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

— Warren Buffett

The investment philosophy practiced by Warren Buffett calls for investors to take a long-term horizon when making an investment, such as a two-decade holding period (or even longer), and reconsider making the investment in the first place if unable to envision holding the stock for at least five years. Today, we look at how such a long-term strategy would have done for investors in Automatic Data Processing Inc. (NASD: ADP) back in 2003, holding through to today.

Start date: 04/28/2003


End date: 04/25/2023
Start price/share: $27.09
End price/share: $211.69
Starting shares: 369.14
Ending shares: 584.12
Dividends reinvested/share: $37.90
Total return: 1,136.53%
Average annual return: 13.40%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $123,754.31

As shown above, the two-decade investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 13.40%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $123,754.31 today (as of 04/25/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,136.53% (something to think about: how might ADP 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 Automatic Data Processing Inc., investors have received $37.90/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 5/share, we calculate that ADP has a current yield of approximately 2.36%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 5 against the original $27.09/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 8.71%.

Here’s one more great investment quote before you go:
“This company looks cheap, that company looks cheap, but the overall economy could completely screw it up. The key is to wait. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing.” — David Tepper