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

— 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 CSX Corp (NASD: CSX) 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: 04/23/2004


End date: 04/22/2024
Start price/share: $1.74
End price/share: $34.62
Starting shares: 5,747.13
Ending shares: 8,035.59
Dividends reinvested/share: $4.19
Total return: 2,681.92%
Average annual return: 18.08%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $278,174.85

The above analysis shows the twenty year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 18.08%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $278,174.85 today (as of 04/22/2024). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 2,681.92% (something to think about: how might CSX shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that CSX Corp paid investors a total of $4.19/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 .48/share, we calculate that CSX has a current yield of approximately 1.39%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of .48 against the original $1.74/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 79.89%.

Here’s one more great investment quote before you go:
“Most investors want to do today what they should have done yesterday.” — Larry Summers