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Trading vs Investing

Updated on June 4, 2024
Article byVivek Shah
Edited byAaron Crowe
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Differences Between Trading and Investing

Trading refers to buying and selling stock regularly to earn a profit based on market fluctuations of price, whereas investing refers to a buy and hold strategy of investments for a long period where investors can earn based on interest and reinvestment over some time.

You must have surely heard about people making money from the stock market. Although there are a million ways to do so, we have two broad classifications of stock market activities- Trading (who believe in reading charts) and Investing (who believe in fundamentals of valuation over a long-term period).

Before we get into the specifics of trading vs. investing, let’s understand the difference by looking at the two most influential people in the world of wealth creation, one is known for his long-term investments, and the other is a renowned trader. If you are a stock market follower, you might have already guessed the names; they are Warren Buffet and George Soros. Both have made huge piles of money in the stock market over their lifetime, but differently.

Warren Buffet is worth about US$67 billion, who made his money off long-term investments in companies whose stocks he has held for decades. Let’s look at one of his famous quotes.

“I will tell you how to become rich. Close the doors. Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett.

Conversely, there is George Soros, whose net worth is about US$24.2 billion, who has made money from a countless number of trades.

“Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected” .-George Soros.
Differences Between Trading and Investing

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Which is Better: Investing or Trading? in Video

 

Trading vs. Investing Infographics

Let’s see the top differences between trading vs. investing.

Trading vs. Investing Infographics

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Key Differences

  •   Trading is generally done by the people who do intraday trading and are always looking for growth investment where technical analysis tools are used. They predict the higher or lower movement. While an investor, on the other hand, is looking for value investment, and they stick with their investment for a very long time.
  • Risk is very high in trading strategy since there is no hedge against this type of transaction, so the money at stake is very high without downside protection. On the other hand, an investor might have a properly balanced portfolio where a downside of a particular asset will be the upside of others to hedge for the losses.
  • The movement in the market and the indexes is generally due to large volumes of trading activity, so in this scenario, traders play a major role in moving the market prices compared to an investor.
  • Traders have their perception of upside or downside. They trade accordingly; they have different types of trading strategies like Butterfly, Short sell, Long Straddle, Strangle, and many more, while an investor has a simple and vanilla strategy to hold the asset while investing.
  • Returns are pretty uncertain and fast in trading since buying and selling transactions happen daily. An investor has to wait pretty long to get handsome returns.
  • A crucial everyday piece of information and quarterly results matter to the trader since those things bring a lot of movement in the stocks allowing an opportunity for the trader. At the same time, an investor believes in the value and principles of the company.

Pros and Cons

Trading stocks is much more time-consuming and frantic compared to making investments. Once you have made sound investments, you can relax without buying or selling for months/years in the case of investments.

A quote that signifies this difference-

Investing should be more like watching paint dry or watching grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.” – Paul Samuelson
  • Making long-term investments requires knowledge of companies’ financial essentials – like Financial Ratios, understanding Free Cash Flows, DCF valuations, relative valuation multiples like PE Ratio, PBV Ratio. Although you have the opportunity to make piles of money quickly with trading, the risk involved is much higher in trading than in investments. You could lose more money than you have in trading. There is a risk of losing money in investments, but that could occur because of the vagaries in the business and market timing.
  • The cost involved in trading is usually high, as every time you trade a stock, you will have to shell out certain fees. Hence, your returns need to be comparatively higher to cover those costs. In contrast, you will lower costs since there is less buying and selling, but the returns will also be comparatively lower.
  • Long-term investments are for those people who want to make money but avoid huge losses. You could earn a decent return by reinvesting your dividends and leaving your money in the market for the long term.

What should you do Trading or Investing?

Try answering the following questions for yourself, and you could probably know if trading is the thing for you or investing.

  • When deciding between these stock market activities, you need to think about the time you can devote to any of them. If you can spend hours reading charts and graphs daily, then trading would be beneficial for you. If not, then you would be better off with long-term investments.
  • The amount of equity research is trading is also much more extensive than in making investments. A lot of hard work is involved in analyzing the financial statements, company growth, history, and also future financial projections. Those who would really enjoy putting in energy and doing the technical and fundamental analysis religiously should consider playing the market.
  • Considering the size of an investor and their goals, you would be better suited for long-term investments to grow your portfolio if you are a small investor. In contrast, if you are a large investor with the goal of short-term trading, then you should plan to beat the market

Problem with Doing Both

What when the investments don’t go as per our plan? It is when some of the biggest errors happen. People tend to confuse the investing approach with the trading one and head towards danger. When the stock price is doing well, neither the trader nor the investor has any problem. But what happens when it does not?

