Free Trial

Growth vs value investing: What are the differences?

A business person tracking the technical movement of a stock chart on a computer screen.

Key Points

  • Growth stocks are expensive by valuation but offer some type of market-beating product or innovation.
  • Value stocks are cheap by traditional fundamental metrics and may be trading for less than they're worth.
  • Both styles seek to beat market averages, but require the right environment for outperformance.
  • 5 stocks we like better than Amazon.com

Want to learn about growth vs value investing? You've landed on the right page! This article will review the differences between growth and value stocks and discuss which market environments are best for each. 

Growth and value may seem at odds initially, but both play an important role in portfolio construction.

Growth vs value: What are the differences? 

What is value vs growth investing? 

Growth vs. value investing is arguably the biggest rivalry in modern markets. We're talking Yankees vs. Red Sox, Foreman vs. Ali or Elon Musk vs. the SEC. Growth and value have legions of proponents who will fiercely argue the benefits of each investing style over the other. And then some investors are more down the middle, arguing for value or growth depending on the market environment. 

As with most debates, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. But growth can still outperform value for extended periods or vice versa. Learning the pros and cons of both styles (and when each one is appropriate) is an essential step in becoming a versatile investor. Rigid dogma is often the fast track to underperformance. But for now, let's dig deeper into the meaning of a growth stock vs value stock.

Understanding growth investing 

Saying that growth investing is all about short-term profits is a misnomer — ask anyone who's spent the last 20 years invested in Apple Inc. NASDAQ: AAPL or Amazon Inc. NASDAQ: AMZN if short time frames were the only path to success.

MarketBeat infographic on growth vs. value investing.

Definition and characteristics

The definition of growth investing varies depending on your source. For example, in a recent growth investing vs value investing analysis, Charles Schwab defined growth stocks as companies with five-year average sales growth over 15%. In contrast, value stocks were defined as companies with a price-to-sales rate under 1. But this is just one sample of definitions and growth investing is more about mindset and risk tolerance than fitting rigid criteria. 


Growth companies are expected to outperform, so investors don't mind paying a premium to own their stocks. Growth stocks usually look expensive through valuation metrics like the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio or price-to-book (P/B) ratio because growth investors typically care more about potential sales than current sales. These companies usually reside in volatile sectors like tech or biotech and rarely pay dividends since profits go directly back into the firm. Growth investors should be prepared for volatility since these companies frequently suffer ups and downs as they push new products and innovations to the market.

Key metrics to evaluate growth stocks

Growth stocks are focused on expansion and R&D, with less emphasis on margins and return capital to shareholders. A company focused on growth likely won’t have a large dividend payout or cash position since revenue plowed right back into the firm. Here are a few metrics to keep an eye on when evaluating growth companies:

  • Revenue growth: Investors want to see growth, right? Companies in this market area are rewarded if they can show revenue accelerating quarter after quarter.
  • Market share expansion: Revenue isn’t the only area where investors want to see growth. Growth stocks also want to expand their footprint into their addressable market by stealing share from competitors and opening up paths for new customers.
  • Price-to-earnings growth (PEG) rate: PEG rate takes a company’s P/E ratio and uses earnings growth to project future revenue. A company that’s growing its EPS figures will be attractive to investors.

Risk factors in growth investing

Growth stocks are riskier than value stocks because they tend to be newer companies or firms without profits to match their valuation. Here are a few of the main risks of growth stock investing:

  • Volatility: Growth stock prices often fluctuate wildly, especially during turbulent markets.
  • Market cycles: Companies with a growth-oriented focus are usually more heavily influenced by market and business cycles, which could result in sudden drawdowns should economic conditions crumble. High inflation and the Federal Reserve’s rapid interest rate increases were two instances where economic conditions negatively influenced growth stocks.
  • Individual company risk: When dealing with growth stocks, you’ll occasionally need to deal with failure. Cash flows dry up, regulation influences material prices or management makes a mistake - all things that can bring down an individual company. Individual growth stock prices will always be fickle, so never invest too much capital into a single security.

