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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 two-decade 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 AFLAC Inc (NYSE: AFL), by taking a look at the investment outcome over a two-decade holding period.

Start date: 07/29/2002


End date: 07/28/2022
Start price/share: $14.95
End price/share: $56.42
Starting shares: 668.90
Ending shares: 1,019.55
Dividends reinvested/share: $13.50
Total return: 475.23%
Average annual return: 9.14%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $57,556.62

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 9.14%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $57,556.62 today (as of 07/28/2022). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 475.23% (something to think about: how might AFL shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that AFLAC Inc paid investors a total of $13.50/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 1.6/share, we calculate that AFL has a current yield of approximately 2.84%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.6 against the original $14.95/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 19.00%.

One more investment quote to leave you with:
“Investing is the intersection of economics and psychology.” — Seth Klarman