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Weekend reading: Does the passive label put people off index funds?

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What caught my eye this week.

I remember the first time I heard the phrase ‘passive investing’ uttered by The Accumulator.

Or at least I think I do – I’m pretty sure I dozed off midway through the sentence.

I disliked the passive investing label from the start. Several years and hundreds of articles later, it still sounds a bit defeatist.

Words matter. As Preston McSwain recalls in an article I link to below:

[Investment expert] Charles Ellis was once asked: “What is the biggest risk investors face when investing in index funds?”

His answer?

“Being called passive.”

Yes, regardless of your investment background, deep down you are likely to be more attracted to an investment or firm that sounds dynamic and vibrant versus one that sounds docile and inert.

I can relate to that, for my sins. In contrast, ‘index investing’ I can easily get behind. Indexing sounds faintly clever and technical. Comfortingly nerdy.

It was also how I began investing nearly 20 years ago, and it was the reason I counted myself fortunate in snaring The Accumulator to write for Monevator a few years back.

I believed a portfolio of index funds was the best approach for most everyday investors, and still do. But given I was increasingly off in the weeds nurdling with my active investing, it was crucial to get somebody on board who was passionate about them.

And passionate my new co-blogger was – as passionate as any stock picker I’d ever met. He was deeply excited about expense ratios and the merits of rebalancing quarterly versus annually and whatnot. Things that mattered, in other words, rather than things which sounded good.

Which is probably why he wasn’t so phased by the weedy sounding ‘passive’ investing label. He gets his excitement elsewhere, as he’s written many times.

So passive investing – a term The Accumulator had picked up in his copious US reading – came with him to this site, and we even named our dedicated subsection accordingly.

But I’m made of weaker stuff, and I never loved it.

Others seem to increasingly feel the same way. Some have more sensible reasons, too.

As active costs fall, indexes proliferate, and supposedly passive investors shoehorn more esoteric ‘factor’ plays into their portfolios – rather than just tracking the global market – the lines are blurring.

Then you have all the hedge funds trading ETFs, which show up in some indexing statistics but are the antithesis of a passive approach. It’s all rather muddled.

I read several good articles and a podcast on this theme this week:

  • Who is passive? – Preston McSwain
  • Q&As on passive investing – Part 1 & Part 2 by Cullen Roche [He was early on this]
  • Indexing sheds passive clothing – ETF.com
  • The past, present, and future of ETFs [Excellent podcast, the short tax snippet is US-centric]Invest Like The Best

These posts may confuse new investors, who I feel should learn the basic terminology before challenging it.

But once you know why index funds tend to beat their active counterparts, and why a *cough* passive approach is likely to turn out better than a lot of active management such as market timing attempts or sector chasing, it’s interesting stuff to ponder.

It’s also something I’m thinking about as The Accumulator does seem to be approaching the end of the first draft of our infamous book.

Should we celebrate the passive investing label in our book title and pitch? Or avoid it, and perhaps sell more copies and reach more people?


Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view these enable you to click through to read the piece without being a paid subscriber.1

[News update: I’ve pulled The Telegraph as you now need a registered account to read even the free articles]

London property prices blamed for record exodus – Guardian

Surprise (modest) upgrade to UK GDP growth in first-quarter – BBC

Student loans: Use of RPI costs graduates up to £16,000 – Guardian

Retirement ‘wake up’ packs to be sent to help protect pension savers – MoneySavingExpert

Women have become much happier at work over the past decades. Men less so – The Economist

Products and services

Energy bills rise by £52 for 11 million households as 19 suppliers announce price hikes – ThisIsMoney

Mind the pensions gap: who’s at risk and what to do about it [Search result]FT

Virgin Money launches one-year savings account that pays you in Air Miles – ThisIsMoney

RateSetter will pay you £100 (and me a bonus) if you invest £1,000 for a year via my affiliate link. They now handle ISA transfers, incidentally – RateSetter

Gap narrows between two-and five-year mortgage fixes [Search result]FT

Is NS&I set to slash yet more deals? – ThisIsMoney

Emerging market passive investors to be put into Argentine and Saudi stocks [Search result]FT

Hotel booking sites could be forced to stop claiming ‘one room left’ – Guardian

Save thousands on university fees by studying in Germany, Sweden, Hong Kong and Australia – ThisIsMoney

