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How to max out returns: Think like a couch potato

Some investors are very agile in their attempts to make money, moving in and out of positions like a star athlete, while others are more like couch potatoes; they just let their money sit.

Although movement is almost always better for overall health, it appears "the lazy approach" may be better for your financial health.

Michelle Schwartzentruber of Morningstar tells CNBC that, on average, it's not uncommon for passive funds to perform a little better than open-ended mutual funds.

Businessman sitting
Natalie Young | Image Source | Getty Images

For example, the actively managed Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX) with assets of $110 billion has gained about 7.8 percent year-to-date. By comparison the passive Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX) with assets of $348 billion has gained about 9.8 percent over the same period.

Jim Cramer has made similar observations on CNBC's "Mad Money" for quite some time. "In study after study, year after year, it's been shown that the vast majority of actively managed mutual funds do not perform as well as their benchmarks," he has said.

Cramer has also lamented the fees and charges associated with mutual funds just make them that much less attractive.

Read More Cramer: Mutual funds hiding something from you

On CNBC's "Power Lunch," Burt White of LPL Financial suggested painting all mutual funds with the same brush may oversimplify real-world results.

Although the average fund manager may not outperform the market, he reiterated that highly skilled managers can outperform, significantly. And he said, by doing some research and finding those funds, investors can do very well, especially now, in periods of volatility. That is, a pro can leverage the swings. "You want funds in the top quarter of their universe," he said.

Jordan Waxman of HighTower HSW Advisors added the active versus passive argument also depends on where investors put money to work. In niche areas of the market, such as emerging market small caps, he said, investors may do much better with an active fund, managed by a pro with expertise in the area.