Let’s say the stock price starts falling. As a trader, you would have an escape to avert the small losses from becoming big ones. Since, as a trader, you are not emotionally attached to the stock, you will get rid of it at the correct point in time. It is rightly what a trader should do.

But there is a problem if you decide to keep the stock and do not want to give up on it. So here, the trader has become an alleged investor who does not have enough information on the company to decide on holding the stock or letting it go. As an investor, you would be working on the guess. Similarly, being an investor, you are not supposed to sell off the stock when the prices go down but believe in the fundamentals and hold on to the stock.

Regardless of which one of them is a better strategy, you should pick one or the other and stick to it.

Comparative Table

CriteriaTradingInvesting
IntroductionRefers to buy and sell as per the price movementsRefers to buying and holding the securities for a certain period of time
Investment PeriodGenerally, the investment is short-term in this type of activity, and there are quick entries and exits.While here, investment is for the long term, and exit is far off from the entry point.
Capital GainsThere are short-term capital gains and only associated with the upside in the security price.Long-term capital gains can be earned with the upside and in the form of dividends and bonuses periodically.
Risk and methodologyThe risk is very high since it is a short term investment.Risk is lower comparatively as the investment duration is long
Types of securitiesOnly securities or stocks can be traded since there is quick entry and exit.Different types of Assets can be invested in a portfolio like stocks, bonds, notes.
The intention of the investmentThe motive is to earn profits and exit the position.Value investment is made on the company’s functionality, banking on the company’s fundamentals
Profits Risk is high, so generally, returns are high too.Limited returns and the profits are reinvested to buy additional stocks.
Tools used for analyzingTechnical analysis tools like moving averages and the candlestick method are used.The company’s financial ratios and fundamentals are analyzed like the P/E Ratio and EPS.
Investment StrategyTraders buy the stock to sell at the upside and short sell to buy at a lower price.Investors buy the securities to hold and reap the benefits of the company’s growth.
Protection from investmentTraders typically follow strict stop losses, ensuring that they are closing out the loss-making positions at a pre-decided price.Stay put when the prices go down and bank on the company’s performance to do better in the future and recover the current losses.
Tax PatternShort term capital gains tax is levied on these returns, and the rate is based on your income bracket and is comparatively higher than long term capital gains.Long term capital gains tax is applied on these returns for which the rate can be as low as zero if the returns are yielded after a long period of time.
Investment ProductsStocks and Options: You can buy and sell easily on an intraday basis and earn the difference.Stocks, Bonds, Hedge funds, Mutual funds, Exchange-traded funds (ETF)
Cost involvedFrequent buying and selling of these securities mostly happen in the brokerage account, and on every transaction, a brokerage is charged.With a limited amount of transaction, the brokerage fees are also limited.

Why are Trading and Investing Both Important?

Both are interdependent, wherein without the existence of traders, investors will have no liquidity to buy and sell a stock. Without investors, traders shall have no origin from which to buy and sell. Hence, it isn’t easy to decide which one is superior.

If everyone were an investor, no one would be willing to sell or buy in the short term, leading to an unhealthy market scenario. In the end, it is liquidity that tends to smooth out market prices.

Conclusion

Suppose we have to summarize the entire discussion on trading vs. investing. In that case, traders are the ones that take advantage of the market conditions to enter or exit their positions on stocks over a short period, taking smaller but much more returns. In contrast, investors strive for larger returns over a long-drawn-out period by buying and holding stocks.

It is not much of a concern that you are trading or investing, and it’s just that you need to be engaged in a chase that suits your personality traits, capabilities, and philosophies. I hope you enjoyed reading this information as much as I did writing it.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. JP says

    Trading seems more suited to my lifestyle. I’m a little impatient and being able to see smaller returns on frequent trades, rather than watching paint dry, investments. lol. Swing trading, looks like it would suit me.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      :-)