If You'd Put $1,000 Into Intel Stock 20 Years Ago, Here's What You'd Have Today

Intel stock has been a huge disappointment for long-term investors.

Intel GPU intel stock logo
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Imagine a company that has enjoyed overwhelming success in its key markets for ages, and also claims one of the most valuable and recognizable brands in the world. Indeed, this company is so important to both its sector and the broader economy that it's been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for nearly a quarter of a century. 

One would expect shares in this blue chip company to have been an outstanding buy-and-hold bet. And to be fair, for a good long while, they were. 

But that was then and this is now. 

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Unfortunately, the Dow Jones stock we're talking about is Intel (INTC). The chipmaker's shares are rallying these days thanks to a beat-and-raise quarterly earnings report. It also didn't hurt that Intel pledged to cut costs by about $3 billion this year.

Whether 2023 marks the inflection point Intel's long-suffering shareholders have been waiting for remains very much to be seen. Once upon a time, INTC was one of the best stocks on the planet. It will take more than one good quarter to return the company to its days of greatness. 

True, Intel still dominates in the markets for central processing units (CPUs) for PCs and servers, but it's been losing market share to rivals at an accelerating rate for some time. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Nvidia (NVDA) are just a couple of its formidable competitors. 

Where the semiconductor company really went wrong – apart from execution missteps and manufacturing delays over the past decade – is the way it missed out on some of the biggest changes in technology. Intel famously whiffed on mobile, and now Nvidia is already running away in generative artificial intelligence (AI).

It's been a curious ride for INTC investors. Thanks to its dot-com era heyday, Intel was one of the 30 best stocks in the world between 1990 and 2020. Over those three decades, INTC stock generated more than $340 billion in wealth for shareholders, or an annualized dollar weighted return of 16%, according to Hendrik Bessembinder, a finance professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

Alas, the past two decades of that 30-year span have been another story entirely. 

The bottom line on Intel stock?

Intel stock

(Image credit: YCharts)

If you go all the way back to Intel's debut in the early 1970s as a publicly traded company, it beats the broader market handily. The chipmaker's annualized all-time total return (price change plus dividends) stands at 16.5%. The S&P 500's annualized total return comes to 10.0% over the same time period.

Sadly, if you look at pretty much any other standardized period, an investment in INTC has been a major dud. 

Intel stock lags the S&P 500 by nearly 6 percentage points over the past 20 years. It trails the broader market by 3 to 4 percentage points over the past 15 years and 10 years, respectively. And it only gets worse from there. Over the past five and three years, Intel stock generated negative annualized total returns.

So here's the bottom line. Have a look at the above chart and you'll see that if you invested $1,000 in Intel stock 20 years ago, today your stake would be worth only  $1,952 – or an annualized total return of 3.4%.

The same amount invested in the S&P 500 would theoretically be worth more than $6,000 today – an annualized total return of 9.5%.

As illustrious and iconic as the Intel brand may be, Intel stock has been nothing but a sinkhole of opportunity cost for buy-and-hold investors for a very long time. 

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Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.