

    Please suggest if the above is fine to proceed.
    Also is it ok to have same AMC in the portfolio ? (Read in a blog that different AMCs and fund managers should be chosen)

      1. thanks a lot for the prompt reply.Do you have any blog posts for referring about methods/steps for reviewing the portfolio.
        Will be much helpful.


  3. I am an NRI 47yrs.accidentally hit your blog almost 1.5yrs back, since then regular visitor.
    I did build my profile. kindly advice if anything to add or delete.
    HDFC balanced fund – 4k SIP
    Tata balanced fund – 4K SIP
    HDFC banking and PSU debt -3k
    And HDFC balanced 5 lac lump sum.
    I did buy a health cover from Star this vacation in July, ICICI term and have PPF 2k monthly. This was done by reading comment sections and my earlier queries with you. All this done during this july/august vacation.
    My time horizon is minimum 9 years(my SIP contribution ) & I stay invested until my kids requirement for their education(10&13yrs.age)
    Therefore my questions are
    1) These funds are enough or need to add more to create 15-20 lac sum in9-10 years, if possible I will top up whenever possible.
    2) If unable to continue SIP say after 5 years but stay invested for 10 years without redeeming it will that money grow or better to invest somewhere else
    I kindly seek your valuable advice

    1. Ben-1) Retain one balanced fund. Also, you have debt exposure already in balanced funds (35%), then I don’t think you need HDFC Banking and PSU Debt and also PPF. A single HDFC or Tata Balanced Fund is enough.
      2) You can continue in same even after 5 years (if you are unable to continue).

  4. Hi Basavaraj

    I am having an excess money of 15K per month. I am looking to invest some portion of my excess money for buying my car.
    Car in 5 yrs — 9.5L

    I appreciate your help if you can guide me on how to invest wrt this goal

  5. Dear Sir

    I’ve been investing in the following funds since 2015 September

    1. SIP of 2500 in SBI Magnum Balanced Fund Regular Growth
    2. SIP of 1000 in ICICI Value Discovery Fund Direct Growth

    I’ve some queries that needs your advice , investment duration is in between 7 to 12 years

    1. is it a right Investment Ratio , ie Equity : Debt ? if wrong please advice so that I can modify accordingly
    2. Do I need to keep a Large Cap or a Small and Midcap fund too ?

    your immediate response is highly appreciated

    Thanks in advance

      1. Dear Sir
        I’m an NRI, and currently I’m on my vacations and this is the right time to review the funds and performances. Also I got to see some queries regarding the equity: debt ratio.

        Within this short period of time I would also like to invest either in a large cap or small and mid cap fund.

        Would you clarify my queries?

  6. Awesome work and enjoyed reading your articles.
    I am 33 year old married with 2 year old son and having term insurance 50 lakh and 3 lakh health insurance for family
    Currently I hold 5 mutual funds namely HDFC prudence, HDFC top 200, ICICI focused blue-chip, reliance small cap and reliance tax saver fund investing 2k each per month. Please advise is the MF allocation is proper or do I need to modify focusing my sons education and his marriage.
    Also currently I am living on rent and want to save some money for my house purchase and initial installment. And I can add another 10K in MF. Please advise and suggest where and which is the best way to invest and allocate money for future financial security

    1. Vika-Where is your debt portfolio for kid’s education and marriage goal? Also, why you are holding two funds (HDFC Top 200 and ICICI)? Retain one. Without knowing when you need money for house, it is hard for me to guide.

  7. Sir,

    1] My age is 23 and i would like to start an SIP of 3000/ month for a period of 3 years, the amount generated after 3 years is to be used for purchase of my first car [down-payment]. kindly suggest me schemes for the stated SIP amount.

    2] Further i have surplus 15000 at present and i would like to invest it in debt/ liquid MF Scheme for 6 months. i am planning to use this fund for my vacation trip in Feb, 2017. kindly suggest me MF scheme for the same, or any other alternative that you deem fit.

    kindly advise.

  8. I had invested 2,193/- in Reliance Diversified Power Sector Fund – Retail Plan (Bonus) on 06/09/13. Now the fund value is 4,146/-

    Note: Actually in 2010 , I had invested 5000 in Reliance Infra fund which eventually saw losses.So Reliance merged its Infra fund with Power fund around 06/09/13 with a value of 2,193/- whose value is now 4,146

    Should I keep this fund or withdraw. Any other fund that I invest in?

