It is well known that asset allocation is the most fundamental aspect of financial planning. The investments of say, a sophomore in high school, a college graduate, a middle-aged couple with two children, or a retired couple with no dependents but is looking to leave behind a small fortune, should look very, very different from each other. By asset allocation I am referring to how your portfolio is divided into cash, bonds, stocks, possibly commodities, and eventually homes; each carrying a varying level of significance depending on your age and needs.
Americans under 30 prefer to keep a lot in cash as the mainstream media has drilled the phrase disposable income into our heads as something that needs to be spent, since it's good for the economy. If this group's childhood was anything like my own, they were probably given a great deal of savings bonds over the years and left wondering what the point of them are and when I am allowed to cash this. This goes to show that the generation watching over them was concerned for their financial future, which, of course, is a good thing but could be refined. What's interesting is that this group should be most heavily invested in stocks; so for any parents reading this, pick a company on this list and give your child a copy of their annual and some stock certificates for the holidays. [Disney (DIS) isn't on the list but their annual has a lot of kid friendly pictures.]
As one ages their desire for stability in investing rises as well. They become more and more risk averse because there is less of a necessity to take chances. But there are plenty of stocks that offer the payment dependability of bonds while also offering the opportunity for capital appreciation. One can live off a steady flow of dividend payments that increase year over year. Or if the cash is not a necessity, the dividend can be rolled back into the stock through DRIP programs, so that you can capitalize more on price increases and increase your future dividends.
With that being said, it is never too early to begin investing in stocks due to the lack of risk aversion. It is not too often that you hear high school aged children discussing stocks. I personally did not start investing until late in college, but I did purchase a Ginnie Mae backed Roth IRA in high school. Looking back, that is certainly not risky enough to warrant a purchase for my age at the time, but it did survive the recession. A strong dividend stock would have been a much better pick and that is the point of this list, stocks that can be safely purchased at any age. I have a number of these pre-picked but I did run a screen as followed: market cap greater than $50 billion, dividend yield between 2% and 6%, and price-to-earnings under 20. By picking a large company you are better able to bet that they will be around in 20 to 50 years. A dividend smaller than 2% would sort of negate the point of this type of portfolio and a yield over 6% may not be increasing as much as you'd like or could be unsustainable. And the low PE just assures that the stock is not in super growth mode. From this list I picked through finding 12 diversified stocks that have excellent histories and even better futures.
Abbott Labs (ABT) – We begin the list with pharmaceuticals and medical devices (I did a more in depth look into this sector here). Abbott has a number of big names drugs but is also heavily invested in medical devices; both industries are sure to be here for the long run. They've been raising their dividend annually for 38 years and currently yield 3.7%.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) – I would not be too concerned with having two pharma's in a portfolio since each are such strong companies. JNJ has raised their dividend for 47 years and still yield 3.5%. They deal with a lot of bad press due to recalls. Luckily for them they have been through it before and come out unscathed. They make more revenue from medical devices than anything else, but also derive profits from prescription drugs and consumer products. More on JNJ can be found here.
ConocoPhillips (COP) – My pick for the energy sector is COP because it has the highest yield and lowest PE among the big oil companies; the other two picks being Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX). They all working in the exploration of, production of, refining of, and ultimately selling of oil. Their dividend history is not as appeasing as some others on the list but it has the potential for future dividend growth. They currently yield 3.7% with a PE of only 8.74. They are on a 12% downswing because of the price of oil so they could be a potential buy right now.
AT&T (T) – With AT&T's purchase of T-Mobil they became the biggest company in wireless communications, making them an excellent representative for the telecom industry. What's even more appealing is that they yield 5.7% and have been increasing for 26 years. Their PE is only 8.67 despite the room for growth in the smart-phone game.
Lowe's (LOW) – This company would not have come up on my screen but I decided to replace Home Depot (HD) with Lowe's for a few reasons. Home Depot is indeed larger and worth more than the $50 billion requisite, and also has a slightly better yield but their dividend history is quite sporadic. With a freeze from 2007 to 2009 and only a 10 year history of payments, I would prefer Lowe's with their 47 years of increases. Like COP, they are spiraling downward because of economic conditions, so their 2.4% yield could certainly be going up in the near future.
Intel (INTC) – Intel has been paying a dividend since 1992 and their current yield is 3.3%. They had a phase during the recession where they were forced to freeze their increase, but this has subsided. They are the biggest name computer chips and operate in a sector not known for its dividends.
Altria (MO) – Cigarette companies are still a safe investment for the yield, but you probably only need one for a portfolio. Altria owns brands like Marlboro, Parliament, and Skoal. They have been raising their dividend for 42 years and yield 5.6% despite a nice 1 year run up. The risk may be that they only operate in America, after spinning off Phillip Morris (PM) to market to the rest of the world.
General Electric (GE) – GE had their dividend derailed during the recession, but this was so that they could reinvest in themselves. They operate in a wide range of industries and are one of the biggest companies in the world. Their PE is at 15.5 and GE is yielding 3.2%.
Coca-Cola (KO) – Moving on to consumer products we look at one of the most iconic brands in history. Coke has been around for as long as anyone can remember and have established themselves as the number one beverage manufacturers through key acquisitions, like Vitamin Water, Powerade, and Fuze, while remaining loyal to their own brand. They have been increasing their dividend for 48 years and yield 2.9%.
Kraft (KFT) – Continuing with another consumer DOW company, is Kraft Foods. They represent a huge line of products and brands like Oreo, Nabisco, Maxwell House, Oscar Mayer, and Cadbury. They did have a dividend freeze a few years ago and are a bit high right now with a PE of 19.87, but are still yielding 3.4%. I would wait on a price drop before buying and that will make the yield even sweeter.
Walmart (WMT) – Another DOW component, Walmart is a bet on people buying products of the 2 companies listed above. Their dividend has been rising for 35 years and yields 2.7%. There has been a number of knocks to their lack of price appreciation over the last decade but taking their dividend only is enough to warrant an investment. There should be a Supreme Court opinion coming sometime this month dismissing a huge class action suit against them, discussed here, which could pop the price a bit.
McDonald's (MCD) – We conclude the list with the largest restaurant franchise in the world. McDonald's is a constant innovator who has adapted to the world's needs, like healthier food options. They have a stranglehold on their sector and perform no matter economic conditions. They are currently yielding 3% and have been increasing their dividend for 33 years, while remaining a growth stock because of international expansion. Another play worth mentioning here is Yum! Brands (YUM) and a deeper look can be found here; they did not come up on the screen because of their PE being high, accounting for Chinese growth.
There you have it, 12 stocks that you can own safely at any age. You can rest assured that a generous dividend payment is coming while reinvesting diligently to capitalize on increases in price. As a reminder, I am not advocating that you buy these stocks right this moment. These 12 stocks are fundamentally sound. Fundamentals tell what to buy, but it is up to technicals to tell when to buy, so run some light trend-line spotting before making a purchase.
Disclosure: I am long MCD, GE, JNJ, MO.