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

Adobe stock has outperformed the S&P 500 by leaps and bounds over the past two decades.

Adobe stock adbe stock
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The promise of generative artificial intelligence hasn't been able to keep Adobe (ADBE) stock afloat this year, but long-time shareholders are still sitting on market-crushing returns.

After adding 77% last year, shares in the maker of application software for creative types lagged the broader market by a wide margin through the first half of 2024. The company's announcement a year ago that it would add AI tools to Photoshop lit a second-half fire under Adobe stock. But then a pullback of some kind following such a torrid run isn't unusual for any name. Besides, two steps forward and one step back is sort of par for the course for ADBE stock.

And make no mistake: jumping on the AI bandwagon was just what Adobe needed. For years, the company enjoyed a near monopoly in its niche. Its Creative Suite – which includes the likes of Photoshop, Premiere Pro for video editing and Dreamweaver for website design, among others – really had no peer. 

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

But times change. The emergence of Microsoft's (MSFT) Azure and other cloud-based competitors have taken a bite out of Creative Cloud. Adobe's suite of products still commands a market share of more than 60%, but there's no question the company – and its shareholders – have been feeling the heat.

Just look at how shares have slowed down over the past few years. 

Adobe stock has outperformed the S&P 500 by a wide margin over the course of its life as a publicly traded company, generating an all-time total return of almost 23%. By comparison, the broader market returned 10.5% over the same span. 

The early 2020s have been a different story entirely. A terrible 2022 has ABDE stock sitting on negative annualized total returns for the past one- and three-year periods.

The bottom line on Adobe stock

adobe stock adbe stock

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Adobe's hot 2023 run was a lot more like what longtime shareholders have come to expect from the stock. After all, anyone who plonked down just a thousand bucks into ADBE a couple of decades ago would have enjoyed truly outstanding returns. 

Have a look at the chart below and you'll see that a $1,000 investment in Adobe stock 20 years ago would today be worth about $20,000. The same money invested in the broader market would theoretically have grown to about $7,000.

adbe stock adobe stock

(Image credit: YCharts)

True, Adobe stock remains about a third below its all-time closing high set back in November 2021, but analysts think it can reclaim those levels eventually. 

After all, Wall Street is pretty bullish on the name. Of the 38 analysts issuing opinions on Adobe stock surveyed by S&P Global Market Intelligence, 19 rate it at Strong Buy, eight call it a Buy, eight have it at Hold, two rate it at Sell and one says Strong Sell. That works out to a consensus recommendation of Buy, with solid conviction.

More Stocks of the Past 20 Years

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.