John Burr Williams Stock Valuation Calculator

By Stock Research Pro • September 4th, 2009

John Burr Williams (1900 – 1989) was one of the first economists to advocate the need to arrive at a stock’s “intrinsic” value when considering it for investment. Williams believed that, due to the inherent volatility of the stock market, investors should consider the ability of the company to pay dividends over the long-term. It was Williams who popularized the dividend discount model (DDM) as a conservative approach to stock valuation; discounting future cash flows (dividends) to a present day value to arrive at the real value of a stock.

Who was John Burr Williams?

John Burr Williams was a student of chemistry and mathematics at Harvard University. He then went on to graduate from Harvard Business School in 1923. After graduation, Williams went to work as a security analyst before returning to Harvard to earn a Ph.D in economics in 1940. William’s work, The Theory of Investment Value, provides mathematical models case studies regarding stock valuation and is considered a much-underappreciated work on the subject. Williams spent his entire professional life working in the management of security analysis and privately-held investment portfolios. He was also a visiting professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Williams’ Approach to Stock Valuation

Williams’ writings and teachings did not attempt to teach investors to beat the stock market or obtain great wealth from stock investing. Instead, they served as a wake-up call to stock investors by encouraging them to take a less speculative approach to the market and focus instead on investment value. In Williams’ view, reported earnings were far too imprecise to be trusted and the only thing an investor could count on was a check in the mail.

The John Burr Williams Formula

Williams’ equation for discounting future dividends accounts for current dividends, a target rate of return defined by the investor, and a projected growth rate for company dividends over an infinite time period.

The formula can be written as:

Intrinsic Value = D / (I – G)


D = current dividend
I = required rate of return
G= growth rate

For this formula to work, the growth rate cannot exceed the investor’s target rate of return.


The above information is educational and should not be interpreted as financial advice. For advice that is specific to your circumstances, you should consult a financial or tax advisor.

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