William Bernstein Portfolios: The Portfolio Giant

Learn to build William Bernstein portfolios with ETFs. How do they compare against other portfolios?
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What is William Bernstein’s portfolio?

William Bernstein’s Portfolios can be built with 2-12 ETFs. They are exposed to between 0% and 100% equities. William Bernstein has built low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk portfolios.

For the past 10 years, the William Bernstein’s No Brainer Lazy Portfolio has returned 8.05 with a standard deviation of 12.48. The dividend yield is 1.85. The 30-year return is 8.15%. Year to date the William Bernstein’s No Brainer Lazy Portfolio Portfolio has returned 10.54%%.

How do you build Willam Bernstein’s portfolios with ETFs?

Here is how you build William Bernstein portfolios with ETFs. This the ETFs you use for the No Brainer Lazy Portfolio.

  • 25.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 25.00%  US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 25.00%  International All-World ex-US (VEU)
  • 25.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)

This is just one of many portfolios made by William Bernstein. We cover 32 ETF portfolios by William Bernstein below.

What is the historical return of the William Bernstein portfolios?

NameAsset class countYear to dateReturn in 202010 year returnCAGR since 1989 (%)Risk levelExpense ratio
William Bernstein No Brainer Portfolio410.54%10.988.058.1520.07%
William Bernstein Cowards Portfolio99.36%6.676.678.0520.07%
William Bernstein Four Pillars High Risk Portfolio119.56%6.76.548.2120.11%
William Bernstein Four Pillars Medium Portfolio69.59%7.867.27.9520.06%
William Bernstein Four Pillars Low Risk Portfolio47.01%9.766.587.3810.05%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam Portfolio129.74%5.96.728.1920.09%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 100% Stocks415.60%12.4410.719.4830.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 90/10514.01%11.7810.069.2130.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 80/20512.42%11.119.398.930.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 70/30510.83%10.458.718.5720.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 60/4059.24%9.798.028.220.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 50/5057.65%9.127.327.8120.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 40/6056.06%8.466.617.3910.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 30/7054.47%7.85.886.9510.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 20/8052.88%7.135.146.4810.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 10/9051.29%6.474.385.9910.06%
William Bernstein Taxable Ted 100% Bonds1-0.30%5.83.625.4710.06%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 100% Stocks1015.19%7.299.629.8130.11%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 90/101213.83%7.079.09.4830.11%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 80/201212.48%6.848.379.1330.10%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 70/301211.12%6.627.738.7620.09%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 60/40129.77%6.47.088.3620.09%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 50/50128.42%6.176.427.9420.08%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 40/60127.06%5.955.747.510.08%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 30/70125.71%5.735.067.0410.07%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 20/80124.35%5.54.366.5610.06%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 10/90123.00%5.283.656.0510.06%
William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 100% Bonds21.65%5.062.925.5310.05%
William Bernstein Young Yvonne Portfolio118.38%7.467.438.6220.08%
William Bernstein Charlie Cringe Portfolio47.26%9.626.667.3510.05%
William Bernstein Wendy Wonk Portfolio119.56%6.76.548.2120.11%
William Bernstein Between Charlie and Wendy Portfolio69.84%7.727.287.9320.06%
The Rip Van Winkle Portfolio William Bernstein Taxable59.34%10.728.848.2420.10%
William Bernstein The Small Investor Coward Portfolio (SICEI)812.50%11.318.398.6830.12%
William Bernstein The Academic Coward Portfolio (ACEI)415.51%0.197.748.5930.29%

How does William Bernstein’s portfolios compare to the best portfolios?

Below you can see the returns of the best portfolios that we have benchmarked.

NameSee PortfolioYear to dateReturn in 202010 year returnCAGR since 1989 (%)Draw Down
Premium Portfolio15.92%18.2913.8410.77-37.63%
Premium Portfolio8.30%18.118.6311.14-44.87%
Premium Portfolio13.48%19.712.8410.49-32.77%
Premium Portfolio20.78%3.198.5210.59-36.46%
Premium Portfolio20.17%3.668.6210.48-36.35%
Premium Portfolio15.18%21.0313.7810.83-37.00%
Premium Portfolio19.24%8.711.5610.65-35.26%
Premium Portfolio15.41%7.488.3910.64-37.91%
Premium Portfolio16.16%5.3610.8811.23-35.43%
Premium Portfolio20.81%3.4210.2110.47-40.85%

Who is William Bernstein?

William Bernstein is a former doctor, an investment consultant, and an all-around good guy in the investing world. He has presented a host of portfolios throughout his career.

His book, The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio, is required reading on investing. His investing philosophy is broad diversification, common sense, and a realistic expectation of future returns. Other books that come highly recommended are Rational Expectations: Asset Allocation for Investing Adults and The Intelligent Asset Allocator: How to Build Your Portfolio to Maximize Returns and Minimize Risk.