  9. Hi Suresh

    I am 29 Years old and I invest 7000/- per month in SIP out of which I invest 80% in Mid and Small Cap funds and 20% in Large Cap funds.

    I want to add 2000/- more in SIP but I am confused whether I should invest in Large Cap(SBI Blue Chip) or Diversified Equity (SBI Magnum Multi Cap) Category?

    I have moderate Risk appetite and can keep investing this sum for 4-5 Years.

    I want your suggestion from the diversification point of view.

      1. I have reaped reasonable benefits in past 4-5 years but I agree that since it is market driven , this can not hold true always.

        If I increase the time span little longer to 7-8 Years , can you please suggest me on the diversification?


  10. Hello Sir,
    Requesting to review my MF portfolio.My investment horizon is long term >15 years .

    One time investment in ELSS funds –
    1.ICICI Prudential Top 100 Fund – Growth – 22,000
    2.ICICI Prudential Long Term Equity Fund (Tax Saving) – Direct Plan – Growth -25,000

    Ongoing SIP of 5000 each per month from past 15 months
    1. ICICI Prudential Focused Bluechip Equity Fund – Growth
    2. ICICI Prudential Value Discovery Fund -Growth

    I have additional investment bandwidth of around 20-30 thousand per month.Should I increase SIP contributions for existing funds or add new fund ?

    1. Nidhi-ICICI Pru Top 100 is not ELSS fund. The current SIP funds are enough of equity. But where is debt portfolio? If your tenure is 15 years, then I suggest PPF. Manage debt to equity in the ratio of 30:70.

      1. Basavaraj – Thank you for the reply.
        Yes I made the mistake while writing, ICICI Pru Top 100 is not ELSS fund.
        I forgot to mention have been making contributions in PPF as part of debt portfolio.
        And as you observed “The current SIP funds are enough..” Should I up the SIP contribution in existing funds or add 1-2 additional funds ?

  11. Dear Mr Basavaraj,

    I am 35 yrs old and investing @ Rs 1000 pm in the following SIPs since last 2-3 years

    1. HDFC Top 200 Fund
    2. HDFC Mid Cap Fund
    3. HDFC Small & Mid Cap Fund
    4. ICICI Prudential Long Term Equity Fund &
    5. SBI Magnum Global Fund.

    These were suggested by one of my colleague and bank relationship manager.

    Now, my goal is long term investment for a period of 15-16 years considering my son’s education. Considering this please share your view on the above fund and some other option as I am planning to increase the SIP to Rs. 8000 pm.

    Thanks and regards,

      1. Dear Mr Basavaraj,

        Regarding debt portfolio I have already started regular investment in PPF and yearly lump-sum on NSC for tax saving purpose. As such till date i have not invested in any Debt Mutual Funds.

        And yes, true the person is form HDFC.

        Please share your view / suggestion on the funds so that I can give a second thought on that and plan according for the future investment.

        Thanks and regards,

  12. Hi Basavaraj,

    Just came across your blog. I found it very informative and i find you very responsive to all the queries posted here. Keep up the good work.

    Regarding this post, even my self decided to go with direct option for my mutual fund investment which i just started this month.

    Right now I have started SIPS on following direct funds.

    1. DSP blackrock microcap (10k) (Small cap)
    2. ICICI value discovery (10k) (multi cap)

    I am planning to take one more from following ones.

    1. Frontline india smaller companies (Small and mid)
    2. Birla frontline equity ( Large cap)
    2. SBI blueship (large cap)

    Please let me know your thoughts on my fund selection. I am planning to continue these funds 3-5 years.


      1. Thanks Basavaraj for the quick response. I am looking these funds for long term investment only. I do understand the risk involved in the above funds.

        Please provide your inputs on above fund selection and also let me know if you have any suggestions on the fund selection.


            1. Kotesh-In that case two funds in equity category are enough like one large cap and one small and mid cap fund. You can use PPF or short term or ultra short term debt funds for debt. Keep 60:40 ratio in equity:debt.

              1. Thanks for your response. I do understand the importance of contigency fund and debt funds required for immediate future. Any specific fund suggestion in large cap space?

                1. Brila frontline equity
                2. SBI blueship
                3.Escorts Leading Sectors Fund


  13. hello Sir

    I am 38 now and investing in SIP as below

    Rs.1000 in UTI MNC FUND GROWTH – from July 2013
    Rs.1000 in FRANKLIN INDIA PRIMA FUND GR – From June -2014
    Rs.1800 in EPF – from 2012.

