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)

'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.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- Looking at the total return, or performance of 72.7% in the last 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (115.6%)
- During the last 3 years, the total return, or performance is 26.7%, which is smaller, thus worse than the value of 43% from the benchmark.

'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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (16.6%) in the period of the last 5 years, the annual performance (CAGR) of 11.6% of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
- Looking at annual return (CAGR) in of 8.2% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (12.6%).

'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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (18.8%) in the period of the last 5 years, the historical 30 days volatility of 13.6% of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is lower, thus better.
- Looking at 30 days standard deviation in of 16.1% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively smaller, thus better in comparison to SPY (22.8%).

'Risk measures typically quantify the downside risk, whereas the standard deviation (an example of a deviation risk measure) measures both the upside and downside risk. Specifically, downside risk in our definition is the semi-deviation, that is the standard deviation of all negative returns.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- Looking at the downside risk of 10.2% in the last 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to the benchmark SPY (13.6%)
- During the last 3 years, the downside risk is 12.2%, which is smaller, thus better than the value of 16.7% from the benchmark.

'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.'

Which means for our asset as example:- The ratio of return and volatility (Sharpe) over 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is 0.66, which is smaller, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (0.75) in the same period.
- Compared with SPY (0.44) in the period of the last 3 years, the ratio of return and volatility (Sharpe) of 0.35 is smaller, thus worse.

'The Sortino ratio, a variation of the Sharpe ratio only factors in the downside, or negative volatility, rather than the total volatility used in calculating the Sharpe ratio. The theory behind the Sortino variation is that upside volatility is a plus for the investment, and it, therefore, should not be included in the risk calculation. Therefore, the Sortino ratio takes upside volatility out of the equation and uses only the downside standard deviation in its calculation instead of the total standard deviation that is used in calculating the Sharpe ratio.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (1.04) in the period of the last 5 years, the downside risk / excess return profile of 0.89 of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is lower, thus worse.
- Compared with SPY (0.61) in the period of the last 3 years, the ratio of annual return and downside deviation of 0.47 is lower, thus worse.

'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:- Looking at the Ulcer Ratio of 4.93 in the last 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to the benchmark SPY (5.59 )
- During the last 3 years, the Ulcer Ratio is 6.26 , which is smaller, thus better than the value of 7.14 from the benchmark.

'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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (-33.7 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the maximum drop from peak to valley of -28.2 days of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is higher, thus better.
- During the last 3 years, the maximum drop from peak to valley is -28.2 days, which is higher, thus better than the value of -33.7 days from the benchmark.

'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:- Looking at the maximum days under water of 160 days in the last 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio, we see it is relatively greater, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (139 days)
- Compared with SPY (139 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the maximum days below previous high of 160 days is higher, thus worse.

'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.'

Which means for our asset as example:- The average days below previous high over 5 years of Dr. Bernstein's No Brainer Portfolio is 38 days, which is larger, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (33 days) in the same period.
- Compared with SPY (45 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the average time in days below previous high water mark of 54 days is higher, thus worse.

Historical returns have been extended using synthetic data.
[Show Details]

- Note that yearly returns do not equal 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.