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“When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.”

— 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 two-decade holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Walmart Inc (NYSE: WMT) back in 2001. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 02/05/2001


End date: 02/02/2021
Start price/share: $53.84
End price/share: $140.77
Starting shares: 185.74
Ending shares: 270.74
Dividends reinvested/share: $26.08
Total return: 281.13%
Average annual return: 6.92%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $38,136.27

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 6.92%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $38,136.27 today (as of 02/02/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 281.13% (something to think about: how might WMT shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Walmart Inc paid investors a total of $26.08/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 2.16/share, we calculate that WMT has a current yield of approximately 1.53%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.16 against the original $53.84/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 2.84%.

Here’s one more great investment quote before you go:
“If you can follow only one bit of data, follow the earnings.” — Peter Lynch