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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 two-decade holding period. Suppose such a “buy-and-hold” investor had looked into buying shares of Apple Inc (NASD: AAPL) 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: 09/26/2003


End date: 09/25/2023
Start price/share: $0.37
End price/share: $176.08
Starting shares: 27,027.03
Ending shares: 31,845.28
Dividends reinvested/share: $7.51
Total return: 55,973.18%
Average annual return: 37.20%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $5,605,153.08

The above analysis shows the two-decade investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 37.20%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $5,605,153.08 today (as of 09/25/2023). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 55,973.18% (something to think about: how might AAPL shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Apple Inc paid investors a total of $7.51/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 .96/share, we calculate that AAPL has a current yield of approximately 0.55%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of .96 against the original $0.37/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 148.65%.

Here’s one more great investment quote before you go:
“The older I get, the more I see a straight path where I want to go. If you’re going to hunt elephants, don’t get off the trail for a rabbit.” — T. Boone Pickens