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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 twenty year holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Fastenal Co. (NASD: FAST) 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: 12/21/2001


End date: 12/20/2021
Start price/share: $4.04
End price/share: $61.32
Starting shares: 2,475.25
Ending shares: 3,643.67
Dividends reinvested/share: $8.76
Total return: 2,134.30%
Average annual return: 16.79%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $223,281.05

As we can see, the twenty year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 16.79%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $223,281.05 today (as of 12/20/2021). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 2,134.30% (something to think about: how might FAST shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Fastenal Co. paid investors a total of $8.76/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 1.12/share, we calculate that FAST has a current yield of approximately 1.83%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.12 against the original $4.04/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 45.30%.

One more investment quote to leave you with:
“When you sell in desperation, you always sell cheap.” — Peter Lynch