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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 Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS) back in 2004. Let’s take a look at how such an investment would have worked out for that buy-and-hold investor:

Start date: 01/23/2004


End date: 01/22/2024
Start price/share: $99.50
End price/share: $385.96
Starting shares: 100.50
Ending shares: 134.69
Dividends reinvested/share: $62.84
Total return: 419.85%
Average annual return: 8.59%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $52,022.22

As we can see, the two-decade investment result worked out well, with an annualized rate of return of 8.59%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $52,022.22 today (as of 01/22/2024). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 419.85% (something to think about: how might GS shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Goldman Sachs Group Inc paid investors a total of $62.84/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 11/share, we calculate that GS has a current yield of approximately 2.85%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 11 against the original $99.50/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 2.86%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“Investors should always keep in mind that the most important metric is not the returns achieved but the returns weighed against the risks incurred. Ultimately, nothing should be more important to investors than the ability to sleep soundly at night.” — Seth Klarman