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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 two-decade 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 Smith (A O) Corp (NYSE: AOS) may have been pondering this very question and thinking about their potential investment result over a full two-decade time horizon. Here’s how that would have worked out.

Start date: 03/17/2003


End date: 03/14/2023
Start price/share: $4.48
End price/share: $67.48
Starting shares: 2,232.14
Ending shares: 3,103.23
Dividends reinvested/share: $8.32
Total return: 1,994.06%
Average annual return: 16.42%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $209,282.44

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 16.42%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $209,282.44 today (as of 03/14/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,994.06% (something to think about: how might AOS shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Smith (A O) Corp paid investors a total of $8.32/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 1.2/share, we calculate that AOS has a current yield of approximately 1.78%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 1.2 against the original $4.48/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 39.73%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“Calling someone who trades actively in the market an investor is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic.” — Warren Buffett