    Advice me whether above combination will give me a better result. And I had a plan to invest another Rs.1000 in SIP by coming month – so advice me a good and safe fund.

    Had a plan to continue it for another 15 Years. Is possible for you to predict how much will be i get after 15 years ie 2030 by investment wise 1. UTI 2. FRANKLIN 3 EPF.


      1. Sir, select the same with getting advice from one of consultant, in my town, because i had no idea about it and all.


          1. Dear Sir

            Pls suggest one or two best large cap fund ( debt fund
            ) for me to invest Rs.500/- monthly.


              1. Dear Sir

                Just you informed that manage 30% in deb fund, so advice me a good debt fund for Rs.500/- monthly SIP.


  14. Hi Basavaraj,

    Came across your blog for the first time today and must say it is quite informative. I had been in equities many years back but lack of much experience bumped me back in 2008. My emphasis over last few years had been to invest for my home and am coming back to markets after a long time (probably mutual funds for the first time).

    I am 39 now and looking to save for three purposes
    – for my son who is six years old. Need to build a education corpus and time horizon 11 – 12 years.
    – for my daughter education corpus and time horizon is about 16-17 years
    – for my retirement life (time horizon 15 – 16 years)

    Saw your views about the growth funds in both blue chip and mid caps. Would really appreciate if you can suggest may be two funds for each objective.



  15. Hi Basu,
    I Can invest 5K/month for next 5 years. Please suggest the best ELSS and non ELSS funds in which I can invest to get maximum returns. Also should I go in for SIP(5K) or 60,000(which I can manage) in one go?


  16. Hi Basu,
    Could share your ideas about NCDs. I like to invest in muthoot finance NCDs. But dont know how to invest. Is it possible to invest via MFUtiities. Or Demat account is mandatory. ? Is there any “direct” funda like in Mutual fund for NCDs.

  17. Hi Basavaraj,

    If i want to invest SIP for a period of 30years (3k for first 10y, 5k for next 10years & 8k for last 10years ), then is it a good idea to invest in one single fund or move to different MF after regular intervals?

    This is the investment for my pension purpose so I dont want to redeem it unless it is very much required.

    Important Point: I am not depending on this investment before I retire.

    Other than above planning Investment I am already investing 10k per month in ratio of 50:50 (equity:debt) for different intermediate purposes.
    I own a house, vehicle etc. & have term insurance, medical insurance etc. so no big goals till 2036.

  18. Hi Basavaraj,

    I want to invest 1 lakh in Tax saving Elss funds for the year 2016.

    Iam investing in the following funds

    1. Axis LT equity fund – direct – 50k
    2. Franklin india tax shield – 50k

    Please suggest me if ican proceed….

    And also iahve one basic but important query, Plez answer this as well.

    I have seen every year, your posting top equity fund to invest in 2015, 2016 etc…
    but if i invest in on XYZ fund in 2015 suggested by you and u have removed that fund in the following year… Then what should i do? should i do redemption and invest in that new fund????
    if so, but u have said we need to invest in mfs for atleast 10 yrs?.. Please explain..

    plz reply……..


    1. Ram-Go ahead. You notice that I hardly change the stance. Also, you are investing in ELSS funds which comes with 3 years lock-in. So even if I change my stance on funds, you can’t change it. Don’t worry go ahead. But maintain proper equity:debt portfolio.

      1. hi basavaraj,

        for ELSS i cannot change, i nderstand that…

        But for normal equity funds should i change the funds ?

        THanks, Ram

  19. Hi,

    Thank you for your blogs, i want to invest 15000 per month for next 8 years. can you please suggest where and how to invest.

  20. Your headline is misleading – you are making it look like *all* direct MF investors are clueless. The point you are making has nothing to do with direct investing in fact, it is about the ignorance of the investor whether he invests in direct or through some agent. The article seems to make direct investing a stupid thing, which is NOT the case.

    1. Jaydeep-It is your point of view. I never said DIRECT investment is wrong. What I am pointing is, if you are informed investor then definitely go ahead for DIRECT. Also, headline not mentions ALL. Just to avoid the dust, I clearly mentioned it that I am not against DIRECT investors.

