I’ve always had a particular love for stained glass. Not only are the colors incredibly vibrant, but the medium is also truly dynamic and the lighting can transform the same window throughout the day. One moment it’s dark and rich, and the next it’s bright and lively. With light activating glass and glass transforming light, stained glass is a special symbiosis of art and nature that allows you to look at the same objects totally differently.
In the investment world, the portfolios are the glass and the data is the light. Too often people study portfolios through a single fixed spotlight of US-centric data, but that does the observant investor quite the disservice. Certain investing biases become unfairly engraved as immutable truths based simply on the favorable lighting, while alternative ideas that may actually be much more attractive outside of the gallery setting get lost in the shuffle. But study the same portfolios through the lens of an investor who does not live in the United States, and things get a lot more interesting. The glass lights up in a different way, and new features rise to the top.
Several months ago I added some new features to the calculators here at Portfolio Charts to allow investors to study important topics like withdrawal rates and portfolio drawdowns in the context of non-US investing. Today, I’m happy to announce that I’ve carried over the same thought process to the portfolios section. So rather than laboriously entering common asset allocation percentages into the calculators, you can now simply translate portfolio data to your own home country with a single click of a button.
Usability is a focal point of mine, so I’ve done my best to keep it simple. So now when you click the Portfolios link at the top of the page you’ll notice a new toolbar:
The country listed on the left is the current setting, and every portfolio listed on the page will display data that has been specifically calculated for that country. Just like before, the default setting is the United States. But unlike before, you also have the option to finally break out of that US-centric box and try something else. Like, for example, look only at Canadian portfolios.
When you switch countries, the portfolios are exactly the same in theory but have been translated to local terms. For example, the Canadian Ivy Portfolio page looks like this:
- 20% Total Domestic Market (Canada)
- 20% World
- 20% Intermediate Term Bonds (Canada)
- 20% Commodities
- 20% REIT (Global)
The Asset Allocation section now is very clear which country applies to each asset to formulate the same portfolio theory to the desired country. In this case, domestic stocks and bonds are both Canadian, international stocks are a World fund rather than a typical Ex-US fund, and REITs represent the best global fund you can find (not a Canadian version). And behind the scenes, the charts also convert every return to Canadian currency and account for Canadian inflation.
You’ll also notice that the country toolbar is contextual. When you’re looking at the Canadian Ivy Portfolio, you can select any other country to see the same portfolio applied to its market. And by clicking the link on the left, you can see the master list of other Canadian portfolios. So comparisons to other portfolios or countries are always only a click away.
Of course, one side effect of the typical US bias in investment literature is that US-based portfolios that rely on deep domestic slice-and-dicing between things like small cap value and mid cap growth do not easily translate between every country. Not every market is large enough to support that variety of funds, and even when they do data is scarce. Keeping with my commitment to represent each author’s design intent as closely as possible, I’ve decided to start by only displaying portfolios that can directly translate to the data I have available. That said, my plan is to take the time to thoughtfully interpret a few and I’ll be updating the options as I go. In the meantime, I feel like there’s more than enough portfolios to keep you busy!
For example, are you living in Australia and interested in the hugely popular Three-Fund Portfolio? If you’re counting on applying the standard Three-Fund formula to the Australian market and expecting US-based results you may be in for a rude awakening. It’s still a fine option, but if you’re prone to drawdown fears a trip to the calculators to see how it might be better formulated to the Australian market may be in order.
Or maybe you’re a German citizen who looked at the All Seasons Portfolio in the past but dismissed it because the data wasn’t as hot as advertised in the 1970’s. Well, did you bother translating the numbers to the German market?
And if you’re a US-based investor just like me, perhaps you’re thinking none of this new data really matters to you. Well, have you ever wondered if your favorite portfolio is simply an artifact of a particularly good run for the US? Look at the data for the same portfolio in other countries, and you can quickly get a good feel for which theories clearly hold up no matter what color light you shine through the glass.
Studying portfolio data in different countries can open up new avenues of thought no matter where you live. So whether you’re a foreign investor seeking accurate withdrawal rate numbers in your home country or a US investor exploring the robustness of new ideas out of sample, I hope you find the new Portfolios section useful.
Dive in and explore! By changing the light you may find that asset allocation is a lot more colorful than you realize. Let the information soak in, and my bet is that you’ll never look at portfolios in the same way again.