David Swensen is manager of Yale University's endowment fund. He has addressed how investors should set up and manage their investments in his book, Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment.

The Swensen portfolio consists of six core asset class allocations:

US equity: 30%

Foreign developed equity: 15%

Emerging market equity: 5%

US REITS: 20%

US Treasury bonds: 15%

US TIPS: 15%

'Total return, when measuring performance, is the actual rate of return of an investment or a pool of investments over a given evaluation period. Total return includes interest, capital gains, dividends and distributions realized over a given period of time. Total return accounts for two categories of return: income including interest paid by fixed-income investments, distributions or dividends and capital appreciation, representing the change in the market price of an asset.'

Which means for our asset as example:- Looking at the total return of 40.8% in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (74.2%)
- Looking at total return, or performance in of 32.2% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to SPY (50.1%).

'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:- Looking at the annual return (CAGR) of 7.1% in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (11.8%)
- During the last 3 years, the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) is 9.7%, which is lower, thus worse than the value of 14.5% from the benchmark.

'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.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (13.3%) in the period of the last 5 years, the 30 days standard deviation of 8.2% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is smaller, thus better.
- Compared with SPY (13%) in the period of the last 3 years, the 30 days standard deviation of 7.3% is lower, thus better.

'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.'

Which means for our asset as example:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (9.6%) in the period of the last 5 years, the downside deviation of 5.9% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus better.
- Looking at downside risk in of 5.3% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (9.4%).

'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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (0.69) in the period of the last 5 years, the Sharpe Ratio of 0.56 of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus worse.
- During the last 3 years, the ratio of return and volatility (Sharpe) is 0.99, which is greater, thus better than the value of 0.93 from the benchmark.

'The Sortino ratio improves upon the Sharpe ratio by isolating downside volatility from total volatility by dividing excess return by the downside deviation. The Sortino ratio is a variation of the Sharpe ratio that differentiates harmful volatility from total overall volatility by using the asset's standard deviation of negative asset returns, called downside deviation. The Sortino ratio takes the asset's return and subtracts the risk-free rate, and then divides that amount by the asset's downside deviation. The ratio was named after Frank A. Sortino.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (0.96) in the period of the last 5 years, the excess return divided by the downside deviation of 0.78 of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
- Compared with SPY (1.27) in the period of the last 3 years, the excess return divided by the downside deviation of 1.38 is larger, thus better.

'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.'

Which means for our asset as example:- The Ulcer Index over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 3.48 , which is smaller, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (3.97 ) in the same period.
- During the last 3 years, the Ulcer Ratio is 2.75 , which is lower, thus better than the value of 4.1 from the benchmark.

'A maximum drawdown is the maximum loss from a peak to a trough of a portfolio, before a new peak is attained. Maximum Drawdown is an indicator of downside risk over a specified time period. It can be used both as a stand-alone measure or as an input into other metrics such as 'Return over Maximum Drawdown' and the Calmar Ratio. Maximum Drawdown is expressed in percentage terms.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Looking at the maximum drop from peak to valley of -11.9 days in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively higher, thus better in comparison to the benchmark SPY (-19.3 days)
- During the last 3 years, the maximum DrawDown is -11.9 days, which is larger, thus better than the value of -19.3 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:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (187 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the maximum days under water of 281 days of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is greater, thus worse.
- Looking at maximum days below previous high in of 146 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively greater, thus worse in comparison to SPY (139 days).

'The Average Drawdown Duration is an extension of the Maximum Drawdown. However, this metric does not explain the drawdown in dollars or percentages, rather in days, weeks, or months. 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:- Looking at the average days under water of 63 days in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively greater, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (42 days)
- Compared with SPY (37 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the average days under water of 36 days is lower, thus better.

Historical returns have been extended using synthetic data.
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- Note that yearly returns do not equal the sum of monthly returns due to compounding.
- Performance results of Yale U's Unconventional 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.