William Bernstein is one of the first names you encounter when entering the investing world, especially the personal investing world. But his investing principles apply to institutional investing as well.

His book William Bernstein: The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio, is one of the best books on investing you can read. It is on our concise list of the very best investing book ever written.

William Bernstein is also one of the very few good guys in investing. He has gone above and beyond in helping the everyday investor to get better returns through a robust investing framework.

william-bernstein-four-pillars-of-investing
Get this on Amazon – The audiobook is especially recommended as the narrator is phenomenal.

What is unique about the William Bernstein portfolios?

The one thing that William Bernstein focuses on in his portfolios is diversification through many asset classes. He is a self-proclaimed asset class junkie

Therefore his portfolios display extensive diversification.

In addition to this, William Bernstein is a 360-degree investor, so he takes into account a lot of factors. For example:

  • Asset location (to minimize taxes)
  • Specific asset class to reduce taxes like muni bonds
  • Your age
  • Your appetite for risk
  • Your employer’s fund offerings if you are investing through a 401K.

All this makes Bernstein shine as a useful guide in all of your investment endeavors.

Finally, he is adamant about facing reality and being very aware of what you can expect in the returns of your portfolios.

William Bernstein’s most famous portfolios are the lazy portfolios. The two are the No-brainer portfolio and the Cowards’ portfolio. You can read more about those specific portfolios in our posts on Lazy Portfolios and 5 Reasons Why A Lazy Portfolio Is Right For You.

If you are interested in learning way more about William Bernstein and his investing philosophy, pick up one or two of his books. Apart from his book Four Pillars I very much recommend the following two:

the-intelligent-asset-allocator

Get it on Amazon – The audiobook has GREAT narration.
rational-expectations-william-bernstein

Asset Allocation of the William Bernstein portfolios

Here is how you build all of William Bernstein’s portfolios.

William Bernstein Four Pillars High Risk Portfolio

William Bernstein Cowards Portfolio

  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value  (VTV)
  • 15.00%  US Large Cap  (VV)
  • 10.00%  US Small Cap Value  (VIOV)
  • 5.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 5.00%    REITs (VNQ)
  • 5.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 5.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 5.00%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 40.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)

William Bernstein Four Pillars High-Risk Portfolio

  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 10.00%  US Large Cap  (VV)
  • 7.50%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 5.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 7.50%    REITs (VNQ)
  • 7.50%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 7.50%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 10.00%  European Stocks (VGK)
  • 7.50%    International Large Cap Value (EFV)
  • 25.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)
  • 2.50%    Precious Metals (GLTR)

Highlighted in the above pie chart

William Bernstein Four Pillars Low-Risk Portfolio

  • 35.00%  US Total Stock Market (VTI)
  • 5.00%    REITs  (VNQ)
  • 10.00%  International All-World ex-US (VEU)
  • 50.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)

William Bernstein Four Pillars Medium Portfolio

  • 25.00%  US Total Stock Market (VTI)
  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 10.00%  US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 5.00%    REITs (VNQ)
  • 10.00%  International All-World ex-US (VEU)
  • 40.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)

William Bernstein No Brainer Portfolio

  • 25.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 25.00%  US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 25.00%  International All-World ex-US (VEU)
  • 25.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)

The No-Brainer portfolio is part of the group of Lazy Portfolios.

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam Portfolio

  • 15.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 12.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 9.00%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 3.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 6.00%    REITs (VNQ)
  • 3.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 3.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 3.00%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 4.20%    International Large Cap Value (EFV)
  • 24.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)
  • 1.80%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 16.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 100% Stocks

This portfolio is part of Portfolio Einstein Gold, Premium Portfolios. 

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 90/10

This portfolio is part of Portfolio Einstein Gold, Premium Portfolios. 

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 80/20

  • 20.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 16.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 12.00%  US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 4.00%    US Small Cap(VIOO)
  • 8.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 4.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 4.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 4.00%    European Stocks  (VGK)
  • 5.60%    International Lg Cap Value (EFV)
  • 2.40%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 12.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 8.00%    TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 70/30

  • 17.50%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 14.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 10.50%  US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 3.50%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 7.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 3.50%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 3.50%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 3.50%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 4.90%    International Large Cap Value (EFV)
  • 2.10%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 18.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 12.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 60/40

  • 15.00%  US Large Cap Value  (VTV)
  • 12.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 9.00%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 3.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 6.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 3.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 3.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 3.00%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 4.20%    International Large Cap Value  (EFV)
  • 1.80%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 24.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 16.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 50/50

  • 12.50%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 10.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 7.50%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 2.50%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 5.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 2.50%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 2.50%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 2.50%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 3.50%    International Large Cap Value  (EFV)
  • 1.50%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 30.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 20.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 40/60

  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 8.00%    US Large Cap (VV)
  • 6.00%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 2.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 4.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 2.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 2.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 2.00%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 2.80%    International Large Cap Value (EFV)
  • 1.20%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 36.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 24.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 30/70

