Search Results for: swensen

Swensen Portfolio 10-Year Trailing Returns Redux

Here is a check-in on the trailing 10-year total returns for the David Swensen model portfolio, courtesy of ETFPM.com. Last update was in 2011. As a reminder, here is the model portfolio asset allocation with representative ETFs:

30% Domestic US Equity (VTI)
15% Foreign Developed Equity (VEA)
10% Emerging Markets (VWO)
15% Real Estate (VNQ)
15% U.S. Treasury Bonds (IEF)
15% Inflation-Protected Securities (TIP)

The chart below shows the growth of $1,000 invested this way and rebalanced annually (eMAC), starting from January 2003 until the end of March 2013. eMAC stands for “efficent multi-asset class”.

Again, we see that this low-cost, diversified index fund portfolio (+169%) has done well over the last 10.3 years, besting the S&P 500 (+118%) handily as well as the Dow Jones Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Index (not shown anymore, but +95% roughly). We also see that a 30% Stock, 70% Long-term Treasury bond portfolio does pretty well, but I tend to dismiss that as rearview-mirror investing. Yes, looking backward it did well, but I doubt you could find any portfolio manager telling their clients to hold 30% Stocks and 70% Long-Term Treasuries as a long-term portfolio during the period between 2003-2007.

Swensen Portfolio 10-Year Total Returns: Low-Cost Diversified ETF Portfolio Results

Last week, I shared a chart that showed how a diversified portfolio that was rebalanced regularly still managed to nearly double in value over the last decade. Here’s another similar finding based on the David Swensen portfolio as compiled by an advisor group called ETF Portfolio Management.

Swensen manages the Yale University endowment and wrote an excellent investment book called Unconventional Success (my review) directed towards individual investors. Even though he does active management himself, he explains why low costs and low turnover are critical, how certain asset class are better than others, and why rebalancing regularly is important. He ends up providing a model portfolio made up of what he calls “Core” asset classes. Here’s the slightly updated David Swensen Portfolio with his recommended 70% stocks / 30% bonds breakdown. Actual low-cost index ETFs are included via ticker symbols.

30% Domestic US Equity (VTI)
15% Foreign Developed Equity (VEA)
10% Emerging Markets (VWO)
15% Real Estate (VNQ)
15% U.S. Treasury Bonds (IEF)
15% Inflation-Protected Securities (TIP)

Instead of the Total Bond Index from last week, which include everything from Treasuries to corporate bonds to mortgage-backed securities, the Swensen bond allocation only has nominal and inflation-linked Treasury bonds. The chart below shows the growth of $1,000 invested this way (eMAC) at the start of 2001 until the end of July 2011. (Last week’s chart included the start of 2000 to end of 2009.) The ETFs listed above were bought and rebalanced annually. eMAC stands for “efficent multi-asset class”.

Again, we see that the diversified and rebalanced portfolio has done well over the last 10 years, more than doubling in value. Check out their annual returns breakdown (summarized below), and you can see how in any single year different asset classes will have different returns. Some go up, some stay steady, some go down. This lack of strong correlation is what helps smooth out your portfolio, and makes you feel better that at least something is doing okay at any given time.

Now, this may not be the ideal portfolio going forward. Nobody knows the future, you can only do what you think gives you the best odds for success. But it does serve as another real-world example of how low-cost diversification works and that you should have good reasons for holding each of the asset classes that you buy.

(The “HF Index” indicated stands for the Dow Jones Credit Suisse Hedge Fund Index, which claims to track ~8,000 hedge funds and thus tracks overall hedge fund performance. After poking around their website, the returns seem to be net of manager fees.)

David Swensen’s Updated Model Asset Allocation

If you don’t know the name David Swensen, he is an investment manager who is best know for managing Yale Universities huge endowment. What makes him interesting is that even though he does invest in some hedge funds and private equity, he doesn’t believe that the common investor should try to emulate this. An excerpt from a recent interview in the Yale Alumni Magazine sums it up:

That’s why the most sensible approach is to come up with specific asset allocation targets that you can implement with low-cost, passively managed index funds and rebalance regularly. You’ll end up beating the overwhelming majority of participants in the financial markets.

In his 2005 book Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment, he proposed a model asset allocation using what he believes are the 6 “core asset classes” that an individual investor should own:

Unconventional Success Model Portfolio Breakdown

Asset Allocation For 70% Stocks/30% Bonds (with ETF examples)
30% Domestic Equity (VTI, IYY)
15% Foreign Developed Equity (EFA, VEA)
5% Emerging Markets (VWO, EEM)
20% Real Estate (VNQ, ICF)
15% U.S. Treasury Bonds (SHY, IEF)
15% Inflation-Protected Securities (TIP, IPE)

But in the Yale interview, he proposes a slight change that reduced real estate exposure in exchange for increased emerging markets holdings:

Today, Swensen says, economic conditions might call for a modest revision. He now recommends that investors have 15 percent of their assets in real estate investment trusts, and raise their investment in emerging-market stock funds to 10 percent.

