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What Are Bond Funds? Meaning, Benefits, Types and How It Works

What Are Bond Funds?
April 17, 2024


In this policy, the investment risks in the investment portfolio is borne by the policyholder.

A bond fund is a better investment option than buying individual bonds for many people. A bond mutual fund, like a stock mutual fund, enables investors to combine their capital with that of other people and have it invested by experts who will use their best judgment to determine the best way to use the money.

Bond funds are also offered under Unit-Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs). By opting for a ULIP investment, you can enjoy the benefits of consistent returns along with low volatility and life insurance coverage.

Some people may pass up a great opportunity because they don't value bonds. Bonds should be considered part of your investment strategy; let's learn more about what is bond fund, the different types of bond funds meaning and much more in the article below.

What is a Bond Fund?

A bond fund also known as an income fund puts your money into a pool with other investors. The objective is to generate an income stream for investors by investing in fixed income securities like government securities or gsecs/gilts, bonds, debentures, fixed deposits and the like. Bond funds are launched by unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs), mutual funds and other investment firms.

Bond funds come in various avatars and typically fall in one of these categories - bond funds investing in:

  • short-term investments - suitable for investors with an investment horizon of less than a year
  • medium to long-term investments ideal for investors with an investment horizon of at least three years
  • government securities or gilts also known as gsec funds
  • bonds and gsecs having long-term and short-term maturities to make the most of market opportunities also known as dynamic bond funds

How Does a Bond Fund Work?

Given the nature of the insurance investor, expectedly, bond fund are run conservatively. The fund manager invests in fixed income securities with higher credit ratings and established financials. This lowers considerably the default risk in repayment of capital and interest.

The objective of the bond fund is to maximize income. This is achieved in two ways:

  • capital appreciation, which is when the bond fund NAV or net asset value rises over a period of time
  • dividend payout at periodic intervals depending on surplus fund

Types of Bond Funds

Here is a rundown of the distinct bond types.

Treasury Bonds

Federal government bonds are called Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPs). The absence of credit risk makes it the safest bond option. These bonds pay an interest rate that is fixed and subject to market conditions for ten to thirty years.

State and Municipal Bonds

The construction of essential public facilities like roads, schools, and hospitals is a typical means of revenue collection for state and municipal governments. Municipal bonds do not incur any taxes. You can find them with maturities that range from a year to several decades.

Corporation Bonds

Many corporations and other large businesses rely on bond sales to fund their operational costs. Compared to treasury bonds, the risk associated with these is higher because the issuer's creditworthiness backs them. Bond maturities and interest rates for corporations can change depending on the issuer's creditworthiness and the state of the market.

Bond Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF):

These are investment funds traded on stock exchanges. They primarily invest in a diversified portfolio of bonds. These funds provide investors with exposure to fixed-income securities, allowing for easy and cost-effective access to the bond market. Bond ETFs combine the diversification benefits of traditional bond funds with the liquidity and flexibility of trading on the stock exchange.

Highly Yielding Bonds

As opposed to investment-grade bonds, issuers of high-yield bonds assume greater risk when they do so. The higher yield more than compensates for the higher risk. A different way to refer to high-yield bonds is junk bonds.

Mortgage-Backed Security Market

Pooling numerous mortgages into a single pool and issuing bonds secured by the combined mortgages is how real estate companies generate mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Because of the steady income stream provided by the mortgages supporting these assets, they pose less risk than corporate bonds.

Floating Rate Bonds

Floating rate bonds, for instance, have their interest rates adjusted periodically by reference rates such as the repo rate determined by the Reserve Bank of India. Interest rate risk is mitigated because the rates move in lockstep with market rates. The interest rates on these bonds are variable and subject to market and economic volatility of debt instruments.

Zero-coupon bonds

Interest is not paid periodically by zero-coupon bonds, which are issued at a discount to face value. Their alternative is a guaranteed return at maturity date, calculated as the difference between the face value and the issue price.

Callable bonds

Callable bonds are often priced at a premium by a specified date because the issuer can redeem them early. Owners have the convenience of adjusting their debt fund responsibilities, which also implies that investors could experience reinvestment difficulties.

Convertible Bonds

In convertible bonds, they offer investors recurrent cash flow opportunities, and their money can appreciate or depreciate depending on the investment's performance.

Inflation-Protected Bonds

The government offers inflation-protected bonds to its bondholders to protect them from the consequences of inflation. They pay back the loan with interest at a fixed rate that is adjusted periodically to reflect changes in the consumer price index.

