We have all heard it... Stodgy, for old people, yawn, boring! These have all been used to describe dividend growth investing. As a dividend growth investor, I sometimes think our strategy is the most misunderstood. It seems everyone understands a trader's mentality as evidenced by the numerous comments on capital appreciation - "Why would you buy that stock? It has been flat for 2 years."
Most understand the high-yield investors mentality as noted by comments like - "Why would you buy that stock when you can buy Amalgamated Risk and it pays a 9% dividend?" Both of these strategies can be successful, as can a dividend growth strategy. Periodically, it is good to remind ourselves why we are dividend-growth investors.
Dividends Provide Investment Stability
In a troubled market, dividend growth stocks provide a degree of stability to your portfolio. While everyone else is panicked about their portfolio's decline, dividend investors see a downturn as an incredible buying opportunity.
Many are now referring to the decade ending in 2009 as the lost decade. It was only lost if you were focusing on capital appreciation. Investors in dividend growth stocks continued to see their income grow over the decade.
Dividends Are Real
Unlike earnings, dividends are cash and can't be manipulated or faked. From an accounting standpoint, it is relatively easy through fraud and manipulation to make an income statement look quite impressive. I take great comfort in a company with a strong cash flows and a consistent history of increasing cash dividends.
An increasing cash dividend keeps pressure on management to ensure the company is well run. If there are too many missteps, then eventually a dividend will slip. This can be disastrous for a company's stock price. Earnings can be manufactured, cash can not. Always follow the cash and it just might lead you to a great company. There is no faking the cash that shows up in your brokerage account.
Dividends Provide Feedback
Dividends provide continuous feedback. As time passes dividend investors see their income steadily grow. You do not have to wait five to ten years to determine if the strategy is working. Each dividend and dividend increase provides the investor with reassurance that the strategy is working.
Reinvested Dividends Drive Equity Returns
Historically, reinvested dividends provided a significant portion of equities' returns. In Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns (2002), the authors looked at equity returns from capital gains and dividends from 1900 to 2000. They determined that performance in any given year was driven by capital appreciation, but long-term returns were largely the result of reinvested dividends. Looking at 101 years of data in the U.S. and U.K., they found that a market-oriented portfolio with dividends reinvested would have generated nearly 85 times the wealth of the same portfolio relying solely on capital gains.
Good Companies Pay Dividends, Great Companies Grow Dividends
You expect your employer to give you a raise periodically. Why wouldn't you expect the same from your investments? We have all heard of compound interest (interest on interest), but compound dividends (dividends on growing dividends) is even more powerful.
Dividends Are Perpetual
You don't have to cut down your income tree to enjoy a warm dividend fire. Unlike a capital gain strategy where you have to sell stocks to generate cash, spending dividends in retirement does not harm or erode your principle investment. In addition, a good dividend portfolio can be left to your children and their children.
Dividends Are Relatively Low Maintenance
You may not want to spend your retirement managing and worrying about your portfolio. Dividends from a quality, well-diversified portfolio are much more predictable than capital gains and best of all, they are passive. You don't have to do anything, they just show up in your brokerage account each quarter. Inflation? Not to worry, the good companies routinely raise their dividends well in excess of the inflation rate. Retirement is not when you want to start learning how to invest in dividend securities. There is a degree of art to it -- start young, time is always a great ally.
Dividend Growth Stocks
Below are several dividend-growth stocks that have excelled over the decades and have rewarded their shareholders with over 55 years of consecutive annual dividend increases:
3M Co. (NYSE:MMM) is a diversified global company that provides enhanced product functionality in electronics, healthcare, industrial, consumer, office, telecommunications, safety and security and other markets via coatings, sealants, adhesives, and other chemicals. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1916 and has increased its dividend payments for 18 consecutive years. Yield: 2.1%
The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) is a leading consumer products company that markets household and personal care products in more than 180 countries. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1916 and has increased its dividend payments for 55 consecutive years. Yield: 3.0%
Emerson Electric Co. (NYSE:EMR) designs and supplies product technology, and delivers engineering services and solutions to a wide range of industrial, commercial and consumer markets around the world. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1947 and has increased its dividend payments for 57 consecutive years. Yield: 2.5%
Genuine Parts Co. (NYSE:GPC) is a leading wholesale distributor of automotive replacement parts, industrial parts and supplies, and office products. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1948 and has increased its dividend payments for 57 consecutive years. Yield: 2.6%
Parker-Hannifin Corp. (NYSE:PH) is a global maker of industrial pneumatic, hydraulic and vacuum motion/control systems, including related pumps, valves, filters, hoses, etc. Its products are used in everything from jet engines to autos, trucks and utility turbines. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1949 and has increased its dividend payments for 57 consecutive years. Yield: 1.7%
Dover Corp. (NYSE:DOV) manufactures a broad range of specialized industrial products and sophisticated manufacturing equipment. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1947 and has increased its dividend payments for 58 consecutive years. Yield: 1.7%
Northwest Natural Gas Co. (NYSE:NWN) is a natural gas utility that provides service to some 611,000 residential, 62,000 commercial and 1,000 industrial customers in Oregon and southwestern Washington. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1952 and has increased its dividend payments for 58 consecutive years. Yield: 4.4%
American States Water Co. (NYSE:AWR) primarily serves water customers in California. It also provides electric service to a small section of San Bernardino County. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1931 and has increased its dividend payments for 60 consecutive years. Yield: 3.1%
Diebold, Inc. (NYSE:DBD) provides ATMs and other self-service transaction systems and security products to the financial, commercial, government and retail markets. The company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since 1954 and has increased its dividend payments for 60 consecutive years. Yield: 3.5%
Stodgy, for old people, yawn, boring! To this list you can add stable, real, effective, safer, perpetual, low maintenance, and yes, even exciting.
Full Disclosure: Long MMM, PG, EMR, GPC, NWN in my Dividend Growth Portfolio. See a list of all my dividend growth holdings here.