Do Small Investments Add Up? A Johnson & Johnson Case Study

One of the concerns that many people have when it comes to investing is the concern that they don’t have enough to build up any amount that’s worth the hassle. Why would anyone want to invest $50 or $100 a year? Is that even worth it? Do small investments add up?

The answer to this question would be, yes! It is worth it. While you’re probably not going to get wealthy by investing $100 a year, you can start to build up a nice holding if you choose a solid company. You could even do better if you pick out the next Amazon (AMZN) or Apple (AAPL).

To show some steady growth that’s around 11 percent per year when accounting for dividend reinvestment, this case study will look at how a small investment in Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) would have paid off over a 20-year period.


This case study, as noted, will focus on a small investment in Johnson & Johnson. Our hypothetical investor, let’s call him Bob, purchased one share of JNJ stock on the first trading day of the year starting back in 1997. He then proceeded to purchase exactly one share of JNJ on the first trading day of the year in every year since.

To get the purchase price of each share, I went to the Johnson & Johnson investor relations page. I then looked for the highest price on the first trading day of the year. Therefore, Bob was pretty unlucky in the regard that he invested at the worst time of the day. I did not account for any transaction charges in this analysis. That would undoubtedly add some cost unless Bob chose to work with a direct purchase agency like Computershare, but even direct purchases would have some minimal expenses.

This means that Bob made 21 separate transactions over a 20-year period, counting 2017. Johnson & Johnson stock split back in June 2001, so he, in effect, bought two shares for the first five years.

I then looked at the dividends that JNJ paid out over the past 20 years. Counting the dividend that’s anticipated in September 2017, Bob would have received a cumulative $34.36 in dividend income on the first share of stock that he bought. This would obviously go down on each subsequent share, as the length of time that he was invested in the later shares was less.

Finally, I looked at the value of each share if Bob decided to reinvest his dividends into more shares. The DRIP value came from the calculator that’s available at Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Here are the totals that my calculations came up with.

Case Study Results: Small Investments Add Up

If Bob had bought only one share a year between January 1997 and January 2017, he would now have 26 shares because of the split in 2001. The annualized dividends per share on his original purchase would have grown from $0.425 per share to the current level of $3.36 per share.

The 26 shares that he would now hold without dividend reinvestment would throw off $87.36 in income each year without accounting for any additional dividend growth going forward. This is more income than the share price he would have paid in all but seven of the years in which he bought shares, and it would be more than his average annual investment of $74.56.

Bob’s investment of $1,565.76 in Johnson & Johnson would now be worth $3,466.40, which is a nice return in and of itself. If he had decided to roll over all of his dividends into more shares, he would now hold 36.3255 shares. This means that he would have added more than 10 shares of a great company by doing nothing more than choosing not to spend his dividend income.

Dividend Reinvestment Ramps Up Returns on Small Investments

The value of his holdings in JNJ would be up to $4,842.55. This would effectively mean that his investments would have cumulatively tripled over time. Additionally, his holdings under the DRIP scenario would now throw off $122.05 in annual income.

The total return with dividend reinvestment included shows an 11.01 percent CAGR based upon the calculations from the Don’t Quit Your Day Job calculator. This is important to realize in light of the fact that the cost of a share of JNJ went up by just above 10 percent between January 2002 and January 2012.

In spite of this nearly sideways trading range for a decade, the long-term return on JNJ is still quite good over a 20-year period.

What About A Big Initial Investment?

This case study focused upon how much a single share a year would have added up to. What if Bob had instead had $1565.76 to invest back in 1997 and reinvested dividends? He would now have an investment that would be worth $13,479.25. This would equal to 100.9833 shares of stock which would now be providing $339.30 in dividend income each year based upon the current payout of $3.36 a share.

This is without any additional investments throughout the 20-year period, which shows that buying early and then reinvesting allows for a much greater level of compounding


You might think that an investment in one share each year is pretty pointless. These are small investments, but hopefully, this case study shows that this is not the case. A little more than $3,400 is not a huge sum of money, but it’s more than double what Bob actually invested. It’s definitely more than he would have had had he not decided to invest at all.

Also, it’s important to note that you could multiply this by any number you want to include. You could multiply the total by 5 if you to look at 5 shares a year, or 10 if you wanted to look at 10 shares a year. The numbers show that a small investment in a boring large-cap company can build up over time (when I was growing up, JNJ was known for Band-Aids and baby powder–pretty boring stuff).

The study also shows the importance of starting early, as a bigger investment early on allowed for much higher returns, even if no additional investments were made in subsequent years. Also, it’s important to note that there are no “typical” investments. If Bob had invested all of his money in Enron, he’d have nothing to show for his efforts. Therefore, it’s important to diversify and choose companies with solid long-term growth in revenue and income.  Then, even small investments will add up over time.

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