This interview was printed in March/April 2009, so I’m not sure if you could call this performance chasing or not. I don’t follow his model asset allocation exactly anyway – I think the best idea is to read his excellent book and find out his reasoning for holding each asset class. The exact weightings you can hash out later. It definitely added another dimension to my investing views.

Model Portfolio #7: Unconventional Success by David Swensen

This model portfolio is taken from Unconventional Success by David Swensen. As mentioned before, Swensen is not a personal financial advisor, but is a respected institutional money manager who currently runs the Yale Endowment. In his book for individual investors, he writes that there are only a limited number of core asset classes in which one should invest in. Although he avoids giving specific asset allocation guidance, he does provide an “outline of a well-diversified, equity-oriented portfolio”, which is shown below.

Unconventional Success Model Portfolio Breakdown (Hurrah, I found my software disks so I can make pretty pie charts again!)

Asset Allocation For 70% Stocks/30% Bonds (with ETF examples)
30% Domestic Equity (VTI, IYY)
15% Foreign Developed Equity (EFA, VEA)
5% Emerging Markets (VWO, EEM)
20% Real Estate (VNQ, ICF)
15% U.S. Treasury Bonds (SHY, IEF)
15% Inflation-Protected Securities (TIP)

Commentary
There is a healthy portion devoted to real estate in the portfolio. The common way to track this asset class with REITs, which are considered a domestic stock. Instead of taking up less than 5% of the US stock market by capitalization, it is now taking up more than 40% of the domestic equity portion. I’m not really sure why there is so much, although he does write that if you own your home or other real estate, you may want to reduce your REIT exposure.

In addition, corporate and mortgage-backed bonds are left out, following his opinion that they aren’t the most desirable asset classes for individual portfolios due to added call risk and credit risk. (If you’ve been keeping up with the markets recently, it seems he may have been on to something here.)

As with all the model portfolios, the idea here isn’t just to follow any of them blindly. I do think it helps to see where different experts have similar components to their model portfolios, and where they differ. I also like breaking it down this way into pie charts of stocks-only and bonds-only in order to visualize them better.

See here for other model portfolios from respected sources, part of my incomplete Rough Guide to Investing.

$30,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment – One Year Update, Part 1

It’s finally been a full year since starting my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.

I’m splitting this summary up: Part 1 will focus on the Benchmark vs. Beat-the-Benchmark results. Part 2 will include the P2P lending performance. Values given are as of November 1, 2013.

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I initially put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the most popular low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. With no minimum balance requirement, no maintenance fees, and no annual fees, I haven’t paid a single fee yet on this account. The portfolio used an asset allocation model based on a David Swensen model portfolio, which I bought and held through the entire yearlong period.

The total portfolio value after one year was $12,095, up 21%. Here’s how each separate asset class fared from November 1st, 2012 to November 1st, 2013 (excluding dividends):

  • Total US Stocks +$986 (+25%)
  • Total International Stocks +$588 (+15%)
  • US Small Cap Stocks +$150 (+30%)
  • Emerging Markets Stocks -$3 (-1%)
  • US REIT +$72 (+7%)

Screenshot of holdings below:

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$30,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment Update – October 2013

Here’s the October 2013 update for my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.

As requested, I updated the scale to zoom in on the comparison chart.

Summary. 11 months into this experiment, the Benchmark and Speculative portfolios are both up between 15-20%. The Speculative portfolio is actually winning now ($12,071 vs. $11,723). I sold all my AAPL shares in September. Both P2P portfolios continue to earn interest and are still on pace for an 8%+ annual return, but the growth rate has slowed lately as late loans have been taking a toll. Values given are after market close October 1, 2013.

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the most popular low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. With no minimum balance requirement, no maintenance fees, and no annual fees, I haven’t paid a single fee yet on this account. The portfolio was based loosely on a David Swensen model portfolio with a buy-hold-rebalance philosophy. Portfolio value is $11,723. Screenshot of holdings below:

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$30,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment Update – September 2013

Here’s the September 2013 update for my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.

As requested, I updated the scale to zoom in on the comparison chart.

Summary. 10 months into this experiment, the Benchmark and Speculative portfolios have suddenly pulled neck-and-neck, with less than $25 separating them ($11,060 vs $11,083). Both US and Emerging Markets stock indexes have dropped recently, while my Apple shares have risen in anticipation of new product launches before the holiday season. Both P2P portfolios are still paying out competitive interest although late loans continue to pop up. Values given are as of September 1, 2013.

