Schedule a Call

How the Endowment Model and Real Estate Diversification Can Transform Your Portfolio

May 28, 2019

In the realm of financial planning and investment, a distinguishing factor among firms is the approach they take towards portfolio construction and risk management. This blog post delves into the intricacies of building a diverse and robust investment portfolio, moving beyond the traditional mix of stocks and bonds. 

It draws on insights from a financial advisor who advocates for an approach similar to that used by large endowments like Yale University's. This method involves incorporating alternative investments, such as real estate, to achieve better risk-adjusted returns.

Understanding the Traditional Portfolio

Traditionally, most investment portfolios comprise a mix of stocks and bonds. A common allocation might be 60% stocks and 40% bonds. However, this structure has its limitations. For the past decade, bonds have yielded minimal returns, dragging down overall portfolio performance. 

Moreover, this traditional mix is not as low-risk as often perceived. During market downturns, such as the 2008 financial crisis, balanced portfolios of stocks and bonds still experienced significant losses. For instance, in 2008, an average stock fund lost about 30%, and a balanced portfolio saw losses around 30% at the lowest point.

The Endowment Model: A Paradigm Shift

The endowment model, pioneered by institutions like Yale University, offers a different approach. This model diversifies beyond stocks and bonds, including assets like real estate and other alternative investments. The rationale behind this strategy is not just risk reduction but also enhancement of returns over time.

Case Study: Yale Endowment vs. Traditional Portfolio

  • 2000-2002 Tech Wreck: The market lost about 40%. A $100,000 investment in the market would have dwindled to $60,000. In contrast, Yale's endowment, with only about 30% in stocks and minimal bonds, instead invested in real estate and other non-correlated assets, saw an increase of 41% in 2000, 9% in 2001, and 0.7% in 2002.
  • Result: While a market-based portfolio reduced to $60,000, a Yale-like portfolio would have grown to $164,000.

Real Estate: A Core Component

Real estate plays a significant role in this diversified approach. It's not just about having a tangible asset but also about generating steady cash flow, gaining tax benefits, and potential appreciation.

A focus on student housing, managed by firms like NV Private Capital, further exemplifies this strategy. These properties, anchored by major universities, offer stability, income, and growth, often performing well even during recessions.

Benefits of Student Housing Investment

  • Stability: Universities like Notre Dame or UCLA provide a stable anchor, and college enrollment shows little correlation to economic cycles.
  • Income: Student housing offers predictable income, often with 12-month leases.
  • Tax Benefits: Investments in student housing can provide tax-sheltered income.
  • Growth: These assets have the potential for appreciation, providing an avenue for wealth accumulation.

1031 Exchanges and Diversification into Student Housing

Investors holding traditional real estate can consider 1031 exchanges to transition into student housing investments. This allows them to defer capital gains taxes while moving into a potentially more stable and lucrative investment vehicle.


The financial industry often presents a conventional approach to portfolio construction, focusing heavily on stocks and bonds. However, this traditional mix may not be as secure or profitable as once thought, especially in volatile markets. 

By adopting strategies used by successful endowments, like diversifying into real estate and other alternative assets, investors can potentially achieve better risk-adjusted returns. This approach, while more complex, can offer greater stability, income, and growth potential, making it an attractive option for those looking to build a more resilient and profitable investment portfolio.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult with your financial advisor.
© Copyright 2023 | Reyes Financial Architecture, Inc. | All Rights Reserved | Firm Disclosures
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram