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

— Warren Buffett

The Warren Buffett investment philosophy calls for a long-term investment horizon, where a two-decade holding period, or even longer, would fit right into the strategy. How would such a strategy have worked out for an investment into Merck & Co Inc (NYSE: MRK)? Today, we examine the outcome of a two-decade investment into the stock back in 2000.

Start date: 12/18/2000


End date: 12/16/2020
Start price/share: $89.31
End price/share: $79.83
Starting shares: 111.97
Ending shares: 237.66
Dividends reinvested/share: $36.41
Total return: 89.72%
Average annual return: 3.25%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $18,963.36

As we can see, the two-decade investment result worked out as follows, with an annualized rate of return of 3.25%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $18,963.36 today (as of 12/16/2020). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 89.72% (something to think about: how might MRK shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Many investors out there refuse to own any stock that lacks a dividend; in the case of Merck & Co Inc, investors have received $36.41/share in dividends these past 20 years examined in the exercise above. This means total return was driven not just by share price, but also by the dividends received (and what the investor did with those dividends). For this exercise, what we’ve done with the dividends is to assume they are reinvestted — i.e. used to purchase additional shares (the calculations use closing price on ex-date).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of 2.6/share, we calculate that MRK has a current yield of approximately 3.26%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.6 against the original $89.31/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 3.65%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“If a speculator is correct half of the time, he is hitting a good average. Even being right 3 or 4 times out of 10 should yield a person a fortune if he has the sense to cut his losses quickly on the ventures where he is wrong.” — Bernard Baruch