What is passive investing? Difference between active and passive investment

·3-min read
businessman hand pointing  passive income touch screen computer as concept
businessman hand pointing passive income touch screen computer as concept

One of the lasting debates of the financial world has been the choice between active and passive investing

While one promotes acting on major movements in the market, the other depends on the patience of the investor and a long-term investment outlook. A passive investment strategy has ‘buy and hold’ at its core.

As the name suggests, passive investing involves a non-active role on part of the investor. 

When you invest in a diversified portfolio with low costs and a long-term horizon, it tends to deliver returns comparable to the market average. Passive investing works on the premise that the market delivers positive returns in the long term and hence the portfolio has to be held without substantial changes for a long tenure.

One can apply passive investment strategies in a variety of ways, but indexing is the simplest of the lot.

Indexing means mirroring an index, which automatically diversifies the investment across sectors and companies. Indexing has its advantages and drawbacks. Passively investing through indexing is simple, transparent, tax-efficient and cost-effective.

Since indexing requires a long-term commitment and the deployment of the corpus is benchmarked to the index, the portfolio remains unchanged for the entire tenure of the investment. It reduces the cost of the investment as there is no buying and selling of securities. It is also transparent as the investor knows the composition of the underlying assets, which also makes monitoring easy. 

A passive investment strategy is relatively easier to implement as it doesn’t require portfolio modifications according to market movement.

While passive investing can be rewarding, it has some drawbacks. One of the primary drawbacks is the limited scope of the investment. A passive investment portfolio remains limited to certain indexes or a limited type of assets, without any major changes. It invariably leads to the investor getting locked in the investment even during adverse market conditions. Passive funds also offer lower potential returns, especially when the investment horizon is not very long.

Active vs passive investment

To understand the difference in the performance of active investment and passive investment, one has to know the key differences. 

Active investments are substantially more flexible when compared to a passive portfolio. An active fund manager doesn’t have to follow an index and can modify the portfolio depending on his/her reading of the market. 

Passive funds stick to a limited number of assets, which eliminates the need to buy or sell frequently and thus reduces the cost of the fund. 

  • Active investing requires a hands-on approach, typically by a portfolio manager or other so-called active participant.

  • Passive investing involves less buying and selling and often results in investors buying index funds or other mutual funds.

  • Historically, passive investments have earned more money than active investments.

  • Active investing has become more popular than it has in several years, particularly during market upheavals.

  • Although both styles of investing are beneficial, passive investments have garnered more investment flows than active investments.

Active fund managers keep changing the assets under management, but a passive investment portfolio remains unchanged. Even though passive investments offer lower potential returns, it also has a lower risk. Active funds dabble in a variety of assets, which could be risky if the investment premise doesn’t work.

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Source: https://www.edelweissmf.com/investor-insights/mutual-fund-investment-tips-and-articles/what-is-passive-investing, Investopedia

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