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

— Warren Buffett

A critical pearl of wisdom from Warren Buffett teaches us that with any potential stock investment we may make, as soon as our buy order is filled we will have a choice: to remain a co-owner of that company for the long haul, or to react to the inevitable short-term ups and downs that the stock market is famous for (sometimes sharp ups and downs).

The reality of this choice forces us to challenge our confidence in any given company we might invest into, and keep our eyes on the long-term time horizon. The market may go up and down the interim, but over a two-decade holding period, will the investment succeed?

Back in 2003, investors may have been asking themselves that very question about Progressive Corp. (NYSE: PGR). Let’s examine what would have happened over a two-decade holding period, had you invested in PGR shares back in 2003 and held on.

Start date: 03/17/2003


End date: 03/14/2023
Start price/share: $14.39
End price/share: $141.84
Starting shares: 694.93
Ending shares: 1,169.24
Dividends reinvested/share: $21.76
Total return: 1,558.45%
Average annual return: 15.07%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $165,733.11

The above analysis shows the two-decade investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 15.07%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $165,733.11 today (as of 03/14/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,558.45% (something to think about: how might PGR shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Many investors out there refuse to own any stock that lacks a dividend; in the case of Progressive Corp., investors have received $21.76/share in dividends these past 20 years examined in the exercise above. This means total return was driven not just by share price, but also by the dividends received (and what the investor did with those dividends). For this exercise, what we’ve done with the dividends is to assume they are reinvestted — i.e. used to purchase additional shares (the calculations use closing price on ex-date).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of .4/share, we calculate that PGR has a current yield of approximately 0.28%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of .4 against the original $14.39/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 1.95%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“It’s not always easy to do what’s not popular, but that’s where you make your money. Buy stocks that look bad to less careful investors and hang on until their real value is recognized.” — John Neff