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

— Warren Buffett

The above quote from Warren Buffett is timeless, and brings into focus the choice about time horizon that any investor should think about before buying a stock they are considering. Behind every stock is an actual business; what will that business look like over a two-decade period?

Today, let’s look backwards in time to 2004, and take a look at what happened to investors who asked that very question about American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP), by taking a look at the investment outcome over a two-decade holding period.

Start date: 06/01/2004


End date: 05/29/2024
Start price/share: $44.29
End price/share: $235.94
Starting shares: 225.78
Ending shares: 303.77
Dividends reinvested/share: $22.96
Total return: 616.72%
Average annual return: 10.35%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $71,726.74

As we can see, the two-decade investment result worked out quite well, with an annualized rate of return of 10.35%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $71,726.74 today (as of 05/29/2024). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 616.72% (something to think about: how might AXP shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Always an important consideration with a dividend-paying company is: should we reinvest our dividends?Over the past 20 years, American Express Co. has paid $22.96/share in dividends. For the above analysis, we assume that the investor reinvests dividends into new shares of stock (for the above calculations, the reinvestment is performed using closing price on ex-div date for that dividend).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of 2.8/share, we calculate that AXP has a current yield of approximately 1.19%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 2.8 against the original $44.29/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 2.69%.

Another great investment quote to think about:
“The best way to measure your investing success is not by whether you’re beating the market but by whether you’ve put in place a financial plan and a behavioral discipline that are likely to get you where you want to go.” — Benjamin Graham