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the most popular low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. With no minimum balance requirement, no maintenance fees, and no annual fees, I haven’t paid a single fee yet on this account. The portfolio was based loosely on a David Swensen model portfolio. Portfolio value is $11,060. Screenshot of holdings below:

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Betterment Bond Portfolio Asset Allocation Changes 2013

Online investment manager Betterment.com recently announced an upcoming change to their portfolio asset allocation, specifically their bond portion. Here’s a visual example of the ETF changes:


(click to enlarge)

I have mixed feelings about this change…

This is a fundamental shift in philosophy and it smells like performance chasing. The original allocation of 100% Treasury bonds (50% Nominal, 50% Inflation-Linked) likely came from David Swensen, as he is the Yale Endowment manager that supported the idea that you should own only the highest-quality bonds and take your risk on the stock side where your interests are aligned with the corporations. (With bonds, corporations and governments are trying to look as safe as possible even if they aren’t. This way, they pay lower interest rates.)

Now, suddenly they want to shift to a “broad global exposure” type of portfolio with lower credit quality and higher risk. Why now? Why was 100% US fine for 3 years but no longer? Perhaps because Treasuries and TIPS in general haven’t been doing that great recently? Perhaps because Emerging Markets bonds have had very high returns during that same period?

Still, it is following general industry movements. Vanguard has also added international bonds to their lineup of Target Retirement Funds. Many more international bond funds are available from many other providers. It appears that the costs for investing in international developed and emerging market bonds have dropped low enough that they can be indexed efficiently. I’m personally not convinced it is necessary and don’t own any international bonds myself, but I can understand the diversification argument.

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$30,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment Update – August 2013

Here’s the August 2013 update for my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.

As requested, I updated the scale to zoom in on the comparison chart. You can view it the old way here.

Summary. Values are as of August 1, 2013. 9 months into this experiment, the passive benchmark portfolio remains the leader and if anything is widening the gap. My neglected speculative portfolio has been more volatile and also consistently behind the benchmark in this bull market. As for the P2P portfolio, it is starting to look like LendingClub may perform better than Prosper. Although my Prosper portfolio is earning slightly higher average interest, it also has significantly more late loans which has more than offset the higher interest. I’m slightly above 8% annualized return for LendingClub currently using my metrics, slightly below 7% for Prosper.

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the most popular low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. Also no minimum balance requirement, no maintenance fees, no annual fees. The portfolio was based loosely on a David Swensen model portfolio. Screenshot, click to enlarge:

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$30,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment Update – July 2013

Here’s the July 2013 update for my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.
1307_btmsummary

Summary. Values are as of July 1, 2013. 8 months into this experiment, the passive benchmark portfolio remains the leader despite a slight drop this month. The speculative portfolio has definitely been more volatile and is back to lagging again. As for the P2P portfolio, it is starting to look like LendingClub may perform better than Prosper. Prosper simply has more late loans in the pipeline, although I’m still hopeful for solid overall returns.

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the most popular low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. The portfolio was based loosely on a David Swensen model portfolio. Screenshot, click to enlarge:

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$30,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment Update – June 2013

Here’s a condensed June 2013 update for my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.
1306_btmsummary

Summary. Values are as of June 1, 2013. 7 months into this experiment, the passive benchmark portfolio remains the leader although last month it was pretty flat. The speculative portfolio is bouncing back quite nicely, almost matching the benchmark portfolio. The P2P lending portfolio is still rather young, but I’m satisfied with the current trend of having 5 out of 450+ loans that are over 30 days late.

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the best low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. The portfolio was based loosely on a David Swensen model portfolio. Screenshot, click to enlarge:

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$10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Experiment Update – May 2013

Here’s a condensed May 2013 update for my Beat the Market Experiment, a series of three portfolios started on November 1st, 2012:

  1. $10,000 Passive Benchmark Portfolio that would serve as both a performance benchmark and an real-world, low-cost portfolio that would be easy to replicate and maintain for DIY investors.
  2. $10,000 Beat-the-Benchmark Speculative Portfolio that would simply represent the attempts of an “average guy” who is not a financial professional and gets his news from mainstream sources to get the best overall returns possible.
  3. $10,000 P2P Consumer Lending Speculative Portfolio – Split evenly between LendingClub and Prosper, this portfolio is designed to test out the alternative investment class of person-to-person loans. The goal is again to beat the benchmark by setting a target return of 8-10% net of defaults.

Executive summary. Six months have gone by since this experiment started, and the passive portfolio has ridden a hot stock market nearly the entire time. My speculative portfolio is catching back up a bit after my Apple holdings stumbled, while the P2P lending portfolio is still too young to make any firm conclusions. The details are below:

$10,000 Benchmark Portfolio. I put $10,000 into index funds at TD Ameritrade due to their 100 commission-free ETF program that includes free trades on the best low-cost, index ETFs from Vanguard and iShares. The portfolio was based loosely on a David Swensen model portfolio. Screenshot:

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