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“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.”

— Warren Buffett

Investors can learn a lot from Warren Buffett, whose above quote teaches the importance of thinking about investment time horizon, and asking ourselves before buying any given stock: can we envision holding onto it for years — even a ten year holding period possibly?

Suppose a “buy-and-hold” investor was considering an investment into Ecolab Inc (NYSE: ECL) back in 2013: back then, such an investor may have been pondering this very same question. Had they answered “yes” to a full ten year investment time horizon and then actually held for these past 10 years, here’s how that investment would have turned out.

Start date: 07/12/2013


End date: 07/11/2023
Start price/share: $90.29
End price/share: $184.66
Starting shares: 110.75
Ending shares: 123.77
Dividends reinvested/share: $16.44
Total return: 128.55%
Average annual return: 8.61%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $22,845.28

As we can see, the ten year investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 8.61%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 10 years ago into $22,845.28 today (as of 07/11/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 128.55% (something to think about: how might ECL shares perform over the next 10 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Ecolab Inc paid investors a total of $16.44/share in dividends over the 10 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 2.12/share, we calculate that ECL has a current yield of approximately 1.15%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.12 against the original $90.29/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 1.27%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“While it might seem that anyone can be a value investor, the essential characteristics of this type of investor-patience, discipline, and risk aversion-may well be genetically determined.” — Seth Klarman