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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

Investors can learn a lot from Warren Buffett, whose above quote teaches the importance of thinking about investment time horizon, and asking ourselves before buying any given stock: can we envision holding onto it for years — even a ten year holding period possibly?

Suppose a “buy-and-hold” investor was considering an investment into Ecolab Inc (NYSE: ECL) back in 2011: back then, such an investor may have been pondering this very same question. Had they answered “yes” to a full ten year investment time horizon and then actually held for these past 10 years, here’s how that investment would have turned out.

Start date: 01/11/2011


End date: 01/08/2021
Start price/share: $49.00
End price/share: $221.75
Starting shares: 204.08
Ending shares: 228.92
Dividends reinvested/share: $13.39
Total return: 407.62%
Average annual return: 17.64%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $50,763.34

As we can see, the ten year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 17.64%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 10 years ago into $50,763.34 today (as of 01/08/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 407.62% (something to think about: how might ECL shares perform over the next 10 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Ecolab Inc paid investors a total of $13.39/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 1.92/share, we calculate that ECL has a current yield of approximately 0.87%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.92 against the original $49.00/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 1.78%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks.” — Benjamin Graham