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

— Warren Buffett

Investors can learn a lot from Warren Buffett, whose above quote teaches the importance of thinking about investment time horizon, and asking ourselves before buying any given stock: can we envision holding onto it for years — even a twenty year holding period possibly?

Suppose a “buy-and-hold” investor was considering an investment into American Tower Corp (NYSE: AMT) back in 2004: back then, such an investor may have been pondering this very same question. Had they answered “yes” to a full twenty year investment time horizon and then actually held for these past 20 years, here’s how that investment would have turned out.

Start date: 06/10/2004


End date: 06/07/2024
Start price/share: $14.39
End price/share: $194.26
Starting shares: 694.93
Ending shares: 896.19
Dividends reinvested/share: $40.95
Total return: 1,640.94%
Average annual return: 15.35%
Starting investment: $10,000.00
Ending investment: $174,057.12

As we can see, the twenty year investment result worked out exceptionally well, with an annualized rate of return of 15.35%. This would have turned a $10K investment made 20 years ago into $174,057.12 today (as of 06/07/2024). On a total return basis, that’s a result of 1,640.94% (something to think about: how might AMT shares perform over the next 20 years?). [These numbers were computed with the Dividend Channel DRIP Returns Calculator.]

Beyond share price change, another component of AMT’s total return these past 20 years has been the payment by American Tower Corp of $40.95/share in dividends to shareholders. Automatic reinvestment of dividends can be a wonderful way to compound returns, and for the above calculations we presume that dividends are reinvested into additional shares of stock. (For the purpose of these calcuations, the closing price on ex-date is used).

Based upon the most recent annualized dividend rate of 6.48/share, we calculate that AMT has a current yield of approximately 3.34%. Another interesting datapoint we can examine is ‘yield on cost’ — in other words, we can express the current annualized dividend of 6.48 against the original $14.39/share purchase price. This works out to a yield on cost of 23.21%.

More investment wisdom to ponder:
“All the opportunity in the world means nothing if you don’t actually pull the trigger.” — Sam Zell