Understanding value investing 

Value investing has many famous cheerleaders, like Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett and Jeremy Grantham. And while value investors are also looking to beat the market average, they approach stocks differently than growth investors. Unlike growth investors, who don't mind paying for pricey valuations, value investors shop in the discount aisle.

Graham is arguably the father of value investing. He coined the term "margin of safety" to describe his investment criteria, which modern investors like Buffett have embraced. One of Buffett's favorite analogies about margin of safety was about building a bridge. If the heaviest truck using the bridge weighs 10,000 pounds, build a bridge that can withstand 30,000 pounds.

Definition and characteristics 

One of the key differences between value investing vs growth investing is that value investors won't overpay for innovative companies or exciting new technology. Value investors look for stocks underpriced by fundamental metrics like P/E ratio, price-to-sales (P/S) ratio or price-to-cash flow (P/CF) ratio.

Adopting a value investing mentality means looking for cheap stocks according to traditional valuation metrics. Often, this means buying downtrodden or less exciting stocks like banks, industrials or other dividend-paying companies. Value investors aren't looking for the next big thing, just good companies at fair prices.

Key metrics to evaluate value stocks

What is the intrinsic value of a public company? Value investors first seek to properly evaluate the worth of a firm and then buy the stocks of companies that appear to be trading below their intrinsic value. Book value and free cash flow are some metrics value investors use to analyze companies, but here are three more crucial ones that all investors should understand.

  • P/E ratio: Valuations carry much more weight to value investors than growth investors and one of the quickest ways to check how "expensive" a stock is by using the price-to-earnings ratio. Simply divide the company’s stock price by its earnings per share (EPS) and compare the resulting number with other companies in the industry or sector. A low P/E ratio could signal an undervalued company. Similar metrics like price-to-book (P/B) and price-to-sales (P/S) can also be useful depending on the industry.
  • Dividend payout rate: Value stocks often pay dividends since they’re frequently older companies with a rich history of rewarding shareholders. But not all dividends are equally as safe and a dividend cut can be lethal to a value stock. How can an investor determine the strength of a dividend? By using the dividend payout rate, you can find how much of a company’s profits go toward satisfying dividend payments. If the percentage is high, it could mean the current dividend yield is in trouble.
  • Beta: Value investors prefer stocks with minimal volatility, so the beta is useful to determine which stocks will have the most manageable short-term gyrations. Beta uses a market index like the S&P 500 as a basis of 1 and measures stock volatility compared to the index. For example, a stock with a beta of 0.8 would be 20% less volatile than the S&P 500 as a whole.

Risk factors in value investing

Here are the risks that value investors must contend with when selecting stocks:

  • Underperformance: Value investors try to buy companies on sale. But what if those companies continue to lag the broader market? Just because a stock appears undervalued based on certain metrics doesn’t mean the market will agree long term. 
  • Economic conditions: Does a company seem undervalued simply because the market environment is dragging down all equities? Value investors often use bear markets or economic downturns to purchase their favorite stocks at a discount, but some downtrodden stocks might not survive to the next bull market.
  • Value traps: Sometimes, a stock will look cheap because of something that isn’t reflected in the data, like a management scandal or a shrinking industry. Many of the stocks of now-defunct internet companies looked cheap by value standards following the dot com bubble implosion but simply never recovered and went to zero.

Comparative analysis: Growth vs. value investing

Which factor is better, growth or value? The answer (of course) depends on your goals and time horizons as an investor. But for the sake of comparison, let’s look at the historical returns of these two factors.

Historical performance comparison

The last 20 years have belonged to the growth stocks. Since the start of 2004, the Vanguard Growth ETF NYSE: VUG has returned over 526% compared to the Vanguard Value ETF NYSE: VTV’s 202% return.

