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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Passive investing is an area where being overly purist can be self-defeating.

Why it matters: While there's abundant evidence that a hands-0ff approach will nearly always outperform a hands-on approach over the long term, no one really feels safe or in control when their hands are entirely off the wheel.

The big picture: Passive investing can be harder than it looks, especially when you need to reinvest dividends in a way that dynamically rebalances the portfolio. That's why vehicles like target-date funds and robo-advisors were invented.

  • The catch: Passive investment strategies can sometimes sit uncomfortably with a commitment to sustainability or other ESG screens. And selling existing assets in order to invest them passively can trigger capital gains taxes.

Driving the news: One robo-adviser, Wealthfront, is starting to allow its customers to make their own investing decisions. They can buy or transfer over ETFs and will even be able to add crypto to their portfolios.

  • Wealthfront knows that its customers don't have all of their assets on its platform, so this is a way of increasing assets under management — and including them in the Wealthfront robot's risk and asset-allocation calculations — without forcing everything to be invested according to its model portfolios.
  • Wealthfront CEO Andy Rachleff doesn't expect a lot of customers to rush to take advantage of the new options. Rather, he tells Axios, "it's just knowing that you can."

The bottom line: Active investing is having a moment. By allowing investors to experiment a bit and maybe stray a little from passive-investing orthodoxy, Wealthfront ultimately hopes to keep more of them in the broader fold.

Go deeper

39 mins ago - Health

NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced a new COVID vaccine mandate for private companies during a Monday interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Why it matters: De Blasio said it was a "first-in-the-nation measure" and will go into effect starting Dec. 27.

D.C.-Beijing tensions are shifting markets

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. markets stand to lose $2 trillion in value if D.C. and Beijing drift further apart.

Why it matters: Political chasms are showing up in new securities regulations that put companies and investors in a bind. The rules are also another reflection of how much relations between the world’s largest economies have cooled, even as they remain economically interdependent. 

4 hours ago - Health
Axios Investigates

Documents reveal the secrecy of America's drug pricing matrix

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American businesses spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on prescription drugs, and the bills keep getting bigger. But some of the companies promising to help rein in those costs prevent employers from looking under the hood.

Why it matters: Documents provided to Axios reveal a new layer of secrecy within the maze of American drug pricing — one in which firms that manage drug coverage for hundreds of employers, representing millions of workers, obscure the details of their work and make it difficult to figure out whether they're actually providing a good deal.