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“When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.”

— Warren Buffett

The above quote from Warren Buffett is timeless, and brings into focus the choice about time horizon that any investor should think about before buying a stock they are considering. Behind every stock is an actual business; what will that business look like over a twenty year period?

Today, let’s look backwards in time to 2002, and take a look at what happened to investors who asked that very question about Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT), by taking a look at the investment outcome over a twenty year holding period.

Start date: 06/28/2002


End date: 06/27/2022
Start price/share: $16.90
End price/share: $109.08
Starting shares: 591.72
Ending shares: 1,010.25
Dividends reinvested/share: $19.21
Total return: 1,001.98%
Average annual return: 12.74%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $110,187.25

As we can see, the twenty year investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 12.74%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $110,187.25 today (as of 06/27/2022). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,001.98% (something to think about: how might ABT shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Abbott Laboratories paid investors a total of $19.21/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 1.88/share, we calculate that ABT has a current yield of approximately 1.72%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.88 against the original $16.90/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 10.18%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“Sometimes buying early on the way down looks like being wrong, but it isn’t.” — Seth Klarman