Exploring Alternative Investments: Strategies for a Diversified Portfolio

In today’s rapidly changing investment landscape, many investors are seeking ways to diversify their portfolios beyond traditional stocks and bonds. With high inflation and tightening monetary policy posing challenges to returns, alternative investments have gained popularity as viable options for further diversification and risk reduction.

Alternative investments encompass a broad range of asset classes, including hedge funds, private equity, real estate, precious metals, and other instruments uncorrelated with the mainstream securities markets. By exploring these investment options, individuals can balance their portfolios, mitigate market volatility, and potentially achieve higher returns.

Although diversification through alternative investments can offer potential benefits, it is crucial for investors to carefully consider their risk tolerance, goals, and investment strategy before venturing into unfamiliar territory. By conducting thorough research and seeking professional advice, individuals can make informed decisions while working towards achieving a well-balanced and resilient portfolio.

Understanding Alternative Investments

Alternative investments are a category of investments that do not fall into traditional asset categories, such as stocks, bonds, and cash. These investments can be an effective way to diversify your portfolio and reduce risk through exposure to different asset classes.

Some popular types of alternative investments include:

  • Private equity: This involves investing in privately-held companies, often with the goal of later selling the stakes at a higher price once the companies have grown or turned around their operations.
  • Hedge funds: These are pooled investments that use sophisticated and diverse strategies to achieve returns or hedge against market risks. This may include the use of leverage, derivatives, and alternative investment instruments.
  • Real estate: Investing in commercial or residential properties can offer steady income through rental returns or capital growth through the increase in property value over time.
  • Commodities: This involves investing in physical goods such as crude oil, gold, and agricultural products. Commodities can provide a hedge against inflation and offer diversification benefits.
  • Art and collectibles: Investing in rare items, such as art, antique cars, or wine, can offer long-term appreciation as well as a unique and enjoyable investment experience.

Diversifying your portfolio with alternative investments can provide some potential benefits. One key benefit is the low correlation with traditional assets, which can help to reduce overall portfolio risk and improve return potential.

Additionally, alternative investments may offer higher returns and allow you to tap into niche markets that may not be accessible through traditional channels.

However, it is important to note that alternative investments also come with risks and challenges. Some of these assets can be illiquid, meaning it may be difficult to buy or sell them quickly or at the desired price. Moreover, there may be higher fees associated with certain alternative investments, such as the management fees for hedge funds or the due diligence costs for private equity investments.

In conclusion, incorporating alternative investments into your portfolio can offer diversification benefits and potentially improve returns. It is crucial, however, to carefully assess the risks and costs associated with each type of alternative investment before making any decisions.

Forbes Advisor provides an insightful overview to get started in this area. Always consult with a professional financial advisor to ensure that the chosen alternative investments align with your investment objectives and risk tolerance.

Types of Alternative Investments

One way to diversify your portfolio beyond traditional stocks and bonds is by exploring alternative investments. These assets can provide varying degrees of risk, reward, and liquidity, depending on the type of alternative investment you choose. In this section, we will discuss five popular types of alternative investments: Real Estate, Commodities, Hedge Funds, Private Equity, and Structured Products.

Real Estate

Real estate is a tangible asset that involves investing in property, including residential, commercial, and land investments. It can provide income through rental properties or capital appreciation when property values increase over time. Real estate investments can be made directly, such as buying a rental property, or indirectly, like investing in a real estate investment trust (REIT).


Commodities are raw materials or primary agricultural products that can be bought and sold, such as metals, energy resources, and agricultural goods. Investing in commodities typically involves futures contracts or purchasing shares in companies that produce these goods.

Exposure to commodities can protect against inflation and help diversify a portfolio due to their low correlation with traditional stocks and bonds.

Hedge Funds

Hedge funds are pooled investments managed by professional fund managers, using various strategies to generate returns. They can invest in a wide range of assets, including stocks, bonds, derivatives, and alternative investments.

Hedge funds often use leverage, short-selling, and derivatives to manage risk and reduce volatility. However, they may require high minimum investments and have limited liquidity.

Private Equity

Private equity involves investing in private companies or buying out public companies to take them private. It often requires a long-term investment horizon and is illiquid, as investors typically need to commit their capital for several years.

Private equity funds aim to create value by providing operational expertise, strategic guidance, and financial support to the companies they invest in.

Structured Products

Structured products are complex financial instruments designed to provide specific risk-reward profiles tailored to an investor’s preferences. They can include combinations of stocks, bonds, options, and derivatives, which are bundled together to achieve certain performance goals or risk tolerance levels.

Structured products can be a suitable alternative investment option for investors looking for customised exposure to different asset classes or market strategies.

Investment Strategies


Diversification is a key factor in constructing a well-rounded investment portfolio. It involves spreading your investments across different asset classes to avoid over-concentration in one specific area.

Alternative investments such as private equity, hedge funds, and more can provide opportunities to diversify your portfolio beyond traditional stocks and bonds, potentially reducing volatility and enhancing returns.

Some popular alternative investments include:

  • Real estate
  • Commodities
  • Private equity
  • Hedge funds

Risk Management

Incorporating alternative investments into your portfolio can also help with risk management. Since alternative assets usually have low correlations with traditional stocks and bonds, they can potentially provide a buffer against market swings and offer a level of capital protection during bearish market periods.

For instance, market neutral investing, which involves a relatively even split of long and short investments, is designed to reduce the influence of market fluctuations. This kind of investment strategy can help investors maintain a stable portfolio value regardless of market performance.