      1. Even if the investor chooses to avail the services of a financial planner isn’t it better to use Direct option & pay the planner separately for his services?

        The expense ratio for Regular vs Direct is too much to be ignored.

  21. sir,

    1. i want to invest in small cap funds (i also have my investments in large and mid cap), which one is better way: either put 2k in reliance small cap or 1k in reliance small cap & 1k in DSP BR micro cap fund ???

    2. should i invest in multicap/diversified fund or just put my money in large , mid & small cap??

    what is your call??

    thanks in advance

  22. Dear Mr. Basu,
    Coming back to you after a long gap.
    We have seen market correcting, FIIs pulling out etc, etc. and the FY comes to an end with HOPE.
    I want to put 40k every month starting April 2016 for a period of 5 years for my daughter’s higher education.
    This is in addition to my committed investment of 150000 in PPF.

    1. Kindly advise on few Funds (mix of Multi CAP, Mid, Large Cap Funds.

    2. Should I also put some in Axis L.T Equity ELSS scheme for 3 yrs (Not for tax benefit only for better appreciation)?


  23. Dear Sir please give me your valuable suggestion lam 33years private employee I want to invest my daughter marage now she’s age is 6y.what is the best sukanya ,Lic,sip iwant to invest2400 per year or monthly .place give me valuable suggestion it is help to my daughter future I am a

    1. Srinivasarao-Use equity mutual funds and debt funds (even you can consider Sukany Samriddhi scheme or PPF as debt product). But stay away from any LIC products. How much you have to invest is depends on your target amount and your capability.

  24. Good Article., I have a query on tax free bonds., Do you know when the tax free bonds will be issued every year? I got to know one is closed just few days back., when will be the next one?

  25. Hi,

    Thank you for your blogs, My sister and jiju want to invest 5000 per month for next 20 years I have suggested one term plan of icic pru but to invest remaining amount we are looking for an advice from some expert as we dont have any knowledge.My jiju has undergone an angiography last year. can you please suggest where and how to invest

  26. Hi Basavaraj,

    I find your point of view very valid. Along the same lines, what is your opinion on services such as scripbox and other portals that have robo advisory services. Do you think for a beginner with limited understanding these are better options or do you feel that talking to an advisor is worth the extra effort.

    I for one do follow blogs such as yours and other personal finance blogs, however I am aware that although over the last year or so my personal finance understanding has increased many fold, I’m still very much scratching the surface.

    I, for one, am shocked when I hear my colleagues at work, talking about investing in futures and options, just because they have a demat account. And similarly shake head my head when others are my buying LIC policies as investments :(.

    Thanks and regards,

    Thanks and regards,

  27. Very well written article. I agree to your views. I myself started investing in MFs from 2015 onward. The only direct MFs that I am holding are ELSS one. For other MFs I am taking advise from my financial adviser and as you said for advisers – “test his each suggestion, cross-question each recommendation, and finally invest after better understanding”, I am doing that. I don’t mind paying to my adviser for his work. Thanx to social media, we can see “Invest in DIRECT MFs” everywhere. Due to this people who are investing or are going to invest via Regular mode thinks that they are going to loose a lot of money hence they follow the advice of Social Media.

  28. Hi Basavaraj,

    Today, I came across your blog and it’s very informative. I need few suggestion from you, I would really appreciate if you can give your valuable suggestion.

    L&T Equity Fund – Growth – 1k
    L&T India Special Situations Fund – Growth – 1k
    Franklin India PRIMA PLUS – 2.5k

    My age is 29 now and I’m investing in above funds for keeping a target period of 7-10 years in mind. So, do you think any changes is needed in above portfolio.

    I want to go for a ELSS fund(3k per month) for 10-15 years from now for keeping child education in mind. So, what would be your suggestion for this?

  29. It’s ironic, I find a lot of parallels with the investor A discussed here. I’ve too started investing in MFs from Feb 2016 – all direct plans.
    Most MF investors invest through dealers, the only expertise of these people is form filling and KYC. These people DO NOT earn their keep. Whereas legitimate financial planners are rare and effective ones even rarer. And many of these ‘agents’, suggest churning funds just to pad their payday – I find this criminal.
    What I am trying to say is, when the indices are sitting in the trenches, on a long enough timeline, the only way to go is up.

    If you really are getting worthwhile advise then go for regular plans, whereas if you have sufficient scale then better hire a legitimate planner.

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