The Permanent Portfolio: Do Well No Matter What Happens

Harry Browne's permanent portfolio is a stalwart portfolio. It is iron on steel. You want to sleep tight. This is for you.

The Permanent Portfolio can be built with 4 ETFs. It is exposed to 25% stocks, 25% bonds, 25% gold, and 25% cash. It is a low-risk portfolio.

For the past 10 years, the The Permanent Portfolio has returned 6.62 with a standard deviation of 5.87. The dividend yield is 1.18. The 30-year return is 7.25%. Year to date the The Permanent Portfolio Portfolio has returned -4.43%%

What is the return of the The Permanent Portfolio?

NameAsset class countYear to dateReturn in 202010 year returnCAGR since 1989 (%)Risk levelExpense ratio
The Permanent Portfolio4-4.43%16.156.627.2510.14%
Paul Boyer Permanent Portfolio (MMM)5-2.53%

How fo you build the Permanent Portfolio with ETFs?

  • 25.00%  US Total Stock Market (VTI)
  • 25.00%  Long Term Treasuries (TLT)
  • 25.00%  Cash (money market fund) (BIL)
  • 25.00%  Gold (IAU)

What is the Permanent Portfolio?

Harry Browne designed his portfolio to do well in almost any market situation. It is easy to understand and to implement. The permanent portfolio has 4 asset classes each betting on a particular market climate. It is described in his book Fail-Safe Investing and in The Permanent Portfolio: Harry Browne’s Long-Term Investment Strategy.

The permanent portfolio is made out of 4 asset classes. Each asset class protects against a certain economic climate. The asset classes are:

  • Stocks – for profit during periods of general prosperity and/or declining inflation.
  • Gold – for profit during periods of bad inflation; during inflationary episodes gold bullion provides protection against a falling currency and other potential problems.
  • Long-Term Bonds – for profit during periods of declining interest rates; and especially during a deflation. Bonds also do reasonably well during prosperity.
  • Cash – During a recession, no particular asset class is going to do well. The cash in a Treasury Money Market Fund offers stability when portfolio asset classes fall in price. It also protects purchasing power during a deflation.

Asset Allocation for Permanent Portfolio


Graph from

How we select the right ETFs

There are a lot of ETFs out there. Most of them can be discarded because:

  • They are too expensive
  • They hold too few assets and are therefore too illiquid
  • They do not meet the criteria for representing the asset class they are supposed to mirror.

We have carefully selected an ETF for each asset class that the portfolios on use. If you want to read more about our selection process and see what we consider the best ETFs please visit our article What Is The Best ETF?

If you are a European investor you need to buy European ETFs. We list 47 best ETFs in our article What Are The Best ETFs For European Investors? (Here Is 47).

As of 2020 we also track socially responsible investing ESG portfolios. Socially responsible investing (ESG) portfolios prioritize investing that puts an emphasis on environmental, social and corporate governance issues.

You can find the socially responsible investing ESG ETFs in the same article.

Advantages and disadvantages of The Permanent Portfolio


  • Very easy to understand and to implement.
  • Has great downside protection – a drawdown of only -13.48%.
  • You get to hold 25% of your portfolio in gold.
  • Bets on every possible market scenario negate FOMO.
  • Sleep safe portfolio.
  • Low-risk portfolio.


  • May be too conservative with its 25% in cash (short-term bonds).
  • Makes a bet on gold that may not be sustainable.
  • Investors may want a more fine-grained portfolio with more asset classes.
  • Low-risk portfolio, you might want to take more risk if you’re young.


Go here for a rebalance excel worksheet.

There are two good books on the Permanent Portfolio. One is Harry Browne’s own book “Fail-Safe Investing”

The other book is The Permanent Portfolio: Harry Browne’s Long-Term Investment Strategy, a great and detailed read on why the strategy works.

Suggestions for your next steps

Finding the correct portfolio is hard. Maintaining your portfolio is also daunting. If you are still in doubt about which portfolio to choose, we suggest you read our article How To Invest Money: 5 Simple Steps That Work For Anyone

If you have already committed to a portfolio – good for you! If you need help maintaining the portfolio you will find our rebalance worksheet useful. Rebalancing your portfolio lowers your risk and may even provide higher returns in the long run.

You can find the rebalance worksheet in our article Here Is The Most Easy To Use Portfolio Rebalance Tool

Summing up

Harry Browne’s Permanent Portfolio is a great portfolio for you if you’re apprehensive of the wild market swings.  It does well in almost any market environment and has proved very resilient to the broader market downturns.

Related questions

Is the Permanent Portfolio A Good Investment?

The Permanent Portfolio is a good investment if you do not like high drawdowns in your portfolio but you still want a good return.

What is a good average return on a portfolio?

A good average return for a portfolio is 7% or higher. The stockmarket has risen 10% in the last 80 years.

What is the best investment for monthly income?

The best investment for monthly income is a dividend stock portfolio. You can invest in 18-25 of the dividend aristocrats and have a good income at retirement.

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