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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 twenty year holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Ecolab Inc (NYSE: ECL) 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: 10/25/2002


End date: 10/24/2022
Start price/share: $24.22
End price/share: $148.43
Starting shares: 412.88
Ending shares: 520.04
Dividends reinvested/share: $20.56
Total return: 671.89%
Average annual return: 10.75%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $77,154.39

As shown above, the twenty year investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 10.75%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $77,154.39 today (as of 10/24/2022). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 671.89% (something to think about: how might ECL shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Ecolab Inc paid investors a total of $20.56/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 2.04/share, we calculate that ECL has a current yield of approximately 1.37%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.04 against the original $24.22/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 5.66%.

One more piece of investment wisdom to leave you with:
“When the public is most frightened, only the strong are left, and that’s when the market is in the best possible hands.” — Victor Niederhoffer