In the most general terms, growth stocks are those with growing positive attributes – like price, sales, earnings, profits, and return on equity. Value stocks, on the other hand, are stocks that are underpriced when compared to some measure of their relative value – like price to earnings, price to book, and dividend yield. Thus growth stocks trade at higher prices relative to various fundamental measures of their value because (at least in theory) the market is pricing in the potential for future earnings growth. Over relatively long periods of time, each of these investing classes can and do outperform the other. For example, growth investing dominated the 1990s while value investing has outperformed since. But value wins over the long haul.
PBS aired an important documentary Tuesday evening examining retirement planning in America and entitled The Retirement Gamble. One particularly noteworthy comment came from Vanguard founder Jack Bogle on the “tyranny of compounding costs.” In contrast to the “miracle of compound interest” (often attributed to Albert Einstein, probably falsely, but that doesn’t lessen the import of the concept), which shows how quickly interest can accrue when it is compounded, the tyranny of compounding costs addresses how dramatically returns are diminished on account of excess fees. Note the chart below from The Journal of Financial Planning. As always, fees matter — a lot.