Why such drastic outperformance from growth stocks? Over time, growth tends to beat value since the biggest winners in the growth arena often become the Amazons, Microsofts and NVIDIAs of the world. But you also must consider the environment since the Great Recession and its low rates, low inflation and a healthy influx of capital looking for outperformance. Value did outperform growth in the years leading up to the crisis, along with a steady 2022 when growth stocks plunged.

Cyclical nature of markets

Growth stocks, especially those in the tech sector, saw rapid price appreciation in the decade following the Great Recession thanks to a comfortable environment. When rates and inflation are low, the appetite for growth can be strong. 

Value investors got a reprieve in 2022 as rates rose. With both material, labor and capital costs rising, value stocks held strong while growth stocks plummeted. But the rally was short-lived and growth once again outperformed value in 2023. Investors need to understand the cyclical nature of markets if they want to maximize growth and value factors.

Examples of growth investing companies 

When choosing between growth or value stocks, you'll need to determine your investment goals and criteria. Are you looking to pick the best individual growth stocks or want to invest in growth stock funds like the SPDR Portfolio S&P 500 Growth ETF NYSE: SPYG? Growth ETFs can even have themes, like the Vanguard S&P Small Cap 600 Growth ETF NYSE: VIOG.

Looking for some specific examples? Here are three companies in different industries that fit the growth stock mold.

NVIDIA Corp.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more discussed growth stock over the last few years than chipmaker NVIDIA Corp. NASDAQ: NVDA. The company pays minimal dividends and has a sky-high P/E ratio, but its microchips and AI advances have made it one of the tech sector's darlings. NVIDIA has been a public company for decades, but sales growth has exploded over the last few years.

HealthStream Inc.

HealthStream Inc. NASDAQ: HSTM is a mid-cap healthcare staffing solutions company offering training, credentialing and scheduling for medical professionals and data and administrative systems for healthcare providers. 

What makes it a growth stock? Despite a P/E ratio over 70 and a minimal dividend yield, HealthStream has increased profits for five consecutive years, and current projections indicate an earnings increase of 15% in 2023.

The Trade Desk Inc.

The priciest stock on our list belongs to The Trade Desk Inc. NASDAQ: TTD, with a P/E ratio north of 600. But unlike most stocks with a P/E ratio that high, The Trade Desk has a market cap close to $30 billion and a history of providing solutions to advertising clients. The company's projected earnings growth for 2023 is over 63%, and profits have grown substantially, including a boost from $974 million to $1.3 billion in the last year alone.

Examples of value investing companies 

Value stocks also have plenty of ETFs and index funds offering exposure to different market sections, depending on certain criteria. Broad index funds like the Schwab U.S. Large Cap Value ETF NYSE: SCHV hold big, recognizable companies with good underlying fundamentals. Or you can go the thematic route, like the Vanguard Russell 1000 Value Index NYSE: VONV, which tracks small and mid-cap value stocks, or the iShares MSCI International Value Factor ETF NYSE: IVLU, which tracks undervalued stocks outside the United States.

Here are three different stocks that currently fall into the value category based on their fundamentals. Note that many former growth stocks entered value territory following the 2022 bear market (which is a good example of why investors benefit from adopting fluid strategies).

Walmart Inc. 

Can the world's largest retailer really be undervalued? By lots of fundamental metrics, yes! Walmart Inc. NYSE: WMT generates more revenue and employs more people than any company but trades at a relatively fair valuation. The stock pays a good dividend, and its P/S ratio is under 1, meaning the company produces more than $1 in revenue for every $1 in equity provided by investors.

The Home Depot Inc.

One non-tech stock hit hard in 2022 was The Home Depot Inc. NYSE: HD, dropping over 30% from its 2021 highs. But value investors will like what they see now thanks to a P/E ratio under 20, beta under 1 and history of dividend payment increases. Home Depot is a good example of a company that became a value stock due to factors outside its control.

Bank of America Corp. 

