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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 two-decade holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. (NYSE: MMC) back in 2002. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 05/06/2002


End date: 05/04/2022
Start price/share: $49.50
End price/share: $163.44
Starting shares: 202.02
Ending shares: 327.26
Dividends reinvested/share: $23.49
Total return: 434.88%
Average annual return: 8.74%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $53,466.98

The above analysis shows the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 8.74%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $53,466.98 today (as of 05/04/2022). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 434.88% (something to think about: how might MMC shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. paid investors a total of $23.49/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 2.14/share, we calculate that MMC has a current yield of approximately 1.31%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.14 against the original $49.50/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 2.65%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“Value investing requires a great deal of hard work, unusually strict discipline, and a long-term investment horizon. Few are willing and able to devote sufficient time and effort to become value investors, and only a fraction of those have the proper mind-set to succeed.” — Seth Klarman