Passive versus Active Investing: There are no Shortcuts

I had a friend who absolutely hated weeding his mother’s flower beds and herb garden.

Even as a teen I knew they were something amazing, literally dominating an acre, and his mother’s pride.  I don’t suppose I’m equipped even now to understand where gardening for pleasure becomes gardening to impress, but clearly Danny’s mom was gardening to impress.

Fed up, Danny decided one day to take a short cut and nipped out to Canadian Tire to buy some herbicide.  Three days later nothing was left but flower bed after flower bed of dead and dying plant material.  I didn’t see Danny for the rest of the summer.

Investing is much like that:  there are no shortcuts.

You can, like me, buy cut flowers which pleases Linda and is convenient to me.  Living in a condo doesn’t leave space in my life for growing things and frankly I don’t place much value on the process, only the result.  It’s a lot like the planters on King Street West that miraculously have gone from winter foliage to spring flowers overnight.

The other end of the spectrum are the gardeners in our condo complex.  Our flower gardens are beautiful, and a small group of volunteers spend countless hours of their retired time keeping them that way, developing through the spring with early blossoms to late fall ablaze.  I didn’t exactly endear myself to one of them last year when she was complaining about not getting any help to which I quipped maybe we just needed to pave them over.  I know myself and as much as I love the results I’m not prepared to spend the time getting them there.

The decision about whether to be a passive or active investor is a lot like that.

There are no short cuts to riches.

“Overnight” success in investing requires a lot of trial and error, and time committed to experimentation and failure, until you find a groove which works for you.  People like me can help with the process, providing advice, guidance and mentorship but ultimately you must take responsibility and work at it.

At the other end of the spectrum is the “buyer of cut flowers”.

Passive investing is a lot less labor intensive and if all you want is the benefit of the bloom, you need to school yourself in terms of expectations.  On occasion you might benefit from the blaze of color, but generally what you’re going to get is a well ordered manicured investment landscape.

I’ve toyed a lot with the concept of control when it comes to defining investment.  But I keep coming back to the same thing.

It’s about time commitment.

My profession is one of my passions, but I get that not everyone shares my interests.  The demarcation is your willingness to experiment, to take the time and effort to learn what you need to make an informed decision.

And if you think you found the magical answer to instant riches, remember Danny and his herbicide.

David Chellew and Linda Odnokon have been life partners and in business together for almost 19 years. During that time, they have mellowed into their respective roles and enjoy working with individual investment clients. Dave is a Portfolio Manager and Linda is an Investment Advisor with iAS and work out of the co-work space Brightlane on King West in downtown Toronto.

 Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (iAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (iAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of iAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about iAS, please consult the official website at David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.