Comment and opinion

Why UK house prices could stay flat for 20 years – UK Value Investor

A few snappy thoughts about money – Morgan Housel

Proof negative – Above the Market

High valuations still look the biggest risk to the US stock market… – Bloomberg

…but are they justified by soaring profits? – Calafia Beach Pundit

Brexit and investing: Panic early or not at all – Simple Living in Somerset

0% credit cards — more expensive than you think [Search result]FT

Five famous market gaffes – The Value Perspective

Twists and turns in the Tesla story – Musings on Markets

Power is the ability to control your own life – The Escape Artist


Brexiteers calling Government’s own impact report ‘Project Fear on speed’Guardian

Brexit vote revisited – DIY Investor UK

There is no ‘Brexit dividend’ for motor industry, says head of motor industry trade body – Guardian

Will someone please put Danny Dyer in charge of the Brexit negotiations – NME

Kindle book bargains

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch – £0.99 on Kindle

Eye of the storm: 25 years in action with the SAS by Peter Ratcliffe – £0.99 on Kindle

How To Be F*cking Awesome by Dan Meredith – £0.99 on Kindle

Off our beat

You see what you want to see – Of Dollars and Data

The secret to tackling workplace nerves – The Pool

One sentence with seven meanings unlocks a mystery of human speech – Wired

Cheap bacon: How shops and shoppers let down our pigs – The Guardian

Inside the minds of Elon Musk’s fans – The Verge

Rising seas: “Florida is about to be wiped off the map”The Guardian

And finally…

“One way to create an attractive risk/reward situation is to limit downside risk severely by investing in situations that have a large margin of safety. The upside, while still difficult to quantify, will usually take care of itself. In other words, look down, not up, when making your initial investment decision. If you don’t lose money, most of the remaining alternatives are good ones.”
– Joel Greenblatt, You Can Be A Stock Market Genius

Like these links? Subscribe to get them every Friday!

  1. Note some articles can only be accessed through the search results if you’re using PC/desktop view (from mobile/tablet view they bring up the firewall/subscription page). To circumvent, switch your mobile browser to use the desktop view. On Chrome for Android: press the menu button followed by “Request Desktop Site”. []
{ 50 comments… add one }
  • 1 John @ UK Value Investor June 30, 2018, 12:29 pm

    ETF trading is why Bogle used to be against Vanguard using them (and I assume he still is).

    Unit Trusts usually have a single daily price and that should be plenty for slow and steady investors. ETFs just encourage trading by having prices that change almost constantly.

    Not sure why Vanguard went down the ETF route. Perhaps the lure of yet more assets under management outweighs their (i.e. management’s) desire to fulfil their original purpose of providing long-term low-cost investment funds (what’s long-term about being able to trade ETFs multiple times per day?)

  • 2 The Investor June 30, 2018, 1:13 pm

    @John — Afternoon! One reason may be the tax advantages of ETFs in the US. I forget the specific detail, but the upshot is that in the US, when funds generate capital gains on their portfolios through trading positions over the year, they must by law pass those gains on to their investors.

    Now, index funds have to sell assets to return cash to exiting shareholders, which creates capital gains.

    By contrast, ETFs are traded between investors — when you want out, you just sell your ETF holding to another in the market, like any other share (or indeed a closed-end investment trust). This means the ETF itself doesn’t have to sell its holdings to create the liquidity required for an investor selling out.

    There are also some advantages with respect to the ETF creation/redemption process, but explaining it on my phone is above my pay grade. (i.e. I’d have to go look it up! 🙂 )

    The capital gains tax treatment of funds is different in the UK so the above doesn’t factor here, but Vanguard is a US company as you know. 🙂

  • 3 Naeclue June 30, 2018, 2:35 pm

    US mutual funds are not available to foreign investors, but ETFs are, or were until some dullards introduced PRIIPS regulations, and US listed ETFs have additional tax benefits. UK investors get a tax credit for US dividend withholding tax for example, and I pay no dividend withholding tax at all on the US ETFs I holdon’t in my SIPP.

    Completely agree about the term passive being inappropriate. I have an uncle who has never bought a collective investment. He holds individual shares and gilts and hardly ever trades. I would say his turnover was less than any index fund. On the other hand iShares and others offer passive momentum ETFs, which must surely be a contradiction of terms. Index investing is a much better description.

  • 4 Learner June 30, 2018, 4:01 pm

    The Bloomberg ETF-nerd podcast “Trillions” interviewed Bogle recently, there are some soundbites from him in the latest episode: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-28/jack-bogle-on-the-future-of-asset-management

    Hopefully a full interview will be forthcoming.