Benefits of Investing in Bond Funds

Investing in bonds through managed funds has several benefits:

Life Insurance Benefit

Investing in bond funds as part of a ULIP can help you provide the benefits of life insurance cover with the advantage of investing in bond funds.


Few individual investors possess the expertise or availability to stay abreast of developments which may impact bond prices due to the complexity of bond analysis. Investing in bonds that have already undergone expert research and evaluation is possible through managed bond funds.

Knowledgeable Direction

An experienced bond fund manager, aided by teams of analysts and experts in the field, usually keeps an eye on managed bond funds. These groups spend a lot of time researching different bonds and weighing the pros and cons of each to determine which ones they believe will do the best.

Minimised Administrative Duties

Managing bonds directly by bond issuers can be a tedious and paperwork-intensive process. Since a statement is generated for every investment, a substantial amount of paperwork can be produced by several investments. With a managed bond fund, you can easily track your investment's growth because each unit has a single price.

Earning potential

Market circumstances can potentially affect the amount of the regular monthly income paid out by the majority of bond funds. This quality of bond funds makes them attractive to investors looking for a reliable source of income. If you'd rather not get the money every month, you can choose from several dividend options, including automatic reinvestment.

Potentially tax-free income

Many individuals invest in municipal bond funds to reduce their taxable income. While the yield on taxable bond funds India is often higher than that on municipal bonds, those in higher tax brackets may find that the former pays out more in the end. Investments that do not incur taxes are usually not the best choice for tax-deferred accounts such as IRAs.

Risks Associated With Bond Funds

The following is a rundown of the risks associated with bond funds:

Interest Rate Risk

The risk associated with the bond interest rates is that bond prices are inversely proportional to these rates. Bond prices tend to fall when interest rates rise and rise again when rates fall. Bond funds India with longer maturities or durations are more vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations, meaning investors in these funds face higher interest rate risk.

Credit Risk

Credit risk is the possibility that the bond's issuer won't pay the agreed-upon interest and principal. Investing in bonds with lower ratings or higher yields increases the credit risk for bond funds. When bond quality is high, investors are less likely to be wary of governments or highly rated corporations issuing bonds.

Principal Risk

Principal risk, often called market risk or price risk, refers to the chance that the fund's bond holdings' value will fluctuate in the market. If the value of the bond fund's holdings drops because of rising interest rates or bad market conditions, investors risk losing their original investment.

Prepayment Risk

Due to their mortgage-backed securities (MBS) holdings, certain bond funds are especially susceptible to prepayment risk. The term "prepayment risk" describes the potential for homeowners to pay off their loans early through the sale of their homes or mortgage refinancing. Investors might witness a decline in their expected interest revenue due to this.

Other Risks

The fund may not buy or sell specific bonds at the prices it desires due to their low liquidity or the ease of buying and selling other bonds. When inflation takes place, the purchasing power of bond principal repayments and coupon payments decreases. Bond funds may see a decline in real returns if they can't match inflation.

A potential risk for global or international bond funds is the value of investments denominated in foreign currencies, which can be impacted by fluctuations in exchange rates when converted back to the investor's home currency.

Who Is Bond Fund Suitable For?

For an investor, income funds either on a standalone basis or in a portfolio are ideal for planning for child’s education, setting aside money towards down payment on a house, retirement planning, among other long-term goals.

Even investors with higher risk appetites who prefer to invest through equity funds / equities, can consider investing a portion of money in bond funds for diversification.

Performance Metrics and Analysis of Bond Funds

Several metrics and factors must be considered when analysing the performance of bond funds to ascertain if they are appropriate investments and if they accomplish the objectives of their investors. Key performance indicators for bond funds India and considerations for interpreting them are as follows:

Share Price

The market value of a bond fund's holdings per share determines the share price. Stock values are susceptible to macroeconomic variables such as interest rates, consumer confidence, and lending standards. Investors monitor share prices to understand the fund's performance and value relative to its NAV.


The yield of a bond fund is the percentage of its share price or net asset value (NAV) generated by its holdings. This group includes distributions for capital gain, dividends on assets related to bonds, and interest on bonds. Yield is an essential metric for income-oriented investors seeking a consistent flow of capital, as it indicates the potential profit from the fund.

