Active vs Passive Investing (2024)

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Active vs Passive Investing (8)

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First off, a quick overview of just what it means when you hear active and passive investing. In short, active investing is generally a strategy focused on trying to beat the performance of the market. Passive investing, meanwhile, seeks to track or mirror a market index rather than beat it.

Many investors want to know if it's better to purchase an actively managed mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF), or take the passive route and buy an index fund. Will the extra fees you pay for the expertise of a portfolio manager lead to higher returns, or should you just try to match the market?

This question has no definitive answer, but thinking about a few key considerations may help you reach your own conclusions.

For the long-term equity investor, the debate between active and passive strategies rests on three main considerations:

  1. Market efficiency
  2. Portfolio construction
  3. Historical performance

Find out more about each in inThe Active versus Passive Debate.

There is no definitive answer on which approach is best. As a self-directed investor, it's up to you to choose the investment philosophy that fits your beliefs and your situation. Indeed, you may wish to mix actively and passively managed investments in your portfolio. Checking Fund Facts or the management company's website for clues about how an investment product is managed can help you determine if it's active or passive. Often, an ultra-low fee would be an indication of passive management, while higher fees are generally associated with active management.

Whether you're an active or passive investor, a variety of products can help you to achieve your investing goals. For tips on making investment choices, check out the Researching Investments Guide.

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Active vs Passive Investing (2024)


Active vs Passive Investing? ›

Passive investing is often less expensive than active investing because fund managers are not picking stocks or bonds. Passive funds allow a particular index to guide which securities are traded, which means there is not the added expense of research analysts. Even passively managed funds will charge fees.

Is it better to invest in active or passive funds? ›

Because active investing is generally more expensive (you need to pay research analysts and portfolio managers, as well as additional costs due to more frequent trading), many active managers fail to beat the index after accounting for expenses—consequently, passive investing has often outperformed active because of ...

What is active and passive investing? ›

Passive investing is buying and holding investments with minimal portfolio turnover. Active investing is buying and selling investments based on their short-term performance, attempting to beat average market returns. Both have a place in the market, but each method appeals to different investors.

What is the difference between active and passive management? ›

Active management requires frequent buying and selling in an effort to outperform a specific benchmark or index. Passive management replicates a specific benchmark or index in order to match its performance. Active management portfolios strive for superior returns but take greater risks and entail larger fees.

What are the 5 advantages of passive investing? ›

2.1) Advantages of Passive Investing
  • Lower Cost, Lower Turnover and Higher Tax Efficiency means more money invested;
  • Focus is on “Time in the Market”, not “Timing the Market”;
  • Fully Invested in all Major Companies; and.
  • Higher Likelihood of Capturing Market Returns than Active.

What are the 3 disadvantages of active investment? ›

Though active investing may have potential advantages over passive investing, it also comes with potential limitations to consider:
  • Requires high engagement. ...
  • Demands higher risk tolerance. ...
  • Tends not to beat benchmarks over time.

How risky is passive investing? ›

There is no need to select and monitor individual managers, or chose among investment themes. However, passive investing is subject to total market risk. Index funds track the entire market, so when the overall stock market or bond prices fall, so do index funds. Another risk is the lack of flexibility.

What is the best passive investment? ›

It won't necessarily be easy, but these passive income streams are some of the best ways to get started.
  1. Dividend stocks. ...
  2. Real estate. ...
  3. Index funds. ...
  4. Bonds and bond funds. ...
  5. High-yield savings accounts and CDs. ...
  6. Peer-to-peer lending. ...
  7. Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
Feb 7, 2024

Do active funds outperform passive funds? ›

However, when considering a 10-year scope, only 44% of active funds kept above the index and the active average return for 10 years only hit 56.5% while passive reached 60.5%. “While all active fund investors expect outperformance, it's not statistically possible for all managers to outperform,” Khalaf said.

What is an example of a passive fund? ›

Passively managed funds include passive index funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and Fund of funds investing in ETFs. These funds follow a benchmark and aim to deliver returns in tandem with the benchmark, subject to expense ratio and tracking error.

Are ETFs active or passive? ›

As the ETF market has evolved, different types of ETFs have been developed. They can be passively managed or actively managed. Passively managed ETFs attempt to closely track a benchmark (such as a broad stock market index, like the S&P 500), whereas actively managed ETFs intend to outperform a benchmark.

What is the goal of passive investing? ›

Passive investing is a long-term investment strategy that focuses on buying and holding investments for the long term. Its goal is to build wealth gradually over time by buying and holding a diverse portfolio of investments and relying on the market to provide positive returns over time.

Does passive investing outperform the market? ›

Passive investing tends to perform better

Despite the fact that they put a lot of effort into it, the vast majority of of active fund managers underperform the market benchmark they're trying to beat. Even when actively managed funds do experience a period of outperformance, it doesn't tend to last long.

What are the disadvantages of passive investing? ›

The downside of passive investing is there is no intention to outperform the market. The fund's performance should match the index, whether it rises or falls.

What are pros cons of passive investing? ›

The Pros and Cons of Active and Passive Investments
  • Pros of Passive Investments. •Likely to perform close to index. •Generally lower fees. ...
  • Cons of Passive Investments. •Unlikely to outperform index. ...
  • Pros of Active Investments. •Opportunity to outperform index. ...
  • Cons of Active Investments. •Potential to underperform index.

What is active vs passive investing for dummies? ›

Active investments are funds run by investment managers who try to outperform an index over time, such as the S&P 500 or the Russell 2000. Passive investments are funds intended to match, not beat, the performance of an index.

What are the disadvantages of active funds? ›

  • there's no guarantee an active fund will perform better than the index – in fact, research shows that relatively few active funds do.
  • it's not enough to just beat the index – active funds have to beat it by at least enough to cover their expenses, such as transaction fees.

Should you invest in active funds? ›

When all goes well, active investing can deliver better performance over time. But when it doesn't, an active fund's performance can lag that of its benchmark index. Either way, you'll pay more for an active fund than for a passive fund.

Do active mutual funds outperform passive mutual funds? ›

Most active funds lagging

Active equity funds rely on managers' decisions, while passive funds attempt to track indices efficiently. As per SPIVA, five out of 10 large-cap funds underperformed the S&P BSE 100, while over 73% of mid- and smallcap schemes lagged the S&P BSE 400 MidSmallCap in 2023.


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