The results are actually worse than that, as this study failed to take survivorship bias into account. This means that the funds that simply failed and disappeared completely weren’t accounted for. Results were even worse when capital gains and dividends taxes were included.

Why is active investing better

The execution step involves the implementation of the portfolio with construction and revision. Active managers integrate their investment strategies with the capital market expectations to select specific securities for the overall portfolio. In doing this, active managers optimize the portfolio by combining assets efficiently to achieve certain return and risk objectives.

Warren Buffett vs Hedge Fund Industry Bet

But — take note — it also means they get all the downside when that index falls. Active managers can buy stocks that may be undervalued and underappreciated in the general market. They can quickly divest themselves of underperforming stocks when the risks become too high.

Why is active investing better

Instead you may want to look for fund managers who have consistently outperformed over long periods. These managers often continue to outperform throughout their careers. In 2013, actively managed equity funds attracted $298.3 billion, while passive index equity funds saw net inflows of $277.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters Lipper.

Survivorship Bias Inflates Past Performance Records

Large institutions like pension funds often employ active managers to manage funds inhouse. Active investing is forward-looking with the goal being to outperform the market or produce superior risk-adjusted returns. Often the approaches used to achieve this are difficult to measure or validate using empirical evidence. The result is that the reputation of a fund or strategy is often closely linked to key individuals. Investors in active funds tend to put their faith in specific managers, rather than a process or strategy. To that end, it’s possible to combine both active and passive investing within your portfolio.

For instance, active investing is not suitable for arranging funds for retirement. Instead, a savings plan or fixed deposit would be a better option for such a purpose. Internally, active managers often explain their mediocre performance by pointing to their size. They are unable to fully implement their research ideas because as they execute their transactions, stock prices tend to move away from them. Treynor points out that bid-ask spreads and prices pressures from the adversarial nature of the trading process give rise to implementation shortfall. Let’s break it all down in a chart comparing the two approaches for an investor looking to buy a stock mutual fund that’s either active or passive.

Active management of a portfolio means that the holding weights differ from the portfolio’s benchmark , in an attempt to produce excess risk-adjusted returns, also known as alpha. The different active vs passive investing holding weights reflect management’s differing expectations to the overall market. A passive investment strategy involves not reacting to changing capital market expectations.

Beat the market with collectibles

Common investment vehicles include stocks, bonds, commodities, and mutual funds. For most of us, attempting to beat the market via active investing isn’t all that different from buying a lottery ticket. You need to be able to predict trends and know when an asset is undervalued or nearing its peak . You can hire an investment advisor, but they come at a cost and often require you to be willing to invest upwards of six figures.

Why is active investing better

Almost all you have to do is open an account and seed it with money. US resident opens a new IBKR Pro individual or joint account receives 0.25% rate reduction on margin loans. Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. While the difference between 0.76% and 0.08% might not seem like a whole lot, it can add up over time.

These funds pool money from multiple investors to buy the individual stocks, bonds, or securities that make up their market index. When the index changes its components, the index funds that follow it also switch up their holdings to match. However, not all mutual funds are actively traded, and the cheapest use passive investing. These funds are cost-competitive with ETFs, if not cheaper in quite a few cases. In fact, Fidelity Investments offers four mutual funds that charge you zero management fees. It’s so tough to be an active trader that the benchmark for doing well is beating the market.

Meanwhile, the average active manager was underweight technology relative to the index (24% vs. 29%), which helped limit the damage done to their portfolios when the tech bubble burst. Active/passive cyclicality is further demonstrated with high and low amounts of stock “home runs”—that is, a stock that outperforms the benchmark by 25% or more. Markets that feature large amounts of home runs signal dispersion in stock returns. High dispersion should benefit active managers who can single out the winners, whereas a low number of home runs indicates stocks are moving together, which typically benefits passive management. Active investing aims to earn short-term profits by outperforming the benchmark indices.


If you are curious about the underlying investments, you can see holdings in both active and passive funds. Investors may also choose to work directly with a portfolio manager or financial advisor who can help manage their portfolio or even build a custom index through direct indexing. The real question shouldn’t be about choosing between active vs. passive investing, but rather, utilizing a combination of both if you have enough assets to do so. Since passive investing often performs better during bull markets and active investing can outperform in bear markets, the best course of action may be to combine the two, which gets you the best of both worlds. For the average investor, passive investing might work better because of the lower fees and the fact that you don’t have to make decisions about which stocks to buy or sell. Multiple studies spanning decades have demonstrated that in the long run, passive investing beats active.

Active investing, as its name implies, takes a hands-on approach and requires that someone act in the role of a portfolio manager. The goal of active money management is to beat the stock market’s average returns and take full advantage of short-term price fluctuations. It involves a much deeper analysis and the expertise to know when to pivot into or out of a particular stock, bond, or any asset. A portfolio manager usually oversees a team of analysts who look at qualitative and quantitative factors, then gaze into their crystal balls to try to determine where and when that price will change. Similar to the stock market, no one including professional crypto traders or crypto fund managers is good enough at picking stocks and consistently beating the market. Unlike active investing, passive investors invest in the market without trying to outperform it and believe in the potential of long-term returns.

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Active vs. Passive Investing: An Overview

In their Investment Strategies and Portfolio Management program, Wharton faculty teaches about the strengths and weaknesses of passive and active investing. Active investing requires a hands-on approach, typically by a portfolio manager or other so-called active participant. Smart beta ETFs attempt to improve on the performance of market cap-weighted indices.

  • They can choose not to invest during certain periods and wait for good opportunities to buy.
  • Unlike index mutual fund and ETF investors, active investors pay heavily to participate in actively managed funds which is a direct expense to performance.
  • When you buy an index fund you can be reasonably confident that it will track its index and that it is likely to outperform the average active manager.
  • By examining active share, investors can get a clearer picture of how an active manager is adding value, instead of relying upon returns alone.
  • For passive and index fund portfolio managers, the idea is to hold as many stocks in as many industries and as many countries as reasonably possible.
  • If you’re actively investing, you know what you own and you should know which risks each investment is exposed to.

An individual stock’s return is affected by three factors; the company’s financial performance, the performance of the sector, and the performance of the overall market. So, of these three factors, two can be earned using index funds at low costs. It therefore makes sense to dedicate a substantial portion of a fund to index funds that earn market returns with the lowest cost possible.

Active vs. Passive Investing: Pros And Cons

In many cases, active funds have risk management objectives as well as simple return objectives. Moreover, active funds tend to outperform during bear markets, while passive funds often outperform during bull markets. Active management aims to generate better returns than a benchmark, usually some sort of a market index.

A diverse basket of stocks​

In addition, as an active management fund becomes very large, it begins to show index-like characteristics to diversify its investments. Lastly, active management requires an infrastructure of managers, analysts, and operations that require compensation, which makes active management more expensive than passive management. A semi-active investment strategy involves an enhanced index approach where alpha is sought after while emphasizing risk relative to the benchmark. Since 1986, Advance Capital Management’s in-house team of investment experts has created personalized investment portfolios for clients using an active investing approach.

Active or passive investing, who wins?

Exchange-traded funds are a great option for investors looking to take advantage of passive investing. The best have super-low expense ratios, the fees that investors pay for the management of the fund. Of course, it’s possible to use both of these approaches in a single portfolio. For example, you could have, say, 90 percent of your portfolio in a buy-and-hold approach with index funds, while the remainder could be invested in a few stocks that you actively trade.