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“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

— 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 General Dynamics Corp (NYSE: GD) 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: 08/12/2002


End date: 08/10/2022
Start price/share: $41.93
End price/share: $230.46
Starting shares: 238.49
Ending shares: 364.33
Dividends reinvested/share: $46.42
Total return: 739.63%
Average annual return: 11.22%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $83,953.23

The above analysis shows the two-decade investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 11.22%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $83,953.23 today (as of 08/10/2022). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 739.63% (something to think about: how might GD shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that General Dynamics Corp paid investors a total of $46.42/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 5.04/share, we calculate that GD has a current yield of approximately 2.19%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 5.04 against the original $41.93/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 5.22%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“Most investors want to do today what they should have done yesterday.” — Larry Summers