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Trading vs. Investing: What’s the Difference?

While many market participants, whether more or less informed, use the terms trading and investing interchangeably, there are key differences between the two, in addition to some crucial similarities. In this article, we will take a deep dive into these two terms and explore how and when they can be applied.

An illustration of the difference between trading and investing

Trading vs. Investing: Introduction

Trading and investing differ primarily in their timeframes, focus, and methodologies. Traders typically pursue short-term investments, including various styles like day trading, while investors opt for long-term asset holdings. Traders prioritize technical factors to predict and capitalize on short-term movements, whereas investors assess long-term growth potential or value, often adopting a buy-and-hold strategy. Traders exploit market inefficiencies, utilizing strategies ranging from scalp trading to swing trading, reflecting diverse investment objectives and time horizons. Additionally, traders and investors engage with markets differently, employing varying research methods and risk management tools tailored to their respective approaches.

What Is Investing?

Investing serves as a means to incrementally amass wealth over prolonged durations through the acquisition and retention of a diversified portfolio comprising various asset classes such as stocks, mutual funds, bonds, ETFs, and other financial instruments. Typically, these investments are maintained for several years or even decades, capitalizing on benefits like interest, dividends, and stock splits while navigating the inevitable ebbs and flows of the market with the anticipation of eventual recovery. Investors primarily focus on fundamental market indicators such as price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios and management forecasts to inform their decisions.

Even individuals with retirement accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs are essentially investors, even if they do not actively monitor the daily performance of their holdings. This is because the overarching objective of retirement savings is to achieve consistent growth over the long term, rendering day-to-day fluctuations in mutual funds less significant in comparison.

Generally, investors take either passive or active stances with regard to their market activities. An active strategy involves continuously taking the pulse of investment outcomes and adjusting accordingly, while more passive investors usually can be observed to invest and then sit back and watch, aiming to track the returns of a benchmark index without frequent intervention.

The essence of long-term investing is underscored by investment horizons extending beyond a year. The duration required to recoup investments largely hinges on individual strategies and goals. For instance, individuals saving for retirement typically maintain longer investment horizons compared to those saving for short-term objectives such as a down payment on a house. Thus, the philosophy of investing revolves around patience, strategic planning, and an unwavering commitment to achieving financial goals over extended time frames.

What Is Trading?

The core definition of trading denotes the sale and purchase of financial instruments, among them stocks, commodities, and currency pairs, with the goal of achieving higher returns than those offered by more staid investing styles. While investors may find satisfaction in annual returns ranging from 10% to 15%, traders often aim for monthly returns of 10% or more.

Profits in trading are derived from buying low and selling high within a relatively short timeframe or selling high and buying back at a lower price (known as selling short) to profit from declining markets. Unlike investors who endure less profitable positions, traders seek to capitalize on market movements within a specific timeframe, employing protective stop-loss orders to automatically close out losing positions at predefined price levels. Technical analysis tools like moving averages and stochastic oscillators are commonly utilized by traders to identify favourable trading opportunities.

Trading styles are categorized based on the holding period of positions. Position traders hold positions for months to years, swing traders for days to weeks, day traders throughout the day with no overnight positions, and scalp traders for seconds to minutes with no overnight positions. Traders select their style considering factors such as account size, time commitment, experience level, personality, and risk tolerance.

In contrast to investors, traders operate with a short-term time horizon, monitoring market fluctuations closely to seize opportunities for profit maximization and loss mitigation. This entails frequent monitoring of asset prices, with trading time frames ranging from minutes to several days.

Trading vs. Investing: Similarities and Differences

Investing and trading share common objectives despite their differences. Both endeavours aim to generate profits through the buying and selling of various assets, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Investors and traders alike open accounts to facilitate these transactions, with the overarching goal of capital growth.

However, the distinction between the two lies in their timeframes and risk exposures. Investors typically adopt longer time horizons, often spanning years, whereas traders operate within shorter durations, sometimes mere minutes. This variance in holding periods exposes traders to higher risks compared to investors, particularly due to the frequent turnover of assets and the inclusion of diverse instruments like futures and swaps in traders' portfolios.

