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

— 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 two-decade period?

Today, let’s look backwards in time to 2000, and take a look at what happened to investors who asked that very question about American Electric Power Co Inc (NASD: AEP), by taking a look at the investment outcome over a two-decade holding period.

Start date: 11/20/2000


End date: 11/18/2020
Start price/share: $43.19
End price/share: $84.13
Starting shares: 231.55
Ending shares: 555.40
Dividends reinvested/share: $39.94
Total return: 367.26%
Average annual return: 8.01%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $46,725.54

As we can see, the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 8.01%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $46,725.54 today (as of 11/18/2020). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 367.26% (something to think about: how might AEP shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that American Electric Power Co Inc paid investors a total of $39.94/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 2.96/share, we calculate that AEP has a current yield of approximately 3.52%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.96 against the original $43.19/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 8.15%.

One more investment quote to leave you with:
“Go for a business that any idiot can run – because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it.” — Peter Lynch