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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 American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP)? Today, we examine the outcome of a two-decade investment into the stock back in 2002.

Start date: 03/25/2002


End date: 03/24/2022
Start price/share: $35.34
End price/share: $188.89
Starting shares: 282.97
Ending shares: 376.31
Dividends reinvested/share: $18.48
Total return: 610.80%
Average annual return: 10.30%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $71,098.46

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 10.30%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $71,098.46 today (as of 03/24/2022). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 610.80% (something to think about: how might AXP shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that American Express Co. paid investors a total of $18.48/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 2.08/share, we calculate that AXP has a current yield of approximately 1.10%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.08 against the original $35.34/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 3.11%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“A stock is not just a ticker symbol or an electronic blip; it is an ownership interest in an actual business, with an underlying value that does not depend on its share price.” — Benjamin Graham