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

— Warren Buffett

A critical pearl of wisdom from Warren Buffett teaches us that with any potential stock investment we may make, as soon as our buy order is filled we will have a choice: to remain a co-owner of that company for the long haul, or to react to the inevitable short-term ups and downs that the stock market is famous for (sometimes sharp ups and downs).

The reality of this choice forces us to challenge our confidence in any given company we might invest into, and keep our eyes on the long-term time horizon. The market may go up and down the interim, but over a twenty year holding period, will the investment succeed?

Back in 2004, investors may have been asking themselves that very question about Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM). Let’s examine what would have happened over a twenty year holding period, had you invested in HUM shares back in 2004 and held on.

Start date: 05/24/2004


End date: 05/23/2024
Start price/share: $15.65
End price/share: $352.22
Starting shares: 638.98
Ending shares: 711.81
Dividends reinvested/share: $24.95
Total return: 2,407.14%
Average annual return: 17.47%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $250,787.39

As we can see, the twenty year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 17.47%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $250,787.39 today (as of 05/23/2024). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 2,407.14% (something to think about: how might HUM shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Notice that Humana Inc. paid investors a total of $24.95/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 3.54/share, we calculate that HUM has a current yield of approximately 1.01%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 3.54 against the original $15.65/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 6.45%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“Don’t wait for the perfect time, you will wait forever. Always take advantage of the time you’re given and make it perfect.” — Daymond John