Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Efficient Frontier


The Efficient Frontier is a concept in Modern Portfolio Theory which represents a set of optimal portfolios that offer the highest expected return for a given level of risk. It is formed by plotting expected returns against the standard deviation of returns for different portfolio combinations. Portfolios that lie below the Efficient Frontier are considered sub-optimal because they do not provide enough return for the level of risk.


The phonetics of “Efficient Frontier” are:Efficient: /ɪˈfɪʃənt/Frontier: /frʌnˈtɪr/

Key Takeaways

  1. Efficiency: Efficient Frontier represents a set of optimal portfolios offering the highest expected return for a given risk level or the lowest risk for a given expected return.
  2. Diversification: It promotes the concept of portfolio diversification. Instead of investing in a single security, it suggests investing in a combination of securities to optimize returns and minimize risk.
  3. Variability: The shape of the Efficient Frontier changes based on the variability of the returns of the securities in the portfolio. Thus, the Efficient Frontier is not a static concept but changes as market conditions vary.


The Efficient Frontier is a crucial concept in investment and portfolio management, primarily used in modern portfolio theory. It refers to a set of optimal portfolios offering the highest expected return for a defined level of risk or the lowest risk for a given level of expected return. Portfolios that lie below the Efficient Frontier are sub-optimal, as they do not provide enough return for the level of risk. Portfolios that cluster to the right of the Efficient Frontier are also sub-optimal because they have a higher level of risk for the defined rate of return. Since every investor aims for maximum return with minimum risk, understanding and applying the Efficient Frontier assists in portfolio optimization, making it quite important in business and finance.


The purpose of the Efficient Frontier is integral to modern portfolio theory, as it assists investors in understanding the risk-return trade-off of their investment portfolios. Predicated on Harry Markowitz’s theory, the Efficient Frontier helps investors identify the maximum possible returns they can achieve at each predetermined level of portfolio risk. This is to say, for a specific level of risk, the Efficient Frontier can locate the optimal allocation of assets that offer the most desirable return.

The Efficient Frontier is used by investors for asset allocation planning and risk management, essentially helping formulate a blueprint strategizing the balance between risk and return. This enables investors to quantify expected portfolio returns based on a defined risk level, which can significantly influence their investment decisions. Simply put, portfolios that fall on the Efficient Frontier will render the highest possible return for a given risk level. This model helps an investor in making more informed decisions pertaining to potential investments, thereby ensuring that their portfolios either hit or exceed the Efficient Frontier, maximizing returns while simultaneously handling risk.


1. Investing in Stocks: An individual or company may have a portfolio consisting of various stocks. By calculating the expected returns and risks (volatility) of these stocks, they can identify combinations that can give them the highest possible return for a given level of risk. Through this, they can establish their efficient frontier, which can guide them where to allocate their resources according to their risk tolerance.

2. Asset Allocation in Mutual Funds: Mutual fund companies use the concept of efficient frontier in distributing their assets among different investment options. Depending on the risk-return trade-off, they allocate more funds to those investments that lie on the efficient frontier and match the fund’s risk tolerance.

3. Pension Fund Management: Retirement and pension funds also use the efficient frontier to manage their investments. They use the efficient frontier to decide the proportion of assets to be allocated in various securities like bonds, equities, real estates etc. For instance, if a pension fund has a low risk tolerance level, it would look for an efficient frontier that offers the maximum return for a low level of risk.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Efficient Frontier in finance?

The Efficient Frontier is a concept in modern portfolio theory that represents a set of optimal portfolios offering the highest expected return for a defined level of risk or the lowest risk for a given level of expected return.

How is the Efficient Frontier calculated?

The Efficient Frontier is determined through mathematical modelling and computation. It involves taking into consideration the expected returns and standard deviations of all investment assets in a portfolio, as well as their correlations.

Why is the Efficient Frontier important in portfolio management?

The Efficient Frontier is significant in portfolio management because it allows investors to understand the trade-off between risk and return. By selecting a portfolio on the Efficient Frontier, investors can achieve the greatest return for their chosen level of risk.

Can a portfolio exist outside the Efficient Frontier?

No, any portfolio that exists outside the Efficient Frontier is considered sub-optimal, because it does not provide either enough return for the level of risk it entails or it involves more risk for the defined level of expected return.

What does a typical Efficient Frontier graph look like?

An Efficient Frontier graph typically curves upward and to the left. The vertical axis represents the expected return, and the horizontal axis signifies the portfolio’s risk, with risk increasing from left to right.

How does diversification relate to the Efficient Frontier?

Diversification helps in achieving an optimal portfolio on the Efficient Frontier. By diversifying investments across different assets that are not perfectly correlated, one can achieve the desired returns with lower risk.

Can the Efficient Frontier change over time?

Yes, the Efficient Frontier can change over time as the expected returns, variances, and correlations between assets change. As these changes occur, the position of the portfolio on the Efficient Frontier can fluctify.

How does the Efficient Frontier help in formulating investment strategies?

The Efficient Frontier helps investors in determining the allocation of assets in their portfolio. Based on their risk tolerance, an investor can choose a point on the Efficient Frontier and structure their portfolio to achieve that balance of risk and return.

Related Finance Terms

  • Modern Portfolio Theory
  • Risk-Reward Tradeoff
  • Capital Market Line
  • Portfolio Optimization
  • Markowitz Efficiency

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More