Articles Comments

My Financial Independence Journey » Investing » The Difference Between Yield and Yield On Cost

The Difference Between Yield and Yield On Cost

1208043_going_green_pays_offYield is basically just a fancy term for return on investment.  However, “Yield” and “Yield on Cost” (YOC for short) are two related terms that I see confused, conflated, and generally misunderstood by way too many people and way too often.  This usually happens when someone fires off an article or blog post saying how dividend growth investing is a terrible idea.  Familiarizing yourself with the difference between these two terms is easy and very important to understanding the world of dividend growth investing.

First the definitions

  • Yield - The dividend that a stock pays as a percentage of the stock’s price.  For the mathematically inclined:  Dividend/Price * 100
  • Yield on Cost (YOC) - The dividend that a stock pays as a percentage of what you paid for the stock.  For the mathematically inclined:  Dividend/PurchasePrice * 100

Yields change rapidly over time as stock prices fluctuate

Let’s say that you’re sitting on the sidelines watching Pepsi (PEP).

About the time I wrote this, PEP was trading at $69 per share.  PEP paid out an annual dividend of $2.15 per share.  $2.15/$69 * 100 = 3.12%.  If PEP has a really bad month and the price drops to $60 per share the yield is now $2.15/$60 * 100 = 3.56%.  But one month later the markets recover and PEP is up to $72 per share which makes the yield $2.15/$72 * 100 = 2.99%.

To summarize the PEP yield example above:

  • Day 1: $2.15 dividend at a $69 share price = 3.12% yield
  • Day 30: $2.15 dividend at a $60 share price = 3.56% yield
  • Day 60: $2.15 dividend at a $72 share price = 2.99% yield

Factors affecting yield

Yield is affected  by only two factors which you should be able to easily guess from the above equation.

  1. Dividend payments - One of the reasons why I like to buy stocks with a 10+ year history of dividend increases is that their dividend payments are likely to continue increasing over time.
  2. The current market price of the stock.

YOC changes much more slowly over time

The key point of YOC is the OC part (on cost).  Once you make an investment in a stock, your cost is fixed.  You spent the money, now you’ve got the stock.  As such, your primary concern is how much the stock is paying you compared to the price you paid for the stock.

Let’s say that you bought PEP when it was trading at $69 per share with an annual dividend of $2.15 per share. You have now committed to the stock and your interest is no longer the stock’s yield but rather it’s YOC.  Your starting YOC at the time of purchase is $2.15/$69 * 100 = 3.12%.  This should look familiar.

Now let’s continue our example of YOC.  One month later PEP decreases to $60 per share.  Your YOC is still 3.12%.  One month later PEP increases to $72 per share.  Your YOC is still 3.12%.  The YOC does not change because neither the price you paid for the stock nor its dividend have changed.

To summarize the PEP YOC example above:

  • Day 1: $2.15 dividend at a $69 purchase price = 3.12% YOC
  • Day 30: $2.15 dividend at a $69 purchase price = 3.12% YOC
  • Day 60: $2.15 dividend at a $69 purchase price = 3.12% YOC

Note that as a prudent investor you should also be concerned about capital gains, but if your intent is to buy a dividend paying stock, hold it forever, and live off the dividends then capital gains become a less critical factor.

Factors affecting YOC

YOC is affected by several factors, listed below.  The first two are pretty obvious.  The last two are probably not so obvious, but they are the law of the land according to the accounts and IRS – so suck it up.

  1. Commission fees - If you paid $10 in commission to buy the stock, that commission fee is part of the total price you paid to purchase the stock.
  2. Dividend increases or decreases - The purchase price of the stock is static.  But if the dividend payout increases over time, then the YOC increases as well.  Of course, if the dividend gets reduced or eliminated then the YOC decreases.
  3. Premiums received from option sales - If you sell a cash secured put and are assigned the stock, then the premium is deduced from the purchase price and your YOC is increased.  Same goes for selling covered calls – premiums collected are deducted from your cost.
  4. Material changes in the company - Sometimes companies split up or undergo some other kind of material change in their structure which may affect the purchase price of the stock.


Disclaimer:  At the time of this writing, I have no position in PEP nor am I considering one.

Readers:  Have you seen people confuse yield and YOC?  Do you know of any other factors that affect yield or YOC?

Written by

Filed under: Investing · Tags: , yield, yield on cost

6 Responses to "The Difference Between Yield and Yield On Cost"

  1. I can see why people would be confused about Yield vs. YOC. I feel like I actually just learned something. And that’s not a common feeling while reading blogs.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the article. One of the things that I like about blogging is the challenge of explaining concepts that I had to struggle with in a way that I hope will be easily accessible to people. Keep reading! I intend to put every bit of financial knowledge that I obtain on this blog.

  2. It’s definitely easy to confuse the two terms. I know I’ve caught myself typing just yield while meaning YOC and having to go back and change it. You just need to make sure you take YOC for what it is. It’s another way to measure the DG, but other than that it’s not really useful other than a metric to look at. I do use it sometimes while analyzing stocks to see what the YOC might get to 5-10 years down the road.

    1. MFIJ says:

      I’ve seen a lot of people using one instead of the other and then getting into arguments about it. I figured I had better write a post about it before a flame war starts in my comments section.

      BTW, your point about YOC as just another measure of dividend growth is great. I feel bad that I forgot to mention it.

  3. Journey,

    Good explanation here.

    I don’t track YOC very much to be honest. I simply look at what an investment is paying me in current terms (yield), and then I make an ongoing decision as to whether that is the best opportunity I have.

    For instance if a major utility that’s usually yielding 5% runs up and is now yielding 3.5%, I’m only getting 3.5% on the actual capital tied up in that investment. If I sell and reinvest in another utility paying 5%, I just increased my passive income. My YOC may have been higher on the first investment, but the actual money that’s going to hit my brokerage account would be higher with the second.

    Good stuff!

    Best wishes.

    1. MFIJ says:


      You raise a good point about the importance of keeping an eye on the current yield. I’ve thought a little about this in the past, but not enough to formulate a solid plan. Particularly because you have to consider taxes and expected growth before you trade up another higher yielding stock. I’ll have to add this to my list of things to start running numbers on.


Leave a Reply


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: