Photo credit:

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

— 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 twenty year holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Altria Group Inc (NYSE: MO) 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: 02/12/2001


End date: 02/09/2021
Start price/share: $47.95
End price/share: $43.36
Starting shares: 208.55
Ending shares: 2,630.23
Dividends reinvested/share: $120.36
Total return: 1,040.47%
Average annual return: 12.94%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $114,089.39

The above analysis shows the twenty year investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 12.94%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $114,089.39 today (as of 02/09/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,040.47% (something to think about: how might MO shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Altria Group Inc paid investors a total of $120.36/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 3.44/share, we calculate that MO has a current yield of approximately 7.93%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 3.44 against the original $47.95/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 16.54%.

One more piece of investment wisdom to leave you with:
“Investors should purchase stocks like they purchase groceries, not like they purchase perfume.” — Benjamin Graham