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

— Warren Buffett

This inspiring quote from Warren Buffett teaches us the importance of considering our investment time horizon when approaching any given investment: Could we envision ourselves holding the stock we are considering for many years? Even a twenty year holding period potentially?

For “buy-and-hold” investors taking a long-term view, what’s important isn’t the short-term stock market fluctuations that will inevitably occur, but what happens over the long haul. Looking back 20 years to 2003, investors considering an investment into shares of AT&T Inc (NYSE: T) may have been pondering this very question and thinking about their potential investment result over a full twenty year time horizon. Here’s how that would have worked out.

Start date: 03/24/2003


End date: 03/21/2023
Start price/share: $15.81
End price/share: $18.54
Starting shares: 632.51
Ending shares: 1,927.08
Dividends reinvested/share: $25.97
Total return: 257.28%
Average annual return: 6.57%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $35,708.78

As shown above, the twenty year investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 6.57%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $35,708.78 today (as of 03/21/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 257.28% (something to think about: how might T shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Beyond share price change, another component of T’s total return these past 20 years has been the payment by AT&T Inc of $25.97/share in dividends to shareholders. Automatic reinvestment of dividends can be a wonderful way to compound returns, and for the above calculations we presume that dividends are reinvested into additional shares of stock. (For the purpose of these calcuations, the closing price on ex-date is used).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of 1.11/share, we calculate that T has a current yield of approximately 5.99%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.11 against the original $15.81/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 37.89%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“Thousands of experts study overbought indicators, head-and-shoulder patterns, put-call ratios, the Fed’s policy on money supply…and they can’t predict markets with any useful consistency, any more than the gizzard squeezers could tell the Roman emperors when the Huns would attack.” — Peter Lynch