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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 Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE: XOM) 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: 08/19/1999


End date: 08/16/2019
Start price/share: $40.91
End price/share: $68.30
Starting shares: 244.44
Ending shares: 417.60
Dividends reinvested/share: $37.60
Total return: 185.22%
Average annual return: 5.38%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $28,529.13

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 5.38%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $28,529.13 today (as of 08/16/2019). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 185.22% (something to think about: how might XOM shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Exxon Mobil Corp paid investors a total of $37.60/share in dividends over the 20 holding period, marking a second component of the total return beyond share price change alone. Much like watering a tree, reinvesting dividends can help an investment to grow over time — for the above calculations we assume dividend reinvestment (and for this exercise the closing price on ex-date is used for the reinvestment of a given dividend).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of 3.48/share, we calculate that XOM has a current yield of approximately 5.10%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 3.48 against the original $40.91/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 12.47%.

One more investment quote to leave you with:
“Never test the depth of a river with both feet.” — Warren Buffett