  • 5 Neverland June 30, 2018, 6:16 pm

    I’m pretty sure that when index funds were first introduced into the uk nearly thirty years ago they were marketed as index trackers

    Passive investment as a descriptive term is something that crept in 10-15 years ago … passively

    My first index trackers were the Edinburgh uk and us tracker investment trusts launched in the early 90s which could often be bought at discounts to net assets in double digits if you were lucky

    I think the uk one still exists

  • 6 Vanguardfan June 30, 2018, 6:34 pm

    My paranoid brain thinks that the ‘passive’ label may have been promoted by the financial industry to make ‘active’ seem more, well, muscular and attractive…
    If we went with the sensible ‘index tracker funds’ then ‘active’ funds would have to be called something like ‘stock picking funds’ or ‘selective asset funds’….much more accurate, but not as good a marketing tool as ‘active’….

  • 7 Mathmo June 30, 2018, 6:55 pm

    Thanks for the links this week, TI (and not mentioning Brexit – much).

    As ever, TEA is well worth the time and this week he totally nails it with Ralph’s story and on power being the ability to choose how to live. By coincidence, I remarked to a chap on Friday that the only real luxury is not having to look at a clock — as we sat in the steam-room wondering when it was time for a post-work-out lunch.

    Also enjoyed the article on US equity valuations, not so much for its content, but it reassures me to see these out there no matter what for the past 5 years at least. It reassures me that noone really knows, but there must be some kind of indication from how many of these are out there. Of course now that TI has bought property, the houseprices articles are peaking. Reminds me of the highly entertaining “This is nuts…when’s the crash” series from FT.

    I couldn’t quite see the point of “proof negative” but I enjoyed the film clips so much I kinda forgot why I was there, and they were worth the price of admission alone.

  • 8 Neverland June 30, 2018, 7:30 pm

    The first big index launch in the UK was a virgin UK index tracker (I think the FTSE all-share) in the mid-90s. I remember the financial press slated it for the annual fee of 1%…. but people signed up because of the beard

    The selling point was that you would get more or less the performance of the index. At the time all the major banks (Lloyds, Abbey National, etc.) had their own fund management arms that would sell high charging poor performing unit trusts to their customers through commission based “financial advisers” tied to the bank

    Now we have Hargreaves Landsdowne to do the same thing in a call center near Bristol…

    ….and people wonder why the UK’s productivity growth is so crap…

  • 9 Steve21020 June 30, 2018, 7:48 pm

    — “The first big index launch in the UK was a virgin UK index tracker (I think the FTSE all-share) in the mid-90s. I remember the financial press slated it for the annual fee of 1%…. but people signed up because of the beard” —

    Yes, and I was one of them! I’d just discovered TMF and was eager to start ‘doing something with shares.’
    Three years of TMF finally made me start looking at the small print and I closed it down. It made me realise that people with twinkling eyes, a friendly face and a student look may not have my best interests at heart. My cynicism increased quite a lot that year. 🙂


  • 10 Matthew June 30, 2018, 8:56 pm

    I’m grateful to all the active investors for paying for all my research for me and pricing everything for me

    I’m attracted by the passive term, as I’m lazy and don’t like having to worry about what manager I have, or their strategy, it goes well with the idea of drawdown, because 85 year old pensioners might want to take their eye off the ball.
    I have a passive aggressive strategy lol

  • 11 Egremont June 30, 2018, 9:34 pm

    I do idly wonder from time to time what the rationale is for the kind of index that tracker funds track. In principle we are all after total return as we accumulate and income or total return (depending on how much we have accumulated and a stack of other factors) as we decumulate. The one thing we aren’t targeting, but our index funds are, is pure capital appreciation. I suppose the answer is that the capital indices are sort of an ok proxy, and actually exist. I believe there is a total return SP500 index, but they are few and far between.

  • 12 Matthew June 30, 2018, 9:48 pm

    @Egremont – sounds like a good idea but there might be a lot of rejigging, and it’d tilt for growth, and based on historic data

  • 13 dearieme June 30, 2018, 10:17 pm


    “US mutual funds are not available to foreign investors, but ETFs are, or were until some dullards introduced PRIIPS regulations”: you mean that the ETFs are no longer available to UK investors?

