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

— Warren Buffett

This inspiring quote from Warren Buffett teaches us the importance of considering our investment time horizon when approaching any given investment: Could we envision ourselves holding the stock we are considering for many years? Even a two-decade holding period potentially?

For “buy-and-hold” investors taking a long-term view, what’s important isn’t the short-term stock market fluctuations that will inevitably occur, but what happens over the long haul. Looking back 20 years to 2000, investors considering an investment into shares of ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) may have been pondering this very question and thinking about their potential investment result over a full two-decade time horizon. Here’s how that would have worked out.

Start date: 04/24/2000


End date: 04/20/2020
Start price/share: $18.68
End price/share: $34.57
Starting shares: 535.33
Ending shares: 981.43
Dividends reinvested/share: $28.52
Total return: 239.28%
Average annual return: 6.30%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $33,942.04

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 6.30%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $33,942.04 today (as of 04/20/2020). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 239.28% (something to think about: how might COP shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that ConocoPhillips paid investors a total of $28.52/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 1.68/share, we calculate that COP has a current yield of approximately 4.86%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.68 against the original $18.68/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 26.02%.

Here’s one more great investment quote before you go:
“The function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” — John Galbraith