Tax-equivalent Yield

The tax-equivalent yield adjusts the bond fund's yield to account for the tax advantages of certain bond kinds, such as municipal bonds. For a taxed bond to have an after-tax yield similar to a tax-free bond, it must first produce a certain yield.

Total Return

The total return of a bond ETF fund should consider both the increase (or decrease) in the value of the fund's holdings over a specific period and any income that the fund may have received. It considers distributions of capital gains, dividends, interest, and changes in share price.


A bond fund's duration is a measure of its sensitivity to changes in interest rates. This means that the fund's cash flows (principal and coupon payments) from bonds take an average of time to reach its hands.

Credit Quality

Credit quality establishes the creditworthiness of a bond fund by examining the credit ratings assigned to its holdings by rating agencies. A bond fund's holdings might include bonds with investment-grade ratings (the highest quality) or junk bonds (the lowest quality).

Risk-Adjusted Performance

Adjusted for risk is the rate of return on a bond fund's investments relative to the degree of risk. By comparing the fund's return to its volatility or systematic risk, these ratios show how effectively the fund manages risk and produces returns.

Expense Ratios

Expense ratios reveal the annual operating expenditures of the bond funds as a percentage of its average net assets. These outlays cover fund management fees, administrative expenditures, and other similar costs.

Tax Implications for Bond Mutual Funds

There are three scenarios in which an investor may have to pay income taxes on bond or stock fund investments made outside of a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA:

  • The fund's dividends are usually taxed at the standard income rate.
  • The sale of assets held by the fund could result in capital gains that are subject to either the preferential long-term capital gains rate or the more traditional ordinary income tax rate, depending on how long the assets are held in the fund.
  • Regular income tax and the preferential long-term capital gains rate might be applied to gains from selling or exchanging fund shares.

Your interest payments from the fund might be free from taxes not only at the federal level but also at the state and municipal levels if the bonds it holds were issued by the state where you live.


Individuals who want to start investing but are unsure of how the share market works can look out for bond fund investment under ULIPs. Such individuals can later diversify their portfolios by investing a part of their hard-earned money in debt and equity markets. HDFC offers various bond funds, which can help you with consistent returns and provide life insurance coverage, too. For instance, if you want to invest in Gsecs through a ULIP, HDFC Standard Money Plus Fund is one option that you can look for.


What is a bond fund?

Subsets of mutual funds and bond exchange-traded funds (ETF) are bond funds. The money from many investors is pooled into these funds and then used to buy various fixed-income securities like corporate, municipal, and government bonds.

Is a bond fund a good investment?

Investments in bond funds may be suitable for those seeking income, diversity, and the preservation of capital. They offer a safer way to invest in the fixed-income market than stocks. Investor objectives, risk appetite, time horizon, and market conditions are some of the factors that determine whether a bond fund is suitable.

Is there a risk of losing money when investing in a bond fund?

Investing in bond funds is, by nature, an activity with a risk of no market gain. Bond funds may face several different risks, such as the fluctuation of interest rates, credit issues, and the negative impact of inflation and market fluctuations. Through changes in interest rates, creditworthiness, or general economy, along with the fund's price decrease, every investor faces a risk of losing money deposited in the fund.

Do municipal bond funds offer tax benefits for investors?

Additional tax benefits, such as a potential exemption from state and local income taxes on interest income from municipal bonds, may be available to investors whose residence is in the same state as the bonds' issuance.

What is an ultra-short bond fund?

Investments in fixed-income bond securities with maturities ranging from a few months to a few years are made by bond funds, of which ultra-short bond funds are a subset. While bond funds with longer maturities are more vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations, these funds aim to outperform money market funds in terms of yield.  

What is the bond fund return rate?

Return rate, often expressed as a percentage, is the performance or rate of return of a bond fund over a specific time period. The NAV of the fund is affected by a number of things, including interest income, net capital gains or losses, dividends or distributions reinvested, and so on.

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Francis Rodrigues Francis Rodrigues

Francis Rodrigues has a decade long experience in the insurance sector, and as SVP, E-Commerce and Digital Marketing, HDFC Life, manages the online sales channel, as well as digital and performance marketing. He has had hands-on experience in setting up sales channels and functional teams from scratch over a career spanning 2 decades.

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Vishal Subharwal Vishal Subharwal

Vishal Subharwal heads the Strategy, Marketing, E-Commerce, Digital Business & Sustainability initiatives at HDFC Life. He is responsible for crafting and ensuring successful implementation of the overall organisation strategy.

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