    “and US listed ETFs have additional tax benefits. UK investors get a tax credit for US dividend withholding tax for example, and I pay no dividend withholding tax at all on the US ETFs I hold [on to] in my SIPP.” So you can keep US ETFs if you happen to own them already? Will those ETFs already have paid withholding tax on the dividends they’ve received?

  • 14 dearieme June 30, 2018, 10:30 pm

    I was amused by the parable of Ralph and the nice touch of “Randy” and “Ralph Jr”. It seems to teach three things.

    (i) Have the backbone to pursue your interests while you are young, so that you still have time to correct your course if you don’t succeed.

    (ii) Don’t marry the wrong woman.

    (iii) Don’t have children if you can’t see how to spare some time for them.

    Somehow it failed to touch on the all-important topic of house prices.

  • 15 dearieme June 30, 2018, 10:30 pm

    I’m wrong: it did, fleetingly and tangentially, touch on house prices. So that’s OK.

  • 16 Naeclue June 30, 2018, 11:23 pm

    @dearieme, due to the PRIIPS rubbish retail investors can no longer buy US listed ETFS. That might change post Brexit, but I would not bank on it. But if you already have them you are not forced to sell and dividends will continue to be free of withholding tax if held in a SIPP. Unlike Irish domiciled ETFs, which receive dividends from US shares after deduction of 15% withholding tax, US listed ETFS do not suffer from withholding tax from US shares.

  • 17 Naeclue June 30, 2018, 11:45 pm

    @Egremont you can buy growth ETFS now if you want and if you had bought 10 years ago you would likely have beaten the total return from a cap weighted tracker for the relevant market, but this is unusual. Paradoxically, lower growth companies on cheaper valuations have more often than not outperformed higher growth companies on higher valuations. If we see reversion to the mean, now would not be a good time to buy a growth tracker.

    I don’t pretend to have any idea whether value will beat growth over the next 10 years, but what I do know is that a normal cap weighted tracker will very likely produce total returns somewhere between that of growth and value trackers for the relevant market and if history is any guide, performance will be closer to the higher performer than the lower. I just buy cap weighted trackers.

    @Steve21020, L&G and Gartmore had large index trackers long before Virgin. I used to hold them, but they were undercut on fees by others so I gradually moved out of them. Even at launch Virgin was more expensive than Gartmore/L&G, but that’s marketing for you.

  • 18 Tim June 30, 2018, 11:48 pm

    Re “passive”… I agree it does sound a bit “meh” and dull. I quite like “Evidence Based Investing” as an alternative umbrella term. It has the feelgood glow of “Evidence Based Medicine” (any other kind of medicine is woowoo snake oil) and of course the whole reason to use passives, indexing and variants like smart beta is because the evidence shows it works. “I’m an evidence-based investor” certainly sounds better than “I’m a passive investor”. Hat tip to Robin Powell’s blog and videos for doing much to publicise the term.

  • 19 Naeclue June 30, 2018, 11:51 pm

    The rationale for normal cap weighted trackers is they they track the market. As soon as you start filtering stuff out or over and under weighting you end up with an unpredictable result relative to the market as a whole and increase costs due to increased trading. You often have to pay higher fees as well.

  • 20 Vanguardfan July 1, 2018, 8:24 am

    @tim – I like it. It’s also a good reminder not to take any mantra about index investing and always look beyond, for the evidence.

  • 21 Vanguardfan July 1, 2018, 8:25 am

    Sorry keep forgetting to get comments notified. Would be so nice to be able to subscribe to comments without needing to comment!

  • 22 Keith July 1, 2018, 2:49 pm

    Some months ago, I got quite annoyed listening to Dominic O’Connell, the presenter of the Today programme’s early-morning business segment, talking of ‘the dumb money’ in relation to index investing. Now there’s a real knock to a ‘passive’ investor’s ego.

  • 23 Matthew July 1, 2018, 8:55 pm

    Knocks to ego are good practice for scrimping
    I don’t think it works to our advantage to encourage other people to invest passively because
    1- what they’d save in fees would get reinvested, making everything more expensive
    2 – they’re paying to price everything for those of us who are passive
    3 – we might be invested in the platforms that are ripping them off

    Generally with all things where you have to save people from themselves (ie alcohol, gambling, overdraft fees, energy bills) if you help the less responsible people it harms the more responsible ones – we are subsidised by people who pay over the odds, and people who buy products recklessly from our companies

