Simple non-US portfolios

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Ambox globe content.svg This article contains details specific to non-US investors. It does not apply to United States (US) investors, or to US citizens and US permanent residents (green card holders) living outside the US.

Simple non-US portfolios are designed to perform well for non-US investors in most market conditions. Most contain a small number of low-cost funds that are easy to rebalance. They are "lazy" because the investor can maintain the same asset allocation for an extended period of time.[note 1]

Non-US investors will usually want asset allocations and index funds or ETFs that are different from those employed by US investors who use "lazy" portfolios.

Simple portfolios

The simplest portfolios are based on using index funds (where these are easily available) or the corresponding ETFs to build a low-cost structure with a small number of funds, generally five or fewer, that are easy to re-balance and follow the spirit of the Bogleheads® approach.

The simple index portfolios illustrated here are a collection of portfolios that contain broad based representation from the major asset classes: local or regional bonds; local or regional equities; and global bonds and global equities. The choice of broad based funds is dictated by a decision to use a passive investing philosophy to keep costs to a minimum and to accept market returns, which helps keep things simple to manage these portfolios.

Depending on the level of simplicity desired, investors can build one of a:

  • One fund portfolio consisting of a single multi-asset fund.
  • Two fund portfolio consisting of a global bond fund and a global stock fund.
  • Three fund portfolio consisting of a global bond fund, global developed market stock fund and a global emerging market stock fund.
  • Four or five fund portfolios consisting of local or regional bond fund, global stock fund, local or regional stock fund, emerging market stock fund and small cap stock fund.

The main Wiki site for Bogleheads can provide ample background for the build-up of various approaches that can accord with the Bogleheads principles while introducing some variety for whatever reason. For example, see: Lazy portfolios

These portfolios are well suited for do-it-yourself (DIY) index investors in the accumulation stage, with retirement as their main goal. Simple index portfolios can also work during the withdrawal stage.

The choice of global aggregate bond fund can be for a global fund that includes both government and corporate debt, or alternatively there are some ETFs that are dedicated to global government debt only.

These generic portfolios as shown below should be made up of the appropriate available ETFs that are consistent with the local tax regime. Investors should address any tax reporting requirements that might indicate a preference for accumulating or distributing versions of the funds to be used. The actual choice of individual ETFs may be subject to the availability of specific funds.

The illustrated examples are based upon a 50/50 allocation of bonds and stocks. The allocation chosen will depend upon the evaluation of the individuals risk tolerance and their particular stage in the investment lifecycle.

Cash and cash equivalents, property and other investments assets are not included in these portfolios. These assets can become part of a more complex portfolio for the more experienced investor. Some element of cash is advised for investors as a fund for emergencies, predicted expenditure, or both.

The actual percentage allocated to each of the funds is driven by your asset allocation (AA). Your risk tolerance and your need, ability and willingness to take risk will determine the split bonds and equity.

One fund portfolio

Vanguard LifeStrategy funds hold stocks and bonds in a fixed allocation, and can provide investors with an all-in-one single fund multi-asset portfolio. Vanguard's LifeStrategy ETF range[note 2] offers a handful of discrete allocations: 20% stocks and 80% bonds; 40% stocks and 60% bonds; 60% stocks and 40% bonds; and 80% stocks and 20% bonds.

If these static allocations do not match the desired asset allocation, an investor could pair up options to create a different allocation. For example, investing half in the 60% stocks fund and half in the 80% stocks fund produces a 70% stocks and 30% bonds allocation.

Two fund portfolio

Beyond Vanguard LifeStrategy funds, the simplest interpretation of the Boglehead approach for non-US retail investors with the minimum number of funds, wide diversity, low cost and modest risk combines a global equity fund and a global bond fund in the split that match your chosen Asset Allocation (for example, 50/50, 60/40, or other). 2 fund non-US portfolio.png

Three fund portfolio

A very simple portfolio with the addition of a world emerging market equity fund in case the world equity fund that is available only cover the developed markets. Based on free float, the Emerging Markets are typically between 10 and 15% of the total global equity market. 3 fund non-US portfolio.png

Four fund portfolio

Certain investors wish to invest more in the local equity market then would be justified by the market weight of the local market. For example, a simple portfolio which introduces some home bias in stocks. 4 fund non-US portfolio a.png

Five fund portfolio

This version adds small cap stocks to equities. This is useful when the equity funds do not include small caps and investors wish to include them. 5 fund non-US portfolio.png

Sample portfolios

Using the approach set out in the generic simple portfolio design set out above, the following portfolios are possible solutions for a non-US retail investor, subject to all the caveats regarding jurisdiction, domicile, tax matters and costs. Samples are given using the two and three fund solutions in both accumulating and distributing versions.

Investors need to research their domicile and tax status in order to correctly identify the particular ETF which is appropriate in their case for each asset class. There is a Boglebot tool that will provide good guidance on how to implement a two-fund portfolio given some information on tax residency and currencies and should make for a good starting point. The Boglebot will also collate necessary information for you to help post in the Bogleheads forum for further guidance.

Sample accumulating portfolios

Asset class Investor ETF suggestions Amount
One fund accumulating portfolio
Multi-asset EU investor
[note 2]
Determined by asset allocation
Two fund accumulating portfolio
Fixed income EU investor Determined by asset allocation
Equities Any Determined by asset allocation
Three fund accumulating portfolio
Fixed income EU investor Determined by asset allocation
Equities Any 85-90% of equities
Emerging markets Any 10-15% of equities

Sample distributing portfolios

Asset class Investor ETF suggestions Amount
One fund distributing portfolio
Multi-asset EU investor
[note 2]
Determined by asset allocation
Two fund distributing portfolio
Fixed income EU investor Determined by asset allocation
  • ISIN IE00B3F81409, AGGG / SAGG / EUNU - iShares Core Global Aggregate Bond UCITS ETF Dist
Equities Any Determined by asset allocation
Three fund distributing portfolio
Fixed income EU investor Determined by asset allocation
  • ISIN IE00B3F81409, AGGG / SAGG / EUNU - iShares Core Global Aggregate Bond UCITS ETF Dist
Equities Any Determined by asset allocation
Emerging markets Any Already included in VWRL / VGWL / VWRD (None)


When choosing a particular ETF or group of ETFs, investors need to be aware that the different providers may be using different benchmarks for the tracking of their fund performance. For example the iShares global aggregate bond (AGGH / EUNA indicated in the accumulating sample above) tracks the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index while the Vanguard tracks the same index. However, the iShares global stock ETF (IWDA / EUNL / SWDA indicated in the accumulating sample above) tracks the MSCI World index, while the Vanguard world stock ETF (VWRP / VWRA / VWCE) tracks the FTSE All-World index.

See also: FTSE All World Index and MSCI World Index.

The content of these indices is different and investors may wish to understand the differences and choose accordingly.

For more information on indices, see: Stock market indexing and Bond market indexing.

The amount in percentage terms of each sub asset class within an index should be followed at least in rough terms to suit the investors' overall portfolio management constraints; in other words, rounding percentages (or cash amounts) to match the exact index allocation is not necessary for the smaller sub asset classes as the Emerging Market and small cap allocations are relatively minor. It may help to group portfolio choices to one provider, subject to costs.


  1. The term Lazy portfolios has been popularized by Paul B. Farrell, who writes MarketWatch columns about various simple portfolios.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Vanguard LifeStrategy ETFs hedge their bond component to EUR. This may or not be desirable, depending on the local currency.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Unless the local currency is pegged to USD, hedging to the USD may not be appropriate.

See also

External links