Furthermore, the nature of trading demands a considerable amount of time, effort, and expertise. Traders engage in consistent market monitoring and employ complex research methods to make informed decisions. They often possess a deep understanding of market dynamics and are adept at managing risk. In contrast, investors may rely more on financial advisors for guidance, particularly if they lack extensive market knowledge.

While trading and investing are often used interchangeably, they represent distinct approaches. Trading involves frequent buying and selling of assets for short-term gains, with a primary focus on share prices. Conversely, investing prioritizes long-term growth, emphasizing the purchase and retention of investment vehicles over extended periods.

Determining the profitability of trading versus investing depends on individual circumstances and risk tolerance. Trading may offer higher returns for those with market expertise and a higher tolerance for risk. In contrast, investing may be more suitable for risk-averse individuals seeking capital preservation.

Overall, trading is typically regarded as more complex than investing. Traders must navigate volatile markets, manage emotions, and cope with potential significant losses, making it a challenging endeavour requiring discipline and skill.

How to Start Investing

  1. Acquaint yourself with the broader stock market trends and focus on specific stocks of interest.
  2. Establish clear investment objectives and develop a strategy tailored to achieve them.
  3. Stay informed about economic indicators, corporate news, and market sentiment that could influence the performance of selected stocks.
  4. Utilize risk management tools provided by your brokerage platform to safeguard your investments.
  5. Execute trades using the Plus500 Invest platform to buy or sell stocks of interest.*
  6. Keep track of your investments’ performance and be prepared to adjust your strategy based on market conditions and outcomes.

*Plus500 Invest is not available in all jurisdictions, subject to regulation.

How to Start Trading

  1. Gain a thorough understanding of the broader stock market dynamics and focus on specific stocks of interest for trading.
  2. Define clear trading objectives and develop a strategy tailored to achieve them, considering factors like entry and exit points, position sizing, and risk management.
  3. Stay updated on relevant economic and geopolitical developments that could impact the stock market, particularly those affecting the stocks you're trading.
  4. Utilize risk management tools provided by Plus500, such as stop-loss orders and position sizing techniques, to mitigate potential losses and protect your capital.
  5. Execute trades using the Plus500 CFD trading platform to buy or sell stocks, focusing on timely entries and exits to capitalize on short-term price movements.
  6. Regularly assess the performance of your stock trades and adjust your trading strategy as needed based on market conditions and trading outcomes.


In conclusion, while the terms trading and investing are often used interchangeably, it is important to recognize the fundamental differences between the two, as well as their shared objectives. Both trading and investing aim to generate profits through the buying and selling of assets, yet they diverge in their timeframes, risk exposures, and methodologies.

Investing entails a long-term approach, focusing on gradually amassing wealth through the acquisition and retention of a diversified portfolio of assets. Investors prioritize fundamental market indicators and employ a buy-and-hold strategy to capitalize on long-term growth opportunities.

On the other hand, trading involves frequent transactions and shorter timeframes, aiming to capitalize on short-term price movements for immediate gains. Traders utilize technical analysis tools and employ various trading styles to navigate market fluctuations and maximize profits within specific timeframes.

Ultimately, whether one chooses to invest or trade depends on individual preferences, risk tolerance, and financial goals. While trading may offer the potential for higher returns, it also requires a greater level of expertise, discipline, and active management. Investing, on the other hand, may be more suitable for those seeking long-term wealth accumulation with less active involvement.

Regardless of the chosen approach, both trading and investing require thorough research, careful planning, and ongoing monitoring to achieve success in the dynamic world of financial markets.


Are Trading and Investing the same thing?

Although they are often used interchangeably, trading is more focused on short-term actions, while investors generally take longer positions.

What factors should you consider when deciding between trading and investing?

When deciding between investing and trading you should take into account your financial goals, personal knowledge, and level of risk tolerance.

What are the biggest mistakes to avoid when trading or investing?

Whether you’re investing or trading, it is important to track your trading outcomes as well as do research in accordance with your personal goals.

What are the advantages of trading over investing?

Traders can potentially outperform the market by buying low and selling high, yielding higher monthly returns than investors. Furthermore, they are potentially able to profit from declining markets through short selling and capitalize on recurrent profits from regular trading.

What are the advantages of investing over trading?

Investing is able to provide longer-term financial gains than trading at times, since investments can provide compounded returns. Investing can also be a source of passive income since the capital put into investments is larger and remains for a longer period of time, in general.

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