  • 7.50%    US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 6.00%    US Large Cap (VV)
  • 4.50%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 1.50%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 3.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 1.50%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 1.50%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 1.50%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 2.10%    International Large Cap Value (EFV)
  • 0.90%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 42.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 28.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 20/80

  • 5.00%    US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 4.00%    US Large Cap (VV)
  • 3.00%    US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 1.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 2.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 1.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 1.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 1.00%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 1.40%    International Large Cap Value (EFV)
  • 0.60%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 48.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade (VCSH)
  • 32.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 10/90

  • 2.50%    US Large Cap Value         (VTV)
  • 2.00%    US Large Cap      (VV)
  • 1.50%    US Small Cap Value         (VIOV)
  • 0.50%    US Small Cap      (VIOO)
  • 1.00%    REITs (Real Estate)           (VNQ)
  • 0.50%    Emerging Markets           (VWO)
  • 0.50%    Pacific Stocks     (VPL)
  • 0.50%    European Stocks               (VGK)
  • 0.70%    International Large Cap Value           (EFV)
  • 0.30%    Precious Metals (GLTR)
  • 54.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade   (VCSH)
  • 36.00%  TIPS       (VTIP)

William Bernstein Sheltered Sam 100% Bonds

  • 60.00%  Short-Term Investment-Grade   (VCSH)
  • 40.00%  TIPS (VTIP)

William Bernstein Young Yvonne Portfolio

  • 15.00%  US Large Cap Value         (VTV)
  • 12.00%  US Large Cap      (VV)
  • 9.00%    US Small Cap Value         (VIOV)
  • 3.00%    US Small Cap      (VIOO)
  • 6.00%    REITs (Real Estate)           (VNQ)
  • 3.00%    Emerging Markets           (VWO)
  • 3.00%    Pacific Stocks     (VPL)
  • 3.00%    European Stocks               (VGK)
  • 4.20%    International Large Cap Value           (EFV)
  • 40.00%  Total US Bond Market    (BND)
  • 1.80%    Precious Metals (GLTR)

William Bernstein Charlie Cringe Portfolio

  • 35.00%  US Total Stock Market   (VTI)
  • 5.00%    REITs (Real Estate)           (VNQ)
  • 10.00%  Int. Developed Blend      (VEA)
  • 50.00%  Short Term Treasury       (VGSH)

William Bernstein Wendy Wonk Portfolio

  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value         (VTV)
  • 10.00%  US Large Cap      (VV)
  • 7.50%    US Small Cap Value         (VIOV)
  • 5.00%    US Small Cap      (VIOO)
  • 7.50%    REITs (Real Estate)           (VNQ)
  • 7.50%    Emerging Markets           (VWO)
  • 7.50%    Pacific Stocks     (VPL)
  • 10.00%  European Stocks               (VGK)
  • 7.50%    International Large Cap Value           (EFV)
  • 25.00%  Short Term Treasury       (VGSH)
  • 2.50%    Precious Metals (GLTR)

William Bernstein Between Charlie and Wendy Portfolio

  • 25.00%  US Total Stock Market  (VTI)
  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 10.00%  US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 5.00%    REITs (Real Estate) (VNQ)
  • 10.00%  Int. Developed Blend (VEA)
  • 40.00%  Short Term Treasury (VGSH)

Resources for William Bernstein

His website The Efficient Frontier details he many books and a few other resources

His many books on Amazon. He has written on other topics other than investing. His book A Splendid Exchange is a fantastic inquiry on how trade enabled the modern world.

He has appeared on many financial and investing podcasts, use this search to find them all.

He is one of only three good guys in investing.

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 provide higher returns in the long run. It is completely FREE.

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

Rebalancing lowers your portfolio risk and may increase your returns.


If you want access to our high-performing portfolios then you need to take a look at the premium portfolios. This is a paid product that gives you the 59 best-performing portfolios since 1989. The portfolios represent a great opportunity for you to have a shot at increasing the returns of your portfolio.

Portfolioeinstein Premium Portfolios

Related Questions

What is the name of William Bernstein’s website?
William Bernstein’s website is the Efficient Frontier.

What is the best book by William Bernstein?

The best book is The Four Pillars of Investing: Lessons for Building a Winning Portfolio.

What is William Bernstein’s Coward Portfolio?
Here is the Coward Portfolio.

  • 10.00%  US Large Cap Value (VTV)
  • 15.00%  US Large Cap (VV)
  • 10.00%  US Small Cap Value (VIOV)
  • 5.00%    US Small Cap (VIOO)
  • 5.00%    REITs (VNQ)
  • 5.00%    Emerging Markets (VWO)
  • 5.00%    Pacific Stocks (VPL)
  • 5.00%    European Stocks (VGK)
  • 40.00%  Short Term Treasuries (VGSH)
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