You can often find Bank of America Corp. NYSE: BAC value in the banking sector, and many financial stocks were hit hard following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in early 2023. When events like a banking crisis drag entire sectors down, you can often find deals, and Bank of America fits that bill. The stock has a P/E ratio under 10, a P/B rate under 1 and pays a sustainable dividend. 

Pros and cons of growth vs. value investing 

Deciding between growth or value stocks? Here are some pros and cons of each investing style.

Pros of growth investing 

Take a look at the benefits of growth investing:

  • Outperformance: It's been a good decade to be a growth investor. Following the end of the financial crisis, growth stocks have consistently outperformed value. Past performance is no barometer of future performance, but the decade between 2011 and 2021 was not kind to value investors.
  • Exciting new trends: Growth stocks often bring new products or innovations to the market and are frequently priced at a premium.
  • Beating the market: When the economy is going well and markets rise, the top growth stocks are often the cream of the crop. A good example is the FAANG basket of stocks, which outperformed the S&P 500 substantially from 2012 to 2022.

Cons of growth investing 

The cons of growth investing include the following:

  • Expensive valuations: Investors pay for the privilege of growth investing. Growth companies often don't have earnings to match their market cap, so P/E and P/S rates are high.
  • High volatility: Growth also comes with risk as these companies carry high beta stocks that fluctuate more than the overall market. If you can't stomach volatility, growth investing will be difficult.
  • Often suffer in rising rate environments: When rates rise, companies that don't have profits matching their valuation can find capital harder to come by, significantly damaging undercapitalized tech firms that may see stricter terms from lenders.

Pros of value investing 

Now, the benefits of value investing:

  • Established companies: Value stocks are often older companies that have experienced short-term stagnation, driving their value below where it should be. This allows value investors to buy cheap shares before the market reverses.
  • Low beta: Value stocks aren't as volatile as growth stocks, offering investors more stability and predictability.
  • Usually dividend payers: Value stocks can also provide income to investors from dividends since they aren't concerned about reinvesting excess profits into research and development.

Cons of value investing 

The downsides of value investing include the following: 

  • Underperform in bull markets: Value stocks are great to own when bear markets strike, but when market conditions improve, so do growth stocks' prospects. Value stocks often underperform growth stocks in bull markets.
  • Value traps: Not every stock with a low P/E ratio or high dividend yield is a value stock. Stocks are sometimes cheap for a reason, and a company with questionable accounting or C-suite controversies may not provide actual value in the future. Value investing requires more due diligence than just memorizing a few ratios.

How growth and value overlap 

Growth vs value stocks may seem like two distinct groups, but these companies can sometimes overlap. For example, some former growth stocks like Meta Platforms Inc. NASDAQ: META have gone from high-flying tech winners to fundamentally undervalued by many metrics. 

Looking through the holdings of many growth vs. value stock ETFs, you'll notice plenty of similar stocks. Each fund uses its own definition of growth or value and many times, a stock fits value in one fund and then growth in another. The distinctions can be minimal, so investors should have their basic groundwork on growth vs value stock.

Building a balanced portfolio

Financial advisors often recommend a mix of stocks and bonds to minimize risk, but investors can also balance their portfolios in terms of growth and value mix. When choosing funds for your portfolio, be sure to compare expense rates and holdings and select the most efficient vehicles.

Adapting to market conditions

How do you know when to rebalance your portfolio? Sometimes, the broader economy will offer clues. For example, when interest rates rose rapidly in 2022, adding more to the value portion of the portfolio would make sense. As inflation abated and rate increases slowed, the portfolio could be rebalanced with a heavier weight on the growth portion.

Long-term vs. short-term perspective

In the end, asset allocation comes down to time horizons. Do you have a short-term or a long-term investment view? If you’re just starting your career and opening a 401(k) account, you should have a larger allocation toward growth because your time horizon is long and your work compensation means you don’t need income from your investments. 