  • 24 Tim July 2, 2018, 12:51 am

    @Matthew: I can see where you’re coming from (and especially that we need some active investors around to be doing the pricing work for us). And if the rest of the population were saving enough for their retirement then arguably they could well afford the luxury of premium priced investment products. However, unfortunately they are not, and so can hardly afford to have what they are saving being stolen from them with fees of say 1% per annum or more higher than they’d need to be paying with lower cost but equally effective passives. The drag on the general population’s retirement pot could well end up impacting all of us when those who have given up 30%-50% of it in fees (entirely possible over a career’s worth of saving) need more support from the state than they might otherwise have needed. Further, the existence of high fee options contributes to a general perception of “rip off pensions” which taints even the good options and has the uninformed sticking with cash savings. I suppose I’m saying this *is* still a case where saving people from themselves now is good thing because it’ll avoid having to bail them out later.

  • 25 The Borderer July 2, 2018, 1:49 am


    Well said.

    Which magazine investigated fees charged by pension providers in April 2018.

    They based their comparison of 20 pension providers assuming a £250,000 pot and 5% drawdown and 4% real growth in funds invested over a 15 year period.

    The results are startling.

    The best, Interactive Investor SIPP, after fees, left the pensioner with £184,703 after 15 years.
    The worst, Standard Life Active Money SIPP, left the pensioner with £173,076 after 15 years.

    It seems that it’s not just fees charged by investment companies that need our attention.

  • 26 The Borderer July 2, 2018, 2:01 am
  • 27 John B July 2, 2018, 4:41 am

    @Matthew the ‘let fools subsidise me’ is partly true, but assumes a zero sum economy. A more efficient economy can grow faster, lifting all boats. The National Lottery, which is financial idiocy, gives players pleasure, government tax and good causes a boost, all at minimal cost to me.

    As far as active investing goes, most people don’t want to devote the time to micro-manage theie money, so the hands-off nature of passive investing should appeal

  • 28 Matthew July 2, 2018, 5:44 am

    Is it zero sum I wonder? As the money will make its way into smarter hands and still be reinvested, just in another person’s name, but on the other hand money isn’t a closed system since new credit creates new cash, but again we have fools (I pity the fools) to thank for that

    I agree that fools will be more of a tax burden in later life – unless they are too foolish to use tax wrappers, in which case they might contribute more. Active investors are a darn sight more screwed on than non investors, so I can’t see them claiming pension credit and housing benefit, but I suppose if they were passive they’d pay more pension tax for having done better

    Long term if everyone went passive, if that caused higher valuations it might help companies grow and the economy, short term it’ll raise p/e ratios

  • 29 Matthew July 2, 2018, 6:20 am

    I think as investors we rely on consumer foolishness to a degree – if everyone was frugal there wouldn’t be nearly the profit opportunities.
    I also think charities have a place but they can take cash out of an economy, and investing can do more good sometimes

    Fools provide general demand, investors provide supply (via giving liquidity to the secondary market, necessarily for share issuings)

  • 30 Tim July 2, 2018, 10:05 am

    @The Borderer: I’m surprised that Which? report didn’t find a wider range actually, but it’s not too clear what the scope of their survey is or even what the pot is actually invested in and how much the fund charges are (I’m just reading the summary though). I suspect a lot of folks out there are in schemes even more expensive (when additional advice fees are included) than the Standard Life one given that I’ve seen claims that “the current annual cost of retail investment is 2.56 per cent. This figure includes initial advice and ongoing investment fees as well as platform and fund costs.” for the national average ( https://www.ftadviser.com/investments/2016/11/14/what-is-about-right-for-percentage-fees/ ). Presumably Which?’s focus on SIPPs selects a cannier subset of punters. However I’m also surprised Which? didn’t also list some cheaper options. For example £250000 in Vanguard Lifestrategy on Alliance Trust Savings (flat fee) ought to cost a fraction of even Which?’s cheapest Interactive Investor option I think (although as Lifestrategy doesn’t yield much, for 5% drawdown you’d need to generate an income by selling units periodically).

  • 31 Naeclue July 2, 2018, 10:59 am

    I have a lot of sympathy with @Matthew’s views. However we do need a relatively high level of investors to back index investing as this brings scale and competition which drives down the costs. Back in the 90s I think the cheapest UK tracker I could find charged around 0.25%. Since then the increased popularity of the approach has cut that by about two thirds. Retail actively managed funds in contrast do not compete on price, but on marketing and fund management charges have not dropped, although overall costs have as trail commission has been stripped out.

