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

— Warren Buffett

The investment philosophy practiced by Warren Buffett calls for investors to take a long-term horizon when making an investment, such as a two-decade holding period (or even longer), and reconsider making the investment in the first place if unable to envision holding the stock for at least five years. Today, we look at how such a long-term strategy would have done for investors in Ecolab Inc (NYSE: ECL) back in 1999, holding through to today.

Start date: 10/04/1999


End date: 10/01/2019
Start price/share: $16.81
End price/share: $195.86
Starting shares: 594.88
Ending shares: 755.47
Dividends reinvested/share: $15.49
Total return: 1,379.67%
Average annual return: 14.42%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $148,033.30

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 14.42%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $148,033.30 today (as of 10/01/2019). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,379.67% (something to think about: how might ECL shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Ecolab Inc paid investors a total of $15.49/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 1.84/share, we calculate that ECL has a current yield of approximately 0.94%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.84 against the original $16.81/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 5.59%.

One more investment quote to leave you with:
“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” — Warren Buffett