The Butterfly Effect And Dividend Investing

Bill McClellan is a long-time writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I’ve been reading his editorial work since I was twelve years old. He is a great storyteller with a knack for capturing the big picture and summing up a particular situation or the totality of someone’s life.

Today, he wrote an article titled “Flip Side of Success For Youth Football Star” that highlights the parallel tracks of two young football stars from Kirkwood, MO.

One of them—whom you might know—is named Jeremy Maclin. He was a superstar football player as a young kid, high schooler, college student at Mizzou, and is currently a professional athlete playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.

McClellan compares Maclin’s life to that of his grade school peer, Jason Clark. Fifteen years ago, Jason Clark was a ferociously fast kid that was widely regarded as Maclin’s equal. Upon entering high school, Clark chose drug dealing over football. Today, Clark is in jail for second-degree robbery and armed criminal action after having a shootout with police in the aftermath of trying to rob a woman on the street.

My summary isn’t doing McClellan’s article justice—you should probably just read his piece by clicking here:

Anyway, this column got me thinking about a imperceptible decisions in our life can completely change the trajectory of our time here on earth.

Let’s compare two people who spend their lives living paycheck to paycheck but for one difference.

The first person makes the seemingly small decision to have $50 taken out of his paycheck twice each month and deposited into shares of Exxon Mobil.

Imagine he found this Computershare site as a 25 year-old and chose to have $1,200 purchase shares of Exxon-Mobil each year.

By the time he is 65, what does he have? Well, Exxon-Mobil has actually compounded at 14.72% over the past 40 years with dividends reinvested (that is what happens when you combine healthy dividends with long periods of time with the kind of companies that tend to be chronically undervalued). But, in the interest of conservatism, let’s assume that Exxon has a 10.00% compounding rate over the next forty years.

Without dividends reinvested, that would create shy of $700,000 in wealth for this investor. He would be in the top 0.00001% of global humanity simply due to a one-time decision to have $50 taken out of his checking account twice per month to buy shares of Exxon Mobil. At the time, it would have seemed like the most innocuous decision in the world. We’re talking pizza and beer money here. But, compounded over forty years, that seemingly insignificant decision would have made all the difference in his life. It’s crazy to think about how seemingly small decisions we make in life put us on these tracks that will greatly influence the quality of life that we are able to enjoy during our time on this earth. A small, dogged commitment to setting aside a couple hundred dollars per month today could make all the difference in the quality of life that you have several decades from now.

Originally posted 2013-08-22 00:10:20.

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