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 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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (97%) in the period of the last 5 years, the total return, or performance of 35.3% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
- Compared with SPY (39.3%) in the period of the last 3 years, the total return, or increase in value of 6.4% is smaller, thus worse.

'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.'

Which means for our asset as example:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (14.6%) in the period of the last 5 years, the annual return (CAGR) of 6.2% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus worse.
- During the last 3 years, the annual performance (CAGR) is 2.1%, which is smaller, thus worse than the value of 11.7% from the benchmark.

'In finance, volatility (symbol σ) is the degree of variation of a trading price series over time as measured by the standard deviation of logarithmic returns. Historic volatility measures a time series of past market prices. Implied volatility looks forward in time, being derived from the market price of a market-traded derivative (in particular, an option). Commonly, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security.'

Which means for our asset as example:- The historical 30 days volatility over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 13.8%, which is lower, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (20.9%) in the same period.
- Looking at 30 days standard deviation in of 12.6% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (17.5%).

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

Which means for our asset as example:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (15%) in the period of the last 5 years, the downside deviation of 10.1% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is lower, thus better.
- During the last 3 years, the downside risk is 8.8%, which is smaller, thus better than the value of 12.1% from the benchmark.

'The Sharpe ratio (also known as the Sharpe index, the Sharpe measure, and the reward-to-variability ratio) is a way to examine the performance of an investment by adjusting for its risk. The ratio measures the excess return (or risk premium) per unit of deviation in an investment asset or a trading strategy, typically referred to as risk, named after William F. Sharpe.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- The risk / return profile (Sharpe) over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 0.27, which is smaller, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (0.58) in the same period.
- Looking at Sharpe Ratio in of -0.03 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.53).

'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:- Looking at the excess return divided by the downside deviation of 0.37 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 (0.8)
- Looking at downside risk / excess return profile in of -0.05 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.76).

'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:- Looking at the Downside risk index of 11 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 (9.33 )
- During the last 3 years, the Downside risk index is 13 , which is larger, thus worse than the value of 10 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 reduction from previous high of -26.2 days of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is larger, thus better.
- Compared with SPY (-24.5 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the maximum reduction from previous high of -26.2 days is smaller, thus worse.

'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 541 days in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively higher, thus worse in comparison to the benchmark SPY (488 days)
- Looking at maximum time in days below previous high water mark in of 541 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively larger, thus worse in comparison to SPY (488 days).

'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 (123 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the average time in days below previous high water mark of 144 days of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is larger, thus worse.
- Looking at average days below previous high in of 212 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively larger, thus worse in comparison to SPY (181 days).

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.