Passive vs Active Investing - Which Strategy Will Help You Grow Your Wealth?

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2023-05-01 - 23:49

When it comes to investing in the stock market, there are two main strategies to choose from: passive and active investing. Both have their pros and cons, and choosing the right strategy for you can make a significant impact on your long-term financial success.

Passive investing involves a buy-and-hold approach, where investors rely on low-cost index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to match the market's performance. On the other hand, active investing is a more hands-on approach that requires a lot of expertise, analysis, and regular trades to try and beat the market.

But which one is better? Studies have shown that more often than not, passive investing wins out over active investing in the long run. However, active investing can be more expensive and requires a lot of skill and knowledge to be successful.

In this article, we will explore the differences between these two investment strategies in more detail and provide examples of how much of a difference passive vs active investing can make in your net worth by the time you retire. So whether you're just starting your investing journey or are a seasoned pro, read on to discover which strategy might be right for you.

What is Passive Investing?

Passive investing is an investment strategy that has become increasingly popular over the years. It involves buying and holding a diversified portfolio of stocks or other securities with the aim of tracking the performance of a particular market index, such as the S&P 500 or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The idea behind this strategy is that, over the long term, the stock market tends to go up, so investors can benefit from this growth by simply holding onto their investments.

So how does passive investing work? Well, the first step is to choose an index to track. For example, if you wanted to track the S&P 500, you would invest in a fund that holds all of the stocks in the index in the same proportion as the index itself. This fund is typically called an index fund or an exchange-traded fund (ETF).

The second step is to hold onto the fund for the long term. Unlike active investing, where investors try to beat the market by making frequent trades, passive investors adopt a buy-and-hold strategy. This means that they only make changes to their portfolio when there are major changes in the index they are tracking, such as when a company is added or removed from the index.

One of the biggest advantages of passive investing is that it is a low-cost strategy. Because the goal is to simply track the performance of a market index, there is no need to pay for expensive research or to hire a team of analysts to make investment decisions. This means that passive investors can save a lot of money on fees and expenses, which can have a big impact on their net returns over time.

In contrast, active investing involves a lot of research and analysis, which can be time-consuming and expensive. Active investors try to beat the market by making frequent trades based on their analysis of individual stocks or sectors. While some active investors are successful, many fail to beat the market, and their fees and expenses can eat into their returns.

What is Active Investing?

Active investing is the opposite of passive investing. It involves a hands-on approach where the investor or a professional money manager actively manages their portfolio by buying and selling stocks on a regular basis. This strategy requires more time, effort, and skill than passive investing.

Active investors try to beat the market by identifying undervalued stocks or predicting trends before they happen. They often use a variety of tools and analysis to guide their investment decisions, such as fundamental and technical analysis, market research, and economic forecasts.

The main benefit of active investing is the potential for higher returns than passive investing. If an investor is able to pick the right stocks at the right time, they can earn significant profits. However, active investing also carries higher risks than passive investing. The market is unpredictable, and even the most experienced investors can make mistakes that lead to losses.

Another risk associated with active investing is higher costs. Investors who actively trade their portfolios will typically incur higher fees and expenses, such as brokerage fees, trading fees, and taxes.

Despite the risks, many investors prefer active investing because they enjoy the process of researching and selecting individual stocks. They also believe that their investment skills will enable them to earn better returns than passive investors.

Ultimately, the choice between passive and active investing comes down to personal preference and investment goals. It's important to weigh the risks and benefits of each strategy carefully and consider factors such as your investing experience, time horizon, and risk tolerance before making a decision.

What Does The Research Say?

So, you may be wondering which investing strategy is better - passive or active? Well, let's take a look at what the research says.

Studies have consistently shown that passive investing tends to outperform active investing over the long term. One major reason for this is the fees associated with active investing. Active investors tend to have higher fees, as they are paying for the expertise and time of the managers. These fees can add up over time and eat away at potential returns.

