Asset Allocation

Ideas for a Low-Expected-Return World

Topics - Asset Allocation Strategic Asset Allocation Alternative Investing Risk Parity

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Ideas for a Low-Expected-Return World

The No. 1 challenge for investors is: How can we achieve 4%–5% medium-term real return targets (or 7%–8% nominal) if the expected return of a 60/40 equities/bonds portfolio is below 3%?

Investors’ responses vary. Wishful thinking has been one approach (witness nominal return assumptions still near 8% for many pension funds), and increasing allocations to equities another. However, poor results and growing awareness of forward-looking valuations — their relevance in predicting returns and their still-uninspiring message about prospective returns — have led investors to look elsewhere.

Over the past decade, many investors adopted the “endowment model” and diversified into various alternative asset classes, combining reliance on the equity premium with faith in an illiquidity premium and in hedge fund alpha. The experience has been mixed. There were some successes but many investors were disappointed in both their return and diversification realizations, as alternative investments moved in synch with the 60/40 portfolio and the true costs of private equity investments were revealed as commitments paralyzed many investors and forced them to sell liquid holdings.

We think that risk-balanced diversification across well-chosen return sources is the most reliable strategic approach to achieving ambitious real return targets.

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The information contained herein is only as current as of the date indicated, and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AQR Capital Management, LLC, its affiliates or its employees. This information is not intended to, and does not relate specifically to any investment strategy or product that AQR offers. It is being provided merely to provide a framework to assist in the implementation of an investor’s own analysis and an investor’s own view on the topic discussed herein. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.


Hypothetical performance results have many inherent limitations, some of which, but not all, are described herein. The hypothetical performance shown was derived from the retroactive application of a model developed with the benefit of hindsight.  Hypothetical performance results are presented for illustrative purposes only.


Diversification does not eliminate the risk of experiencing investment loss.


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