Nevertheless, potential alternative investors should be aware that these assets tend to be less liquid than most stocks and bonds. Additionally, while some alternative assets may help a portfolio weather a downturn, these assets could constrain upside potential during a strong bull rally in equities or bonds.

Some examples of the broadly defined alternative asset class include:

Gold

  • SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEArca: GLD)
  • iShares Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU)
  • ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (NYSEArca: SGOL)

Commodities

  • PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund (NYSEArca: DBC)
  • iPath ETN AIG Commodity Index Total Return Medium-Term Notes Series A (NYSEArca: DJP)
  • iShares GSCI Commodity-Indexed Trust (NYSEArca: GSG)

Currencies

  • PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (NYSEArca: UUP)
  • PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (NYSEArca: DBV)
  • WisdomTree Emerging Currency Fund (NYSEArca: CEW)

REITs

  • Vanguard REIT ETF (NYSEArca: VNQ)
  • SPDR Dow Jones REIT ETF (NYSEArca: RWR)
  • iShares FTSE NAREIT Mortgage REITs Index Fund (NYSEArca: REM)

VIX

  • iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (NYSEArca: VXX)
  • VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (NYSEArca: XIV)
  • ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (NYSEArca: UVXY)

Advisors who are interested in learning more about alternative investments may sign up for the Alts Virtual Summit conference slated for May 15, 2013. The conference will provide information on various alternative investment strategies at the comfort of your own home or office.

For more information on ETFs, visit our ETF 101 category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.