Investing vs. speculating: what’s the difference?

When someone asked Warren Buffett how long he would keep stocks, he said, “Forever!” Millions of trades in securities happen every day in the stock markets. There are speculators on the stock market as well as investors, and some of them are not even willing to hold on to stocks for one day. So, as soon as you decide to invest in the stock market, you need to decide right away whether you are going to be investing or speculating. Any money spent on something is seen as an investment by the average household, whether it’s on a house, a car, a business, or jewelry.


Investing means putting money into things that will make you money in the long term. One type of investment is in a business, which can be done directly or by buying shares. The main goal of the investor is to own a piece of the business and have a say in how it is run. While corporate law is different in each country, the general rule is that the more shares you own, the more power you have as a manager in the company. The investor also thinks that the share price of the company will go up over time and that they will get dividends.


When you speculate in the stock market, you buy assets with the short-term timing of selling them later and making money from their rising or falling prices. 

As an easy example, if you buy $1 million worth of bonds and plan to keep them until they mature, you are investing and giving credit to the company. It is just speculation in the share market if you buy shares of the same company on the stock market for $1 million and then sell them a week later for $1.1 million.

From a bigger picture point of view, what’s the investment different from speculation? Between a stock market investor and a speculator in the stock market, the difference is both use the same brokers to buy and sell securities on the same stock exchanges. You need to look at a chart of an index over many years to find the answer. Let’s say it’s the American DJIA, which has been around for 100 years.

By looking at this chart, we can see that when we invest for the long term, the capital always grows because companies pay dividends and their market value rises. But this growth is faster than the rate of inflation. First, it happens because there is real business behind the shares, which must grow in the long run.

But if we showed this chart to a speculator, he would place betting for times when he thought it was best to buy and times when he thought it was best to close a position or even “short” to make the most money from price changes. So, in theory, the speculator should make a lot more money than an investor who follows the “buy and hold” rule.

How can you determine what type of trading is right for you?

To begin, you need to decide how much time you are willing to spend trading. Trading for speculation all the time takes a lot of time. Also, someone who speculates needs to know a lot about the stock market. Most of the time, a regular person who has never dealt with the stock market will not be able to show a stable result without at least some basic training. If you don’t know what you’re doing, your money will eventually go to people who are better at the market. One reason to learn is that speculation can be more profitable if you do it right, meaning that it has higher potential returns than the well-known “buy and hold” strategy.

A lot of people who are new to the market make the same mistake. They bet on something, and the price goes against them. This deal becomes an investment for the long term because no one wants to look like they lost money. Traders stop being speculators and start investing real money.

It’s also important to decide how much money you will use to enter the market. It doesn’t make sense to invest for the long term if the money you have isn’t very big; you won’t be able to make much. If you want to bet on something, you should enter the market with money that you don’t mind losing. Before you can do that, though, you need to know how you deal with the market, or how you mentally handle wins and losses. Figure out right away how much of a loss you can handle: 5% of your funds, 10%, 50%, or even all of them.

It is also very important to watch how you handle your money and stick to your trading strategy when you are trading speculatively.

Who is more profitable to be a speculator vs an investor?

There isn’t a clear answer to this question. Speculators take bigger risks and can lose a lot, but they can also make a lot of money. People who invest take less risk, but the returns they get are usually not very high. Anyone who trades on the stock exchange can do both investing and speculation at the same time. By dividing your money between these two “methods” in the right way, you can indirectly control the risk of your portfolio. You take on less risk when you have more long-term investments that pay you interest or dividends regularly. To sum up, investment and speculation are not the same in three main ways:

1. The length of time: a financial transaction is thought to be an investment if it lasts longer than one year. If there is less than a year between the start of the operation and its end, it is just a guess;

2. A way to make money. If someone buys something to sell it later for a higher price, that is usually speculation. Investments are always actions that are done to make money through dividends (or interest) that are paid on the asset that was bought or an increase in the value of the company by looking at fundamental factors;

3. Making money and taking risks. Most of the time, speculative operations are more profitable. During the life of an investment idea, several speculative high-yield transactions can be made. But don’t forget that there is a risk that goes along with it, especially when working with borrowed money.

If you want your money to go further, you should learn how to invest and speculate. When you invest, you learn how to figure out an object’s real value and its future, and when you speculate, you learn the best time to enter and leave the market.


This is the main difference between speculation and investing in the stock market: how much risk the person is willing to take. Speculators want to make a lot of money quickly and are willing to take on more risk, while investors are happy to wait for a slow but steady return over a long period.

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