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.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (106.8%) in the period of the last 5 years, the total return, or increase in value of 59% of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is smaller, thus worse.
- Looking at total return, or increase in value in of 44.1% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (71.9%).

'The compound annual growth rate isn't a true return rate, but rather a representational figure. It is essentially a number that describes the rate at which an investment would have grown if it had grown the same rate every year and the profits were reinvested at the end of each year. In reality, this sort of performance is unlikely. However, CAGR can be used to smooth returns so that they may be more easily understood when compared to alternative investments.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- The annual return (CAGR) over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 9.7%, which is smaller, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (15.7%) in the same period.
- Looking at annual return (CAGR) in of 12.9% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus worse in comparison to SPY (19.8%).

'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.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- The volatility over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 11.5%, which is lower, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (18.9%) in the same period.
- Looking at 30 days standard deviation in of 13.5% in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively smaller, thus better in comparison to SPY (21.9%).

'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:- Looking at the downside volatility of 8.7% in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to the benchmark SPY (13.8%)
- Compared with SPY (15.9%) in the period of the last 3 years, the downside deviation of 10.2% is smaller, thus better.

'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 Sharpe Ratio over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 0.63, which is lower, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (0.69) in the same period.
- Looking at Sharpe Ratio in of 0.78 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to SPY (0.79).

'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.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- The excess return divided by the downside deviation over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 0.83, which is lower, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (0.95) in the same period.
- Looking at excess return divided by the downside deviation in of 1.02 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively smaller, thus worse in comparison to SPY (1.09).

'Ulcer Index is a method for measuring investment risk that addresses the real concerns of investors, unlike the widely used standard deviation of return. UI is a measure of the depth and duration of drawdowns in prices from earlier highs. Using Ulcer Index instead of standard deviation can lead to very different conclusions about investment risk and risk-adjusted return, especially when evaluating strategies that seek to avoid major declines in portfolio value (market timing, dynamic asset allocation, hedge funds, etc.). The Ulcer Index was originally developed in 1987. Since then, it has been widely recognized and adopted by the investment community. According to Nelson Freeburg, editor of Formula Research, Ulcer Index is “perhaps the most fully realized statistical portrait of risk there is.'

Which means for our asset as example:- The Ulcer Index over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 3.91 , which is lower, thus better compared to the benchmark SPY (5.61 ) in the same period.
- Looking at Ulcer Index in of 4.26 in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively lower, thus better in comparison to SPY (6.08 ).

'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.'

Which means for our asset as example:- Looking at the maximum DrawDown of -23.7 days in the last 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio, we see it is relatively greater, thus better in comparison to the benchmark SPY (-33.7 days)
- During the last 3 years, the maximum DrawDown is -23.7 days, which is larger, 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) in days.'

Using this definition on our asset we see for example:- The maximum days under water over 5 years of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is 146 days, which is larger, thus worse compared to the benchmark SPY (139 days) in the same period.
- Looking at maximum time in days below previous high water mark in of 128 days in the period of the last 3 years, we see it is relatively higher, thus worse in comparison to SPY (119 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.'

Applying this definition to our asset in some examples:- Compared with the benchmark SPY (32 days) in the period of the last 5 years, the average time in days below previous high water mark of 33 days of Yale U's Unconventional Portfolio is larger, thus worse.
- Compared with SPY (22 days) in the period of the last 3 years, the average time in days below previous high water mark of 23 days is larger, thus worse.

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.