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Differences Between Stock Investing and Trading


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A couple of days ago I happened to cross paths with an old acquaintance. The usual pleasantries and small talk eventually landed us on the topic of stock markets. The gentleman couldn’t stop boasting about the insane amount of money he was making and how his returns tripled in a small span. Starry-eyed, I nodded in appreciation but deep down couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous, desperately fighting back the urge to try my luck… and why not?  I mean who knows goddess Lakshmi may bestow upon me her grace and I might just be able to rake in profits too; in fact, I even started fantasizing about the various creature comforts I would be able to afford once I become the next stock market mogul!

Knowing nothing about the stock market I googled “ top stocks to invest in”, and jumped headlong with Rs 10,000. I was in for a rude awakening when my trade halved within a week. Disappointed you ask? I was devastated!

Turns out, there are many in the same boat as me. Millions of retail investors have tried “ trading” in the stock market and lost their money and mojo both. So what is it that I and many others should’ve done differently? It all boils down to the inherent differences between trading and investing and the various aspects of these approaches. I will cover in detail four differences between investing and stock trading and which approach is better suited to retail investors. Read On!

Trading Vs Investing: Difference Based On Approach 

The first difference is in the approach both these methods employ to make money from the stock market. Traders use technical analysis to base their buy and sell decisions. They are extremely alert to the market movements and are constantly trying to time the market. A trader doesn’t care about what the company does, or what the company’s future growth prospects are.

Trading involves identifying market trends and then quickly buying or selling stocks to book profits. Investing, on the other hand, is based on buying stocks of a company after carefully analyzing the business of a company.

A company that has strong growth prospects brought about by constant innovation, competitive edge over competitors, etc, has a robust corporate governance policy, is a fundamentally strong company. Stock investors select such fundamentally strong companies and invest in them for the long haul; as the business grows so does the value of their stock.  For a stock market investor, short term market volatility is of no significance.

Also Read : How To Do A SWOT Analysis For Stocks

The difference between investment and trading can be summarised in one sentence. Trading is a skill, which is acquired after a lot of practice and years of being in the stock market A trader needs to be well versed with the otherwise confusing stock market jargon, must know how to do complex technical analysis and read price and volume charts. Here the right time and value to enter and exit makes all the difference to the profits a trader will book.

On the other hand investing is an art. This also comes with experience. Experienced investors have the knack to predict the success of a company or business over the long term based on certain winning attributes they spot early on.  A successful stock investor by virtue of his experience will be able to spot a winner and have conviction in the performance of a business that others might be oblivious of.

Also Read :How To Identify Multibagger Stocks In India

Difference Based On Time Horizon 

Let’s understand with an example. Suppose you have money and you buy a house in a good locality. Within two weeks the price of your property increases and you sell it for a profit. This is called trading. However, if you purchase a property because you know that it has immense long term appreciation potential since a national highway will be built near it a few years down the line, and hence hold on to it then you are basically investing.

Trading basically means holding stocks for a short period and making a profit by selling stocks as soon as the price touches a high. The period of consideration for traders can range anywhere from a day to weeks to months.

Many traders may buy stocks in the morning and sell by the end of the day even! Market fluctuation has very high importance and influence on the decisions a trader takes. Investing, on the other hand, is done with a long term perspective. A stock investor selects stock based on strong fundamentals and once convinced holds on to them for a longer period of time, ranging from a few years to decades, to even more.

Also Read :What is The Right Time to Exit a Stock

Difference Based On Risks Involved

Whether you trade or invest, your capital is at the mercy of markets and hence there is a risk-return tradeoff you should be aware of. However, trading is riskier than investing. The simple reason being trading involves taking super quick short-sighted decisions, which may go well and go horribly wrong as well. Another reason that attributes to the risk factor in trading is that a trader does not base his decisions on how promising the growth prospects of a business are. He may buy a scrip based on external influence and lose money when the prices hit a low.

Needless to say, trading can oscillate between highs and lows quite rapidly. On the other hand, Investing as a habit takes time to develop and reaps results in long term. The risks are lower and comparatively the returns are lower when the period of holding is less, however, if stocks are held for a long time, your investment can fetch higher returns due to compounding effect of interest and dividends. If the stock you have invested in is fundamentally strong, the daily market fluctuations will have negligible to no impact on your investment.

Difference Based on Attitudes 

The final difference lies between the personality or wealth creation attitude of an investor and a trader. Let’s see the main differences below:-

Trader (Buy and Sell)Investor ( Buy and Hold)  

A trader is of an impatient personality ( Hare) An investor is slow and steady in approach ( tortoise)
Trader takes decisions within minutes, days, weeks, months Decisions are based on long term consequences hence range from years to decades.
Times the market ; missing the right time to enter or exit may lead to loss Do not time the market or get bothered by short term market volatility.
Stocks selection strategy based on technical analysis; momentum trading Stock selection strategy based on fundamental analysis of a business ; value investing
Requires real-time data and information to take buy and sell calls hence is on his toes all the time Is of a more relaxed disposition, information only regarding fundamentals needed.
Does not pay attention to what the company does and only focusses on the scrip price and trade volume. Bases all decisions on the conviction he has on the company’s growth prospects
Has more risk appetite with a penchant for short term gains Possesses lesser risk appetite comparatively, invests for the long haul
Is more likely to buy stocks based on recommendations by friends , other stock market traders, media and other external resources Invests only when his investment objective aligns with a business. Does his own research, and invests only after he completely convinces himself of the potential of a business.

Which Is Better Suited For A Retail Investor?

If you look at the differences between a trader and an investor you will be able to see that investing approach is more suited to retail investors who want extra exposure to equities. The advantages that accompany a stock investing mindset are numerous. All you have to do is base your bets on a business that is strong in its core offerings, is constantly innovating and adapting to customer requirements and has a solid management team backing it.

Once you are sure of this, you just need to “ buy right and sit tight”. While there is no guaranteed formula for making money in the stock market, an investment approach will ensure your success to a large extent. It will also allow you the much-needed peace of mind that traders never get in there attempts to time the market. So analyze a company fundamentally, invest in the business, remain unperturbed by the market noise and stay invested to reap long term benefits.

Happy Investing! 

This article was published on and has merely been reproduced here.

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