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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

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 decade-long holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Microsoft Corporation (NASD: MSFT) back in 2011. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 09/09/2011


End date: 09/08/2021
Start price/share: $25.74
End price/share: $300.21
Starting shares: 388.50
Ending shares: 482.72
Dividends reinvested/share: $14.88
Total return: 1,349.16%
Average annual return: 30.63%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $144,898.91

As we can see, the decade-long investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 30.63%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 10 years ago into $144,898.91 today (as of 09/08/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,349.16% (something to think about: how might MSFT shares perform over the next 10 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Microsoft Corporation paid investors a total of $14.88/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 2.24/share, we calculate that MSFT has a current yield of approximately 0.75%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.24 against the original $25.74/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 2.91%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.” — George Soros