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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 decade-long holding period possibly?

Suppose a “buy-and-hold” investor was considering an investment into AT&T Inc (NYSE: T) back in 2011: back then, such an investor may have been pondering this very same question. Had they answered “yes” to a full decade-long investment time horizon and then actually held for these past 10 years, here’s how that investment would have turned out.

Start date: 02/08/2011


End date: 02/05/2021
Start price/share: $27.91
End price/share: $28.93
Starting shares: 358.29
Ending shares: 625.06
Dividends reinvested/share: $19.09
Total return: 80.83%
Average annual return: 6.10%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $18,078.14

As shown above, the decade-long investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 6.10%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 10 years ago into $18,078.14 today (as of 02/05/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 80.83% (something to think about: how might T shares perform over the next 10 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that AT&T Inc paid investors a total of $19.09/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 2.08/share, we calculate that T has a current yield of approximately 7.19%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.08 against the original $27.91/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 25.76%.

One more piece of investment wisdom to leave you with:
“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field, not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard.” — Warren Buffett