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

— Warren Buffett

The wisdom of Warren Buffett reflects a value-based philosophy about investing that says investors are buying shares in a business, and encourages strategic thinking about investment time horizon. Before placing a buy order for a stock, a great question we can ask is whether we would still be comfortable making the investment if we couldn’t sell it for many years?

A “buy-and-hold” approach may call for a time horizon that spans a long period of time — maybe even lasting for a twenty year holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Rollins, Inc. (NYSE: ROL) back in 2003. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 08/25/2003


End date: 08/24/2023
Start price/share: $1.57
End price/share: $39.04
Starting shares: 6,369.43
Ending shares: 8,405.86
Dividends reinvested/share: $3.61
Total return: 3,181.65%
Average annual return: 19.06%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $328,207.03

As shown above, the twenty year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 19.06%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $328,207.03 today (as of 08/24/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 3,181.65% (something to think about: how might ROL shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Rollins, Inc. paid investors a total of $3.61/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 .52/share, we calculate that ROL has a current yield of approximately 1.33%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of .52 against the original $1.57/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 84.71%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“Investors should purchase stocks like they purchase groceries, not like they purchase perfume.” — Benjamin Graham