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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 2001.

Start date: 04/16/2001


End date: 04/15/2021
Start price/share: $79.10
End price/share: $76.66
Starting shares: 126.42
Ending shares: 269.45
Dividends reinvested/share: $36.72
Total return: 106.56%
Average annual return: 3.69%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $20,649.52

As we can see, the two-decade investment result worked out as follows, with an annualized rate of return of 3.69%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $20,649.52 today (as of 04/15/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 106.56% (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.]

Notice that Merck & Co Inc paid investors a total of $36.72/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 2.6/share, we calculate that MRK has a current yield of approximately 3.39%. 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 $79.10/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 4.29%.

One more piece of investment wisdom to leave you with:
“Every day that you’re not selling an asset in your portfolio, you’re choosing to buy it.” — Sam Zell