    My niece has recently been opted in to the Arcadia pension fund, run by L&G, and asked me to look into it. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Annual management charge for the plan was 0.25% and fund management charge for the actively managed default fund was only 0.13%. There are very competitive index funds available as well, for example a developed world fund for 0.1%.

  • 32 Mark Reynolds July 2, 2018, 11:01 am


    “Some months ago, I got quite annoyed listening to Dominic O’Connell, the presenter of the Today programme’s early-morning business segment, talking of ‘the dumb money’ in relation to index investing. Now there’s a real knock to a ‘passive’ investor’s ego.”

    It seems to me like there are two types of investor around – “the dumb money” and the “even dumber money”. I know which group I want to be in.

  • 33 Matthew July 2, 2018, 11:37 am

    Good point, naeclue, I suppose there is a balance to be struck, and I think both active and passive will always both exist since one creates opportunities for the other, as will the psychologies. If you held enough if your own fundmanager you could turn high fees into a good thing, but that’d be letting the tail wag the dog.

    I see a threat in technology, because if the supply of everything increases exponentially and these eventually an automated workforce, profitability might be gone

  • 34 Naeclue July 2, 2018, 12:18 pm

    So dumb money is that which is sitting in the market rolling up dividends while smart money goes in and out of the market, flippping between shares and passing a significant proportion of market returns to brokers, fund managers, advisors and other middlemen. Does that sound right?

  • 35 Keith July 2, 2018, 12:43 pm

    @ Naeclue

    Indeed. Of course it’s inherent in the format of the programme, where O’Connell has a daily guest ‘market analyst’, who is asked what the latest domestic or international news means for the financial system and where investors will or should be looking to (re)direct of their money. If every ‘analyst’ guest came on and said, ‘Well, it’s all noise really and you should continue to hold and add to VLS60’, there would soon not be much point in airing that segment of the show.

  • 36 Matthew July 2, 2018, 3:11 pm

    So it’s pretend market journalism so that pretend traders can pretend to have an edge and make money that they can use to pretend to be cool with

  • 37 Steve July 2, 2018, 7:15 pm

    I only hold index-trackers but check them every week.
    Does that make me ‘actively passive’?
    Only joking!
    Keep up the great website guys 🙂

  • 38 A beta investor July 3, 2018, 11:12 am

    There is no such thing as a truly “passive fund”

    This definition of the Vanguard UK fund sums it well
    Vanguard FTSE U.K. All Share Index Unit Trust seeks to track the performance of the index.

    Investment strategy
    The Scheme employs an indexing investment strategy designed to achieve a result consistent with the replication of the index by investing in all, or a representative sample of, the securities that make up the index, holding each stock in approximate proportion to its weighting in the index.
    Derivatives are not listed in the FT All Share Index yet Vanguard use them. The decision of when and how much is an active decision. In the same way few index funds hold every single stock in the index, deciding on which small fry to include or exclude is an active decision. Those weasel words “seek to track” and “designed to achieve a result consistent with the replication of the index by investing in all, or a representative sample of” give the game away.

    The best description is that used by Profressors Andrew Clare and Stephen Thomas of Cass Business School. They advocate the label of “rules based investing”
    That makes sense to me because it makes clear that the managers exercise very little discretion and, when they do, it should be clear to investors why they are doing it.
    One objection to smart-beta funds is that they are not “proper” passive funds because they don’t follow the index. But if the rules are clear and well set out then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be regarded as “rules based” in the same way.
    The main aim of an index, passive, or rules based fund is to eliminate discretion so that investors know what they are buying rather than just trusting the intuition of a manager.

  • 39 rick24 July 3, 2018, 3:16 pm

    The term ‘Index investing’ has a couple of disadvantages I can think of.

    When active managers are promoting their wares, they talk dismissively of ‘closet index trackers’, meaning actively managed funds that are too close in composition to an index to offer the benefits of the investment wunderkind’s special strategy.

    In comparing their approach with index investing, active managers tend to focus on a particular index (e.g. FTSE100), rather than taking account of the broad base of the passive approach: investing globally across multiple asset classes with automatic rebalancing between them. This enables them to overlook the benefits of the passive approach (minimizing correlation across an entire portfolio; buying low, selling high).

