Thanks to the ETF revolution, investors can very easily target different bond durations. The table below shows the bond ETFs for consideration in this analysis with their respective duration
- EDV: 24.8
- TLT: 17.2
- TLH: 9.6
- IEF: 7.6
- IEI: 4.5
The graph below shows the performance of each product. I have represented the longer duration bonds with darker shades. As you can see, the products are all highly correlated but the duration affects the magnitude of the movements.
Stepping back, remember that the cashless Permanent Portfolio is an equal split between 30 year Treasuries (TLT), US Stocks, and Gold. The allocation works because the three asset classes have roughly equivalent volatility, making the portfolio a risk parity solution. Balancing risk between the asset classes is attractive because it protects your portfolio from macro shocks.
However, what if you appreciate this balance but want to take more or less risk while remaining balanced across the asset classes? The logic is simple, the stronger the bond the less of it you need to get the target exposure.
By using different bond durations and weightings you can implicitly lever / delever your portfolio. The following table shows allocations I created that take into account the relative volatility of the bonds compared with stocks and gold.
Although the dollar weightings might appear to offer different exposures, the risk allocation across the portfolios is almost identical. Essentially, the portfolios only differ by the amount leverage applied to them. The charts below illustrate that the principles of risk parity are preserved, while offering different degrees of magnification. This is verified quantitatively by looking at the correlation matrix.
In summary , risk parity strategies don’t have to be one size fits all allocations. You can dial in your risk level by using leverage, and the best leverage available to retail investors can be found on the other side of the bond desk.