Think about the characteristics that make a strong portfolio: diverse, cost-efficient, tax-efficient, risk-managed.

These qualities should be true of every portfolio, no matter the size or an individual’s risk profile. The clients we meet with all want a portfolio that checks these boxes, but doing so is easier said than done.

This is why we often look to alternative investments. The world of alternatives provides access to unique opportunities that, when used correctly for the right investor, can help achieve the portfolio traits mentioned above.

Why Alternatives?

The catch-all phrase of “alternative investments” is a bit of a misnomer, since it can mean different things to different people. Hedge funds are alternative investments, as are structured settlements and cryptocurrency assets (but that’s a discussion for another day).

The reason we preach the value of alternatives to certain clients is because they can have a low correlation to the U.S. stock market, which comprises many investors’ main risk exposure.

Achieving an asset mix with low correlations helps protect against downside and bouts of volatility, especially as traditional assets are becoming more correlated than ever. As BlackRock noted, alternatives took less heat during the dot-com crash and financial crisis compared to their mainstream peers.

On top of this, alternatives can generate higher rates of returns due to the wide scope of their investment universe. But of course, not all alternatives are created equal. With this in mind, there are two types of alternatives we feel make a strong case for portfolio inclusion: real estate and private debt.

Real Estate

Perhaps the most well-known type of alternative investment, real estate investing has become increasingly popular in recent years. We find real estate attractive in part for its returns. The average 20-year return of REITs (11.8 percent) residential real estate (10.6 percent), and commercial real estate (9.5 percent) all outperform the S&P 500 (8.6 percent).

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