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

— Warren Buffett

Such a great quote from Warren Buffett, highlighting the importance of investment time horizon when considering making an investment. In the short run, who knows what the stock market will do? A week or two after buying any given stock, could the entire stock market fall out of bed? Quite possibly! Should that happen, how would you react? It is an excellent question to think about before hitting the buy button.

For investors who take a multi-year time horizon, the important thing is not what happens in the next week or two, but what the result will be over the long haul. Today, we look at the result investors of the year 2003 experienced, who considered an investment in shares of American Tower Corp (NYSE: AMT) and decided upon a twenty year investment time horizon.

Start date: 02/18/2003


End date: 02/15/2023
Start price/share: $4.88
End price/share: $216.60
Starting shares: 2,049.18
Ending shares: 2,532.88
Dividends reinvested/share: $32.88
Total return: 5,386.23%
Average annual return: 22.16%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $548,348.68

The above analysis shows the twenty year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 22.16%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $548,348.68 today (as of 02/15/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 5,386.23% (something to think about: how might AMT shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that American Tower Corp paid investors a total of $32.88/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 6.24/share, we calculate that AMT has a current yield of approximately 2.88%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 6.24 against the original $4.88/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 59.02%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“The key to investing is not assessing how much an industry is going to affect society, or how much it will grow, but rather determining the competitive advantage of any given company and, above all, the durability of that advantage.” — Warren Buffett