Delaying reinvestment of dividends

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Delaying reinvestment of dividends incurs a small amount of opportunity cost, which is one of the drawbacks of taking dividends in cash to simplify tax lot accounting or meet some other goals. This page calculates a possible effect of delaying reinvestment of dividends.

Yearly opportunity cost

If we assume an investment with 8% total return and 2% dividend yield, then delaying reinvestments of each dividend distribution by a month (to possibly combine with new money) costs:

 2% * (8% / 12) = 1.33 basis points/year

Note that if you have a paycheck monthly, invest a part of one as soon as you receive it, and combine dividends with the new money, the maximum delay for the dividend reinvestment is one month.

Effect on the accumulation phase

How does this opportunity cost compound in 40 years with the following assumptions?

  • You invest $10,000 for 40 years.
  • You don't pay tax on dividends (for simplicity).
  • You get 8% total return.
  • Delaying reinvestments of dividend distributions by one month.
  • You do not do tax loss harvesting.
Year Contribute Total
(Reinvest)
Total
(Do not reinvest)
0 $10,000.00 $10,000.00
1 $10,000.00 $20,800.00 $20,798.67
2 $10,000.00 $32,464.00 $32,459.79
3 $10,000.00 $45,061.12 $45,052.24
4 $10,000.00 $58,666.01 $58,650.41
5 $10,000.00 $73,359.29 $73,334.63
6 $10,000.00 $89,228.03 $89,191.62
7 $10,000.00 $106,366.28 $106,315.06
8 $10,000.00 $124,875.58 $124,806.09
9 $10,000.00 $144,865.62 $144,773.93
10 $10,000.00 $166,454.87 $166,336.55
11 $10,000.00 $189,771.26 $189,621.29
12 $10,000.00 $214,952.97 $214,765.71
13 $10,000.00 $242,149.20 $241,918.34
14 $10,000.00 $271,521.14 $271,239.55
15 $10,000.00 $303,242.83 $302,902.55
16 $10,000.00 $337,502.26 $337,094.37
17 $10,000.00 $374,502.44 $374,016.97
18 $10,000.00 $414,462.63 $413,888.46
19 $10,000.00 $457,619.64 $456,944.35
20 $10,000.00 $504,229.21 $503,438.98
21 $10,000.00 $554,567.55 $553,646.97
22 $10,000.00 $608,932.96 $607,864.91
23 $10,000.00 $667,647.59 $666,413.06
24 $10,000.00 $731,059.40 $729,637.25
25 $10,000.00 $799,544.15 $797,910.95
26 $10,000.00 $873,507.68 $871,637.44
27 $10,000.00 $953,388.30 $951,252.22
28 $10,000.00 $1,039,659.36 $1,037,225.56
29 $10,000.00 $1,132,832.11 $1,130,065.31
30 $10,000.00 $1,233,458.68 $1,230,319.87
31 $10,000.00 $1,342,135.37 $1,338,581.42
32 $10,000.00 $1,459,506.20 $1,455,489.46
33 $10,000.00 $1,586,266.70 $1,581,734.56
34 $10,000.00 $1,723,168.04 $1,718,062.43
35 $10,000.00 $1,871,021.48 $1,865,278.35
36 $10,000.00 $2,030,703.20 $2,024,251.92
37 $10,000.00 $2,203,159.45 $2,195,922.18
38 $10,000.00 $2,389,412.21 $2,381,303.18
39 $10,000.00 $2,590,565.19 $2,581,489.93
40 $10,000.00 $2,807,810.40 $2,797,664.94

The difference comes out to be 0.36% of the fund balance in the taxable account.

The difference may be smaller in the following situations:

  • You contribute more just before retirement (possibly because you are earning your peak salary and/or done with funding children's college education).
  • You arrange the fund company to send dividends to a money market fund or an interest bearing bank account.