Portfolio Optimisation

Portfolio optimisation is the process of selecting the best combination of investments to achieve specific investment objectives, such as maximising returns or minimising risk. Introducing alternative investments can contribute to a more efficient portfolio by improving the balance between risk and return.

An initial starting point for many portfolios is the traditional 60/40 portfolio, with 60% stocks and 40% bonds. However, incorporating alternatives into this mix can lead to a better risk-adjusted performance.

To optimise your portfolio, consider your investment objectives, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Analyse the potential impact of different alternative assets on your overall portfolio performance, and align your investment decisions with your financial goals.

Evaluating Alternative Investments

When considering alternative investments, it’s essential to evaluate several factors, such as performance metrics, liquidity, fees, and expenses. Let’s dive deeper into these aspects:

Performance Metrics

The unique nature of alternative investments sometimes makes it challenging to directly compare them with traditional assets like stocks and bonds. Common performance metrics may include:

  • Absolute returns: Measure the total change in an investment’s value over a specified period, regardless of market conditions.
  • Risk-adjusted returns: Assess the asset’s return in relation to its risk exposure, allowing for a more direct comparison among different investment types.
  • Asset-specific metrics: For example, real estate investments might use valuation ratios like price-to-rent and capitalisation rates.

Keep in mind that past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Also, understand the nuances of each performance metric to ensure proper use and interpretation.


Liquidity refers to the ease with which an investment can be bought or sold. Alternative investments typically vary in their liquidity, with some being more illiquid than traditional stocks and bonds. For instance:

  • Private equity, venture capital, and real estate: These investments often require a long holding period, making them relatively illiquid assets.
  • Managed futures and hedge funds: Despite being more liquid than private equity, they might still have restrictions on when investors can withdraw their capital.
  • Liquid alternative investments: Products like alternative mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) offer daily liquidity, similar to traditional stocks and bonds.

Evaluating the liquidity of each alternative investment can help you understand if it’s an appropriate fit for your portfolio and risk tolerance.

Fees and Expenses

Alternative investments might involve higher fees and expenses compared to traditional assets. Some of the common fee structures include:

  • Management fees: A percentage of the assets under management, charged annually.
  • Performance fees: Usually a share of the investment profits.
  • Other fees: Expenses such as accounting, legal, and operational costs.

An in-depth assessment of the fees and expenses involved can help you make an informed decision when incorporating alternative investments into your portfolio. Furthermore, compare the costs amongst different investment options to find the most suitable selection for your investment goals and strategy.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Potential Returns

Alternative investments can offer attractive returns compared to traditional investments such as stocks and bonds. Real estate, private equity, hedge funds, and digital assets are some examples of alternative investments that potentially provide higher yields. However, it is important to remember that these higher returns may come with increased risk. As such, investors should carefully assess the risk-reward trade-off before allocating their capital to alternative investments.

Unsystematic Risks

Diversifying your portfolio with alternative investments can help to reduce unsystematic risks. By investing in different asset classes, you are decreasing your overall risk since the performance of one asset class may not be correlated with another. For example, real estate investments may not be directly impacted by stock market fluctuations.

However, it is essential to note that alternative investments may also introduce unique risks, such as sector-specific or liquidity risks, which should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Regulatory Environment

Alternative investments may often operate within different regulatory environments compared to traditional investments. This can provide advantages, such as reduced reporting requirements and more flexible investment policies.

On the other hand, the regulatory environment for alternative investments may lead to increased risks due to the lack of oversight, transparency, and investor protection compared to stocks and bonds.


One potential disadvantage of alternative investments is their limited availability compared to traditional asset classes. Previously, alternative investments were primarily accessible to institutional and high-net-worth investors.

While they are becoming more widely available to retail investors, access may still be limited or require higher minimum investments. It is important for investors to research the available options before deciding on investing in alternative asset classes.

Creating a Balanced Portfolio

Determining Your Risk Tolerance

Before diversifying your portfolio, it’s important to understand your risk tolerance levels. A significant aspect of diversifying involves investing in various assets with varying levels of risk.

Investors who are more conservative might prefer a higher allocation of bonds, while risk-tolerant investors may lean more towards stocks. Knowing your risk tolerance will help you decide how to allocate your assets, and ultimately create a balanced portfolio aimed at achieving your financial goals.

Allocating Assets

Once you’ve determined your risk tolerance, allocating your assets among various investment classes is the key to diversification. Consider investing in these alternative assets:

  • Real estate: A popular choice due to its potential for both income and appreciation in value.
  • Farmland: Offers a unique opportunity as it is an income-producing asset with low correlation to traditional stocks and bonds.
  • Venture capital: Invest in private companies in their early stages; these investments can yield high returns, but also come with higher risks.

Combining the mentioned assets with traditional stocks and bonds will create a more balanced portfolio tailored to your risk tolerance levels.

Rebalancing and Monitoring

Rebalancing your portfolio regularly ensures that your asset allocations remain consistent with your risk tolerance and financial objectives. Some factors that may prompt you to rebalance your portfolio:

  • Market fluctuations: Significant movement in the market may result in changes to your portfolio’s weightings and require adjustments to restore balance.
  • Personal circumstances: Life events such as marriage, retirement or change in employment status can impact your financial goals and risk tolerance.

Monitoring your investments is crucial in keeping your portfolio aligned with your goals and risk tolerance. By tracking your portfolio’s performance, you can make informed decisions about maintaining or adjusting your investments.

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