But if you’re approaching (or in retirement), you might prefer the safety of value stocks and their dividend income. As always, any asset allocation or other personal finance questions should be directed to a financial advisor who understands your unique situation.

Investing in growth and value 

Growth stocks and value stocks have a place in your portfolio. For example, an investor seeking a diverse portfolio might give 65% weight to growth and 35% to value during bull markets or declining rate environments. If inflation grows and rates go up to combat it (like in 2022), an allocation revision to 35% growth and 65% value might be more beneficial. Use your investing goals and risk tolerance to compare stocks and build your ideal portfolio.

Two paths to potential outperformance 

Hopefully, now you'll be able to answer if someone asks about your preferred investment style, growth or value. While these may seem like competing philosophies (and in many ways, they are), both can have a place in your portfolio depending on current events or the market environment. Always be flexible in your investment beliefs so that you can pivot when new information deems it appropriate. Growth and value can both work in certain situations.

FAQs

Here are a few commonly asked questions regarding the growth vs value debate:

Are value funds better than growth funds?

Value funds tend to have lower expenses than growth funds, which can lead to better performance over time. However, each fund is different, and you should always research the holdings before buying.

Is value investing riskier than growth?

From a volatility standpoint, growth stocks are riskier than value stocks, since they frequently have larger drawdowns. However, they also tend to outperform in bull markets.

Are value or growth funds better for the long term?

Investment style growth vs value long-term results will vary depending on market conditions and investor risk tolerance. For example, small-cap growth stocks may have better returns, but large-cap value stocks can provide consistent income through dividends.

Should you invest $1,000 in Amazon.com right now?

Before you consider Amazon.com, you'll want to hear this.

MarketBeat keeps track of Wall Street's top-rated and best performing research analysts and the stocks they recommend to their clients on a daily basis. MarketBeat has identified the five stocks that top analysts are quietly whispering to their clients to buy now before the broader market catches on... and Amazon.com wasn't on the list.

While Amazon.com currently has a "Buy" rating among analysts, top-rated analysts believe these five stocks are better buys.

View The Five Stocks Here

5G Stocks: The Path Forward is Profitable Cover

Click the link below and we'll send you MarketBeat's guide to investing in 5G and which 5G stocks show the most promise.

Get This Free Report
Dan Schmidt
About The Author

Dan Schmidt

Contributing Author

Stocks, Fundamental and Technical Analysis

Like this article? Share it with a colleague.

Companies Mentioned in This Article

CompanyMarketRank™Current PricePrice ChangeDividend YieldP/E RatioConsensus RatingConsensus Price Target
Amazon.com (AMZN)
4.573 of 5 stars
$183.66-0.1%N/A51.45Buy$213.82
Apple (AAPL)
4.5577 of 5 stars
$212.49-0.8%0.47%33.05Moderate Buy$207.47
Bank of America (BAC)
4.3152 of 5 stars
$39.24-0.1%2.45%13.58Moderate Buy$39.79
HealthStream (HSTM)
4.9079 of 5 stars
$27.690.0%0.40%47.74Moderate Buy$32.00
NVIDIA (NVDA)
4.5789 of 5 stars
$131.88+1.8%0.03%77.12Moderate Buy$116.90
Home Depot (HD)
4.323 of 5 stars
$346.77-0.3%2.60%23.26Moderate Buy$377.46
Trade Desk (TTD)
2.9067 of 5 stars
$95.66+0.0%N/A239.16Moderate Buy$93.01
Walmart (WMT)
4.6676 of 5 stars
$67.04+0.5%1.24%28.69Moderate Buy$69.94
Compare These Stocks  Add These Stocks to My Watchlist 


Featured Articles and Offers

Recent Videos

Will FOMC Push Stocks Higher? Here’s What to Expect
Unlock Growth: Understanding Dividend Yield
Palantir Stock Excluded from S&P 500: Still a Buy?

Stock Lists

All Stock Lists

Investing Tools

Calendars and Tools

Search Headlines