  • 40 Tyro July 3, 2018, 5:43 pm

    @ TI & TA: on the marketing question, I have to admit I’m slightly surprised that you haven’t already defined in some detail the demographic the book is intended for (wouldn’t you want to have written it with that in mind throughout?) but if you’re hoping to entice readers who aren’t already investing nerds, I suspect it would be wiser not to have ‘passive’ in the title. The connotations just aren’t good. Maybe you could find a word that expresses inactivity in a more appealing way (e.g. ‘cool’, ‘chilled’, or even ‘lazy’ investing), or focus on another (alleged) virtue or advantage or attribute of index trackers (‘smart’, ‘inexpensive’, ‘rational’, ‘diverse’, etc). And yes, I know these specific suggestions are a bit dull, but you’re not paying me a consultancy fee and I’m confident you could, if you wanted, come up with much better!

  • 41 Matthew July 3, 2018, 6:08 pm

    I think the passive term actually will appeal to noobs with little time who’d otherwise feel intimidated by the work they think is needcd, passive income is an appealing concept

  • 42 Mr Optimistic July 3, 2018, 7:53 pm

    Can’t see the word ‘passive’ in a book title doing much to grab attention, or ‘index’ come to think of it.

  • 43 The Investor July 3, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Thanks for the thoughts on the book title. Have alerted @TA to pay attention.


    I have to admit I’m slightly surprised that you haven’t already defined in some detail the demographic the book is intended for

    You’re easily surprised. 😉

  • 44 Mr Optimistic July 4, 2018, 10:40 pm

    “The Investor’s Guide to Furnishing a Flat and Low Cost Wall Coverings”

  • 45 Mr Optimistic July 4, 2018, 11:04 pm

    I have no doubt it will explain the key underlaying issues.

  • 46 The Investor July 4, 2018, 11:49 pm

    @Mr Optimistic — Curtains for returns, though.

  • 47 Mr Optimistic July 5, 2018, 12:55 am

    Fair enough, but in terms of the book, what is your target audience, how many of them are there and how do you get their attention? People who are generally uninterested in how their money is invested – though it may be crucial to their future well being- are not out there perusing the bookshelves for the simple reason they have no current interest. For example, our pension scheme has 97% of members invested in the Trustee decided ‘default’ lifestyle package- all active funds albeit some multi-asset. Out of 800 people I would hazard that perhaps 30 know what the default actually is and probably 600 plus haven’t bothered to ever log in to the online site which tells you.

    I don’t know how to get people to engage with the pension process which, for most people, is the largest discretionary investment they will make in their lifetimes ( I exclude property purchase as it seems a touchy subject) and which will have a large bearing on their future financial security (second only to avoiding divorce obv.).
    So in my mind it’s not a ‘FIRE’ audience that needs more knowledge it’s the audience which doesn’t know it doesn’t know enough to know if doesn’t know enough which is where the evangelists should start.

  • 48 grey gym sock July 5, 2018, 4:29 am

    it’s not passive investing, it’s Full Capitalist Investing. because it means owning a small slice of all the capitalist businesses that it’s possible to own a small slice of.

    (and it’s not active investing, it’s Partial Capitalist Investing, while also being continuously leeched on by some of the financial capitalist businesses.)

    i agree with the idea that “lazy” can be a positive term. hence, one possible book title: The Lazy Capitalist.

    it’s not just about laziness. FCI is also a way to be a capitalist if you don’t have the skills or contacts to start a business, or if you just don’t have enough capital (though you do need to have some savings that you won’t need to spend any time soon; many people perfectly sensibly don’t invest because this doesn’t apply to them). it’s also a lower-risk way to be a capitalist (because of the advantage of diversification).

    so … How to Be a Capitalist In Your Spare Time Without Being Rich or an Insider … hmmm, that’s not very good. but i definitely think you should leave the word “passive” out of the title.

  • 49 The Investor July 5, 2018, 7:48 am

    @Mr Optimistic — Sorry, I was trying to be funny/punny in the spirit of your comments! 🙂 Interesting further comments, which we will ponder.

    @grey gym sock — Thanks for the extra thoughts, and I agree about lazy. It’s a tricky one (partly because I think others have claimed that word). As for being a capitalist, I once had talks with a publisher who wanted me to write a book based on this article:


    They liked everything but the title! 🙂

    For what it’s worth, I still think it’s a strong title and I may yet write the book. (One book at a time though, will wait to get @TA’s passive/indexing bible out the door first. 🙂 )

  • 50 Mr Optimistic July 5, 2018, 11:01 pm

    @TI, no problem, keep up the good work (and avoid eau de nil).

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