Description of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio

Dr. William Bernstein is a physician and neurologist as well as a financial adviser to high net worth individuals. This one's so simple: Allocate 25% in each of four index funds diversified across basic categories.

The no-brainer portfolio comprises the following fund allocation:

25% in Vanguard 500 Index VFINX (NYSEARCA:IVW)

25% in Vanguard Small Cap NAESX or VTMSX (NYSEARCA:VB)

25% in Vanguard Total International VGTSX or VTMGX (EFA, VEA)

25% in Vanguard Total Bond VBMFX or VBISX (NASDAQ:BND)

Statistics of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio (YTD)

What do these metrics mean? [Read More] [Hide]

TotalReturn:

'Total return is the amount of value an investor earns from a security over a specific period, typically one year, when all distributions are reinvested. Total return is expressed as a percentage of the amount invested. For example, a total return of 20% means the security increased by 20% of its original value due to a price increase, distribution of dividends (if a stock), coupons (if a bond) or capital gains (if a fund). Total return is a strong measure of an investment’s overall performance.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • Looking at the total return, or increase in value of 33.2% in the last 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (66%)
  • Compared with SPY (45.6%) in the period of the last 3 years, the total return, or increase in value of 28.5% is lower, thus worse.

CAGR:

'The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a useful measure of growth over multiple time periods. It can be thought of as the growth rate that gets you from the initial investment value to the ending investment value if you assume that the investment has been compounding over the time period.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (10.7%) in the period of the last 5 years, the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
  • During the last 3 years, the annual return (CAGR) is 8.7%, which is lower, thus worse than the value of 13.3% from the benchmark.

Volatility:

'Volatility is a statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. Volatility can either be measured by using the standard deviation or variance between returns from that same security or market index. Commonly, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security. In the securities markets, volatility is often associated with big swings in either direction. For example, when the stock market rises and falls more than one percent over a sustained period of time, it is called a 'volatile' market.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • The historical 30 days volatility over 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is 9.8%, which is lower, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (13.4%) in the same period.
  • Looking at volatility in of 8.6% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (12.3%).

DownVol:

'The downside volatility is similar to the volatility, or standard deviation, but only takes losing/negative periods into account.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (14.6%) in the period of the last 5 years, the downside risk of 10.7% of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is lower, thus better.
  • Looking at downside risk in of 9.7% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (13.8%).

Sharpe:

'The Sharpe ratio was developed by Nobel laureate William F. Sharpe, and is used to help investors understand the return of an investment compared to its risk. The ratio is the average return earned in excess of the risk-free rate per unit of volatility or total risk. Subtracting the risk-free rate from the mean return allows an investor to better isolate the profits associated with risk-taking activities. One intuition of this calculation is that a portfolio engaging in 'zero risk' investments, such as the purchase of U.S. Treasury bills (for which the expected return is the risk-free rate), has a Sharpe ratio of exactly zero. Generally, the greater the value of the Sharpe ratio, the more attractive the risk-adjusted return.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (0.61) in the period of the last 5 years, the ratio of return and volatility (Sharpe) of 0.35 of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
  • Looking at Sharpe Ratio in of 0.72 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.88).

Sortino:

'The Sortino ratio measures the risk-adjusted return of an investment asset, portfolio, or strategy. It is a modification of the Sharpe ratio but penalizes only those returns falling below a user-specified target or required rate of return, while the Sharpe ratio penalizes both upside and downside volatility equally. Though both ratios measure an investment's risk-adjusted return, they do so in significantly different ways that will frequently lead to differing conclusions as to the true nature of the investment's return-generating efficiency. The Sortino ratio is used as a way to compare the risk-adjusted performance of programs with differing risk and return profiles. In general, risk-adjusted returns seek to normalize the risk across programs and then see which has the higher return unit per risk.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (0.56) in the period of the last 5 years, the ratio of annual return and downside deviation of 0.32 of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
  • Looking at excess return divided by the downside deviation in of 0.64 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.78).

Ulcer:

'The Ulcer Index is a technical indicator that measures downside risk, in terms of both the depth and duration of price declines. The index increases in value as the price moves farther away from a recent high and falls as the price rises to new highs. The indicator is usually calculated over a 14-day period, with the Ulcer Index showing the percentage drawdown a trader can expect from the high over that period. The greater the value of the Ulcer Index, the longer it takes for a stock to get back to the former high.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (3.99 ) in the period of the last 5 years, the Downside risk index of 4.16 of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is larger, thus worse.
  • Looking at Downside risk index in of 3.47 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (4.04 ).

MaxDD:

'Maximum drawdown measures the loss in any losing period during a fund’s investment record. It is defined as the percent retrenchment from a fund’s peak value to the fund’s valley value. The drawdown is in effect from the time the fund’s retrenchment begins until a new fund high is reached. The maximum drawdown encompasses both the period from the fund’s peak to the fund’s valley (length), and the time from the fund’s valley to a new fund high (recovery). It measures the largest percentage drawdown that has occurred in any fund’s data record.'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • The maximum drop from peak to valley over 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is -15.3 days, which is greater, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (-19.3 days) in the same period.
  • Compared with SPY (-19.3 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the maximum reduction from previous high of -15.3 days is larger, thus better.

MaxDuration:

'The Drawdown Duration is the length of any peak to peak period, or the time between new equity highs. The Max Drawdown Duration is the worst (the maximum/longest) amount of time an investment has seen between peaks (equity highs). Many assume Max DD Duration is the length of time between new highs during which the Max DD (magnitude) occurred. But that isn’t always the case. The Max DD duration is the longest time between peaks, period. So it could be the time when the program also had its biggest peak to valley loss (and usually is, because the program needs a long time to recover from the largest loss), but it doesn’t have to be'

Which means for our asset as example:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (187 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the maximum days below previous high of 316 days of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is greater, thus worse.
  • During the last 3 years, the maximum days below previous high is 160 days, which is greater, thus worse than the value of 139 days from the benchmark.

AveDuration:

'The Drawdown Duration is the length of any peak to peak period, or the time between new equity highs. The Avg Drawdown Duration is the average amount of time an investment has seen between peaks (equity highs), or in other terms the average of time under water of all drawdowns. So in contrast to the Maximum duration it does not measure only one drawdown event but calculates the average of all.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:
  • Compared with the benchmark SPY (41 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the average days under water of 71 days of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is higher, thus worse.
  • Looking at average days below previous high in of 43 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively greater, thus worse in comparison to SPY (36 days).

Performance of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio (YTD)

Historical returns have been extended using synthetic data.

Allocations of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio
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Allocations

Returns of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio (%)

  • "Year" returns in the table above are not equal to the sum of monthly returns due to compounding.
  • Performance results of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio are hypothetical, do not account for slippage, fees or taxes, and are based on backtesting, which has many inherent limitations, some of which are described in our Terms of Use.