No-Brainer Portfolio

The No-Brainer Portfolio by William Bernstein is a simple and straightforward approach to asset, region, and factor diversification that accomplishes all three in just four assets.

Asset Allocation

  • 25% Large Cap Blend
  • 25% Small Cap Blend
  • 25% International Stocks
  • 25% Short Term Bonds
Other Versions

While they’re not all direct iterations of the No-Brainer Portfolio, Bernstein talks about all types of asset allocations in his writings. Here are just a few examples, and you can also model any version you like using the Charts.

Four Pillars Medium — Expanding the No-Brainer into value factors and real estate

Coward’s Portfolio — A modest proposal for a naive allocation that beats the experts

Sheltered Sam 60-40 — A unique portfolio designed for a specific investing persona

Local Interpretations

Find country-specific versions and appropriate ETFs using the Performance charts.


<strong>William Bernstein</strong>
William Bernstein

William Bernstein is a neurologist and financial author who writes prolifically on asset allocation. You can read his thoughts on the No-Brainer Portfolio in his book The Intelligent Asset Allocator.


The No-Brainer Portfolio, also sometimes called the Simpleton’s Portfolio, is an interesting study in asset allocation. Bernstein is a self-described “asset junkie” who enjoys discussing all types of increasingly sophisticated portfolios custom designed for unique investor needs and fine-tuned with advanced concepts like efficient frontiers. While the No-Brainer Portfolio is just the simplest introductory idea in The Intelligent Asset Allocator, I also think it uniquely expresses some of his most fundamental insights.

Bernstein tends to talk about his ideas self-deprecatingly in terms of naive but effective diversification, but the thing I find most interesting is how the No-Brainer Portfolio tackles three different types of diversification in the most efficient way possible. By adding small cap stocks, international stocks, and short term bonds to a traditional large cap stock fund, it demonstrates how easy it is to construct a well-considered asset allocation that doesn’t depend so much on the handful of large cap companies that tend to dominate stock returns. For a lot of people looking for maximum diversification with minimum effort, that really is a no-brainer.


Books about the No-Brainer Portfolio, and others by William Bernstein

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Insights that mention the No-Brainer Portfolio


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Portfolios with a similar structure or design intent

Permanent Portfolio — Another 4-asset approach that focuses on diversification

Ideal Index Portfolio — Similar portfolio structure showcasing value and growth tilts

Core Four Portfolio — Similar percentage of stocks with REITs instead of small caps


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