To my dear Seeking Alpha community: I apologize for taking a two month hiatus from writing articles. But, before you shake your finger at me in disgust, all I have to say is I have an excellent excuse: I've been clocking in the hours doing some serious yard work. No really, lots and lots of yard work.
About two months ago I purchased my first home in San Diego with just under an acre of land and, honestly, had no idea how much money, time and effort it would require to keep it up. Enter: lots of missed calls from my friends, calluses on my hands, an affinity for "lawnmower beer" and a wicked farmer's tan. It's safe to say I stepped up to the challenge of home ownership and knocked it out of the park.
Unfortunately for me, with limited time and energy, I've let my eyes slip on my investment accounts, exchanging balance sheets for filling up my yard waste bins with leaves prior to trash day on Wednesdays. There are only so many hours in a day and priorities are priorities.
Today I found a few minutes to sit down and delve deep into my brokerage account and I was incredibly surprised at what I saw. SuperValu (NYSE:SVU) down big, then down more and now up again a bit. American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE:AEO) hitting new 52 week highs for the year and Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) taking a beating despite sitting on $48 billion in cash, a forward P/E of 8.5 and more than enough cash flow to safely raise the dividend payout three times over. Yikes, I step away for two months and the whole game has changed.
One thing that I can't help but notice, however, is how stable of a performance many of the Dividend Aristocrats continue to bring forward. Great companies such as Target (NYSE:TGT), Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and AT&T, Inc. (NYSE:T) are producing safe returns while continuing the quest to share a significant amount of free cash flow with faithful investors -- whether or not we find time to check in on them. After being away from the game for a few months due to a pressed schedule, it makes me wonder if I should be investing in anything else. Invest and collect dividend payments. Reinvest, repeat. Seems like a pretty solid plan for an early retirement.
Here are three Dividend Aristocrats I particularly like based on valuation:
1. Aflac, Inc. (NYSE:AFL) is a stable insurance company that weighs in at a $30 billion market cap, a forward P/E of 6.5, a PEG ratio of 0.6, a dividend yield of 3.0% and a payout ratio below 25%. I'm not exactly sure why investors are overlooking Aflac's solid potential. Perhaps it's European default fears, though Aflac has solid plans to limit exposure to European companies, such as Portugal, Spain and Greece. Whatever the reason, I'm not waiting around to find out. I'm a buyer at these levels.
2. Dover Corporation (NYSE:DOV) is a global manufacturing company which operates in various segments. DOV's valuation looks quite attractive with a market cap of $10 billion, a forward P/E of 10, a PEG ratio of 1.21, a dividend yield of 2.3% and a payout ratio of only 27%. Dover is one of those stocks that often flies a bit under the radar due to a smaller market cap but because of its relatively high volatility -- with a beta of 1.5 -- I always watch for opportunities to pick up this stable company when the share price dips in the low $50s. I recommend picking up shares and holding on for dividend raises for the foreseeable future.
3. Sysco Corporation (NYSE:SYY) is a North American food service distributor that operates in a relatively stable industry. Sysco is not a stock that is likely to have any significant run ups in the near future and, subsequently, has limited downside as well. SYY currently sports a $17 billion market cap with a forward P/E of 15, a PEG ratio of 2.66, a 3.7% dividend yield and a payout ratio of 41%. Sysco's a solid company for the investor who may not be able to monitor a portfolio with much frequency and a reliable company that can be expected to grow modestly over the long haul. I'm always looking to pick up more shares when the price drops below $27.
All in all, it's safe to say that monitoring a portfolio and keeping a close eye on developments is never a bad idea. Unfortunately for many of us out there, finding time to closely watch valuations and price movements isn't always a reality, so finding reputable companies with long histories of rewarding shareholders with annual dividend increases is a great alternative.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a few beers in the fridge and a number of palm trees in the front yard that are calling my name. Best of luck to you out there!