In addition to fees, active investing also requires a lot of research and analysis to pick the right stocks. Even with this research, it's difficult to consistently outperform the market. In fact, studies have shown that even professional fund managers often underperform the market.

On the other hand, with passive investing, the goal is to track the market rather than outperform it. This can be achieved by investing in index funds or ETFs, which tend to have lower fees than actively managed funds. Because these funds are not actively managed, they also tend to have lower turnover rates, which can further reduce fees and increase returns.

So, what does the data say? A study conducted by S&P Dow Jones Indices found that over a 15-year period, 92% of large-cap fund managers underperformed the S&P 500 index. Another study by Morningstar found that over a 10-year period, just 23% of actively managed funds outperformed their respective indexes.

Of course, it's important to keep in mind that past performance does not guarantee future results. However, it's clear that passive investing tends to be a more reliable strategy for building wealth over the long term.

Why Active Investing Is Harder

Active investing can be an appealing option for investors who want to take a more hands-on approach with their portfolio, but it's important to understand the challenges that come with it. One of the biggest challenges is cost. Active investing often involves paying higher fees for expert management and frequent trades, which can eat into your profits over time. In contrast, passive investing strategies like index funds typically have lower fees and can be less expensive to maintain over time.

Another challenge with active investing is the level of expertise and analysis required. Active investors must have a deep understanding of market trends, economic indicators, and company performance in order to make informed investment decisions. This requires a lot of time and effort to stay up to date on the latest developments, and even then, there's no guarantee that an active investor will be able to consistently beat the market.

In fact, research has shown that actively managed funds often underperform their benchmarks over time. In order for an actively managed portfolio to beat a passive portfolio, it has to outperform by at least 0.8% every single year, just to break even. That's a high bar to clear, and many actively managed funds fail to do so.

While active investing may be appealing to some investors, it's important to understand the challenges and risks that come with it. Passive investing may not offer the excitement of actively managing a portfolio, but it can be a more reliable way to build wealth over the long term.

How Much Difference Can It Make?

So, you may be wondering, "What's the big deal? How much of a difference can it really make if I choose passive or active investing?" Well, let me tell you, the difference can be quite significant.

Let's say you start investing $10,000 per year in your retirement account at the age of 30, and you plan to retire at the age of 65. If you choose a passive investment strategy and average an 8% annual return, you would have a retirement account balance of around $2.2 million by the time you retire.

However, if you choose an active investment strategy and pay an average of 1% in fees and manage to outperform the market by 1% per year, your retirement account balance would be around $2.8 million. That may sound great, but remember, outperforming the market by 1% per year is a very difficult feat to achieve.

On the other hand, if you underperform the market by just 1% per year with an active strategy, you would have a retirement account balance of only around $1.7 million. That's a difference of $1.1 million compared to the passive strategy!

So, as you can see, the choice between passive and active investing can make a significant impact on your retirement savings. It's important to understand the risks and benefits of each strategy and consider your own investment goals and risk tolerance before making a decision.


In conclusion, choosing the right investment strategy is an important decision to make. After exploring the differences between passive and active investing, it is clear that passive investing is often the better choice for most investors. Although active investing may sound exciting and potentially more profitable, it comes with higher fees, requires expertise, and is difficult to consistently outperform the market.

Research has shown that passive investing is the more reliable and cost-effective option, and has consistently outperformed active investing in the long run. By choosing a low-cost index fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF), you can enjoy the benefits of diversification and compound interest without the added stress and expense of active investing.

The difference in net worth between a passive and an active portfolio can be significant over the course of many years. By choosing a passive investing strategy and consistently contributing to your portfolio over time, you can set yourself up for a more secure financial future.

Of course, every investor is unique and has their own goals, risk tolerance, and investment style. It is important to do your research and speak with a financial advisor before making any investment decisions. But armed with the knowledge and information presented in this blog post, we hope you can make a well-informed decision and feel confident in your investment strategy.