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“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.”

— 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 decade-long holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Principal Financial Group Inc (NASD: PFG) back in 2010. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 08/18/2010


End date: 08/17/2020
Start price/share: $23.03
End price/share: $44.40
Starting shares: 434.22
Ending shares: 601.15
Dividends reinvested/share: $14.67
Total return: 166.91%
Average annual return: 10.31%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $26,692.08

As we can see, the decade-long investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 10.31%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 10 years ago into $26,692.08 today (as of 08/17/2020). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 166.91% (something to think about: how might PFG shares perform over the next 10 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Principal Financial Group Inc paid investors a total of $14.67/share in dividends over the 10 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 2.24/share, we calculate that PFG has a current yield of approximately 5.04%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.24 against the original $23.03/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 21.88%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“The function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” — John Galbraith