Active vs Passive Investing: Understanding Their Differences

Active vs Passive Investing: Understanding Their Differences

Active and passive investing are two completely different strategies for helping investors make money in the markets.

The two determine their success against major stock market indices, although the difference is that active investing aims to outperform and time indexes. On the other hand, passive investing focuses on duplicating benchmark performances and making as little buying/selling as possible.

Passive investing often delivers better returns at lower costs than active investing, which could lead you to think whether an average investor would ever consider taking an active approach in the markets. For some investors, the answer would be yes.

Active Investing Explained

As the name suggests, active investing involves trading continuously to beat the average index returns. Investors taking this approach usually have to have a high level of market analysis and knowledge to figure out the most ideal time to buy/sell investments.

You can perform active investing on your own, or you can seek the help of experts by investing in actively managed mutual funds and active exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These active funds can provide you with a ready-made portfolio that consists of multiple investments.

Active investing is not a highly-recommended option, especially when it concerns investors’ long-term retirement savings, as it requires constant attention.

Active fund managers go through a range of information about every investment they have. With that data, they buy and sell assets to take advantage of price fluctuations and ensure that the fund’s asset allocation remains on the right track.

Without all that, even a carefully crafted, actively managed portfolio could be weighed by market fluctuations and accumulate short-term losses that may hinder long-term financial goals.

Benefits to Active Investing


Active investors can go for the defense or holding, like bonds or cash, when the markets are slipping to avoid substantial losses. They can also react to real-time market conditions, which provide them the chance to outperform market indexes in the short term.

More Trading Options

Active investors have the choice to hedge with options or short a stock. Being able to employ these techniques allows them to create windfalls that improve their odds of beating market benchmarks.

However, they can also provide a significant boost to the costs and risks carried by active investing. That is why those strategies are much more suited for professionals and seasoned investors.

Tax Management

While active investing could generate capital gains tax, financial advisors or portfolio managers can create tax management plans for investors, such as selling losing investments, to offset the taxes on winning investments.

Factors to Consider in Active Investing


Active funds charged high expense ratio fees at around 0.71% due to the amount of research and trades involved in managing them.


In active investing, you have a lot to gain, but you also have a lot to lose. Done right, active investors can turn a huge profit.

However, if one investment moves against their favor, active investing can result in losses that could be detrimental to their portfolio, especially if it was borrowed money or margin used to place the trade.

Passive Investing Explained

Passive investing is all about long-term wealth building. This technique involves buying a security and then holding on to it, regardless of the current market situation, with the aim of raising funds to meet long-term financial goals like retirement.

Unlike active investing, passive investing is not focused on turning a profit in short-term price fluctuations or market timing. And instead of individual securities, passive investors buy shares of index funds or ETFs that can mirror the performance of major stock indices.

This type of hands-off trading is popular in the retirement savings category, and other investment goals since it doesn’t need to be monitored daily and only needs to perform the same way as the market. Moreover, the transactions in passive investing are fewer, and the fees are much lower.

Benefits to Passive Investing

Active vs Passive Investing: Understanding Their Differences


Passive funds have lower expense ratios at 0.06% (mutual funds) and 0.18% (ETFs), compared to active funds as they don’t require a substantial amount of research and maintenance, and they have fewer trading volumes.


Passive investing usually involves investing in numerous stocks and bonds. That allows for instant diversification and reduces the odds of one bad investment dragging down your entire portfolio and eliminating your hard-earned gains.


In passive investing, you always know which assets are in the fund. This strategy offers a high level of transparency, as the index that the fund is following is typically part of its namesake index, and it does not hold investments outside of it.


Passively managed funds almost always deliver higher returns. The fundamental principle behind passive investing is that investors can expect the stock market to rise in the long run. By mirroring market performance, the portfolio will strengthen along with it.

Factors to Consider in Passive Investing


Passive investing is not for investors looking to experience the thrill that comes from seeing sharply rising returns from one stock.

Exit Strategy

Passive investing doesn’t have a way out during serious market dips because it is intended for long-term investing. While history has shown many times that the market can recover from a correction, it is uncertain that the rebound will be quick.

That is one of the reasons why it is vital to make regular adjustments to your asset allocation over a longer period. That way, the portfolio will be more conservative as the investing timeline nears its end, and you can cut the time needed to bounce back from a market downturn.

Active and Passive Investing Combined

Active and passive investing don’t necessarily have to be used as two separate strategies. Combining the two could be helpful as well. In a bull market, investors holding both active and passive investments can use their actively managed portfolios to hedge against declines in passive portfolios.

Combining the two can also put an investor’s mind at ease, knowing that his passive investments have been put on autopilot, while the active approach allows him to analyze trends without exposing his long-term goals to risk.

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