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“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

— Warren Buffett

The wisdom of Warren Buffett reflects a value-based philosophy about investing that says investors are buying shares in a business, and encourages strategic thinking about investment time horizon. Before placing a buy order for a stock, a great question we can ask is whether we would still be comfortable making the investment if we couldn’t sell it for many years?

A “buy-and-hold” approach may call for a time horizon that spans a long period of time — maybe even lasting for a two-decade holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Ross Stores, Inc. (NASD: ROST) back in 1999. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 07/09/1999


End date: 07/08/2019
Start price/share: $3.13
End price/share: $101.58
Starting shares: 3,194.89
Ending shares: 3,839.17
Dividends reinvested/share: $5.00
Total return: 3,799.83%
Average annual return: 20.09%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $389,949.35

As we can see, the two-decade investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 20.09%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $389,949.35 today (as of 07/08/2019). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 3,799.83% (something to think about: how might ROST shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Many investors out there refuse to own any stock that lacks a dividend; in the case of Ross Stores, Inc., investors have received $5.00/share in dividends these past 20 years examined in the exercise above. This means total return was driven not just by share price, but also by the dividends received (and what the investor did with those dividends). For this exercise, what we’ve done with the dividends is to assume they are reinvestted — i.e. used to purchase additional shares (the calculations use closing price on ex-date).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of 1.02/share, we calculate that ROST has a current yield of approximately 1.00%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.02 against the original $3.13/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 31.95%.

One more piece of investment wisdom to leave you with:
“All the opportunity in the world means nothing if you don’t actually pull the trigger.” — Sam Zell