Everyone says invest in equity SIPs for the long term. But how long is long term?

You have likely heard plenty of financial experts extolling the virtues of long-term investments in equity SIPs (systematic investment plans). But the definition of “long-term” often seems vague. How long do you really need to wait to reap the true rewards of SIP investing? Let’s break it down.

  • SIPs and the power of compounding

SIPs allow you to invest a fixed amount in your chosen equity mutual fund regularly (weekly, monthly, etc.). The magic lies in how your returns compound over time. Essentially, with each SIP instalment, your earnings generate their returns. This snowball effect is incredibly powerful over longer periods.

  • SIPs and market volatility

The stock market is inherently volatile. It goes through ups and downs, sometimes dramatically. Short-term fluctuations can leave investors feeling anxious. However, the general trend of well-diversified equity funds has been upwards over a longer time horizon. A long-term SIP approach helps you ride out market volatility and capitalise on its overall growth.

How long is long enough?

While there’s no single number that suits everyone, here’s a general guideline:

Minimum 5 years: SIP investments generally start showing reasonable returns beyond the 5-year mark. Historically, this holds true even if you had the misfortune of starting your SIP near a market peak.

Ideal: Going beyond 7 years significantly increases your potential for healthy returns. The risk of experiencing losses drops with longer tenures.

10+ years: This extended timeframe is where returns really have the chance to compound considerably, especially with high-growth equity funds.

SIP calculators: Your time machine

Want to visualise the impact of time on your investment? SIP calculators are your tool. Here’s how to use them:

Choose a calculator: Many mutual fund houses and financial websites offer free SIP calculators online.

Input your numbers: Enter your desired monthly SIP amount, estimated annual rate of return (be conservative here), and investment duration.

See the future: The calculator will show you the potential total value of your investment at maturity. Experiment with different investment periods to see how time amplifies your returns.

The longer you wait, the greater the potential rewards

Think of your SIP as a seed you have planted. It needs time to blossom. Here are some objectives that tend to suit those looking at a long-term SIP approach:

Retirement planning: Starting early makes a tremendous difference towards a comfortable retirement corpus.

Children’s education and marriage: SIPs can provide substantial support for long-term financial goals related to your children.

Wealth building: Long-term SIPs, alongside other diversified investments, are excellent for building lasting wealth.

Important: A word of caution

Be prepared for some bumps along the way. Don’t panic sell if the market goes through a rough patch. Instead, be consistent with your SIPs. And, importantly, make sure you select well-rated, fundamentally sound equity mutual funds aligned to your risk tolerance.


When it comes to equity SIPs, “long-term” is your best friend. While you can begin seeing gains around the 5-year mark, real magic and financial peace often lie in letting your investments mature for extended periods. As with any investment, make informed decisions and, most importantly, stay committed to your goals.

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