Consider the Components of Equity Returns

By: Prieur du Plessis | Tue, Jun 30, 2009
Print Email

The raison d'être of investment or wealth management is to maintain, or hopefully improve, one's standard of living, i.e. to earn a real return on the investment amount. This sounds easy enough if one considers that the S&P 500 Index (and its predecessors prior to 1957) delivered a nominal return of 8.7% per annum from January 1871 to June 2008. With an average inflation rate of 2.2% per annum over the period, this meant a real return of 6.5% per annum.

Yes, I can hear many readers arguing that much better returns can be generated by "playing" the market cycles, especially given the fact that the S&P 500 has made no headway since 1998. Ah, the art of market timing! Perhaps, but keep in mind that very few people have succeeded in consistently outperforming the market over any extended period of time, especially once costs and taxes are factored in.

Let's go back to the total nominal return of 8.7% per annum and analyze its components. We already know that 2.2% per annum came from inflation. Real capital growth (i.e. price movements net of inflation) added another 1.8% per annum. Where did the rest of the return come from? Wait for it, dividends - yes, boring dividends, slavishly reinvested year after year, contributed 4.7% per annum. This represents more than half the total return over time!

Have a look at the following chart:

The numbers are summarized below in table format.


Source: Plexus Asset Management (based on data from Prof Robert Shiller and I-Net Bridge)

In an environment characterized by increasingly shorter investment horizons, the concept of compounding sounds so passé, but it remains one of the most important principles governing investment. The time has perhaps come to look beyond the short-term noise and focus on good old stock picking, and specifically those companies with strong balance sheets that will be growing their dividends over time with a reasonable degree of certainty. After all, compound growth has not without reason been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.

Did you enjoy this post? If so, click here to subscribe to updates to Investment Postcards from Cape Town by e-mail.

 


 

Prieur du Plessis

Author: Prieur du Plessis

Dr Prieur du Plessis
investmentpostcards.com

Dr Prieur du Plessis

With 25 years' experience in investment research and portfolio management, Dr Prieur du Plessis is one of the most experienced and well-known investment professionals in South Africa. More than 1 000 of his articles on investment-related topics have been published in various regular newspaper, journal and Internet columns. He also published a book, Financial Basics: Investment, in 2002.

He holds the following degrees: BSc (Quantity Surveying) (Cape Town), HonsB (B & A) (cum laude) (Stellenbosch), MBA (cum laude) (Stellenbosch); and DBA (Doctor of Financial Management) (Stellenbosch).

Prieur is chairman of the Plexus group of companies, which he founded in 1995. Previously he was general manager: portfolio management at Sanlam, responsible for the management of investment portfolios with total assets in excess of $5 billion.

Plexus is a pioneer in the mutual fund industry and has achieved a number of firsts under Prieur's leadership. These include the authoritative Plexus Survey, a quarterly analysis of the consistency of the performance of unit trust management companies, the Plexus Offshore Survey, the Plexus Unit Trust Indices, and the PlexCrown Fund Ratings.

Plexus is the South African partner of John Mauldin, American author of the most widely distributed investment newsletter in the world, and also has an exclusive licensing agreement with California-based Research Affiliates for managing and distributing its enhanced Fundamental Index™ methodology in the Pan-African area.

In 2001 Prieur received the Santam/AHI Business Leader of the Year award for corporate leadership, business acumen and entrepreneurial flair. He was also profiled in the book South Africa's Leading Managers (2006). Plexus received the AHI/Old Mutual Enterprise of the Year award in 1997 and was also included in the book South Africa's Most Promising Companies (2005).

Prieur is 52 years old and lives with his wife, TV producer and presenter Isabel Verwey, and two children in Welgemoed, Cape Town. His recreational activities include long-distance running, motor cycling and reading. He belongs to the Cape Town Club, Johannesburg Country Club, Gordon's Bay Yacht Club and Swiss Social & Sports Club.

Copyright © 2008-2012 Dr Prieur du Plessis

All Images, XHTML Renderings, and Source Code Copyright © Safehaven.com