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“I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.”

— Warren Buffett

The above quote from Warren Buffett is timeless, and brings into focus the choice about time horizon that any investor should think about before buying a stock they are considering. Behind every stock is an actual business; what will that business look like over a five year period?

Today, let’s look backwards in time to 2015, and take a look at what happened to investors who asked that very question about Union Pacific Corp (NYSE: UNP), by taking a look at the investment outcome over a five year holding period.

Start date: 02/05/2015


End date: 02/04/2020
Start price/share: $122.85
End price/share: $183.24
Starting shares: 81.40
Ending shares: 91.14
Dividends reinvested/share: $13.70
Total return: 67.00%
Average annual return: 10.80%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $16,699.32

As shown above, the five year investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 10.80%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 5 years ago into $16,699.32 today (as of 02/04/2020). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 67.00% (something to think about: how might UNP shares perform over the next 5 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Union Pacific Corp paid investors a total of $13.70/share in dividends over the 5 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 3.88/share, we calculate that UNP has a current yield of approximately 2.12%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 3.88 against the original $122.85/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 1.73%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“The older I get, the more I see a straight path where I want to go. If you’re going to hunt elephants, don’t get off the trail for a rabbit.” — T. Boone Pickens