Showing posts with label retirement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label retirement. Show all posts

Monday, June 2, 2014

How to stay motivated on your road to financial independence

In my post related to my 2014 goals and objectives, I shared with readers my roadmap to financial independence by 2018. Currently, the goal is to have more than 2/3rds of expenses to be covered by dividends. I believe that a 100% coverage of expenses by dividends by 2018 is very doable, as long as existing companies I own manage to raise dividends by 6%-7%/year on average and I manage to reinvest distributions at 3%-4%. As I had mentioned earlier, most of my contributions are now going into tax-deferred accounts, in order to create a tax-free buffer for the excess dividend income I will be generating.

The road to financial independence is very exciting and liberating. I find it really liberating to check every quarter how much of my expenses is being covered by my dividend income. Ever since I converted to Dividend Growth Investing in late 2007 – early 2008, my dividend income has been increasing exponentially. This is a result of my plan to retire early.

So for the past 7 or so years, I have been focusing on several levers within my control, in order to achieve financial independence. The levers include saving a lot, finding ways to earn extra money, investing my hard earned money in the best values at the moment, and focusing my attention on researching companies and continuously increasing my knowledge about investing matters. The most difficult part of the journey however is the job situation, which has resulted in increased levels of stress for the past several years. The pay has been decent, but the increase in level of responsibilities has exceeded the level of income growth by a large factor. It is very difficult to keep producing and keeping up to those high expectations and stress, when you are also so close to the finish line. The problem is that the finish line is about 5 years down the road. ( 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018). The one thing that I find difficult, is to endure the daily grind that leads to the dividend crossover point. I do not believe that it is healthy to sit in a cubicle for 60 hours on a slow week, while getting stressed out over impossible deadlines.

This means I still need to keep motivated enough, and work harder, before getting to the Promised Land. I find it tough to keep up with the daily grind, which is why I try to motivate myself to perform, because the daily grind is a major source of capital for my FI. I motivate myself by consistently trying to save a large portion every month, in order to put it to work, and have the asset base to generate more dividends. I motivate myself by searching for quality companies at bargain prices, and researching their business models in order to determine whether they can be sustainable engines of dividend growth for the foreseeable future. I also motivate myself by charting my dividend income over time, and visualizing the point in time when expenses will be more than covered by dividends by a nice factor of 1.3 - 1.5. I do want to do it the right way, and not quit in the middle of the journey. That’s why 2018 is the reasonable goal to have.

For me this is the point where my dividend income increases expenses, and technically I would never again have to work for money. That doesn’t mean I would do nothing, but would provide me with freedom of choice to pursue only projects and people I find interesting. I may still choose to work after that point, or do something else. However, having options in life is something that is extremely valuable.

The types of dividend growth stocks that will pay for my retirement, provide me with consistent raises include:

Philip Morris International Inc. (PM), through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes and other tobacco products. The company has managed to increase dividends for 6 years in a row, and currently sells for 17.10 times forward earnings and yields 4.30%. Check my analysis of PMI.

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) operates as a food and beverage company worldwide. This dividend champion has managed to increase dividends for 42 years in a row, and over the past decade has managed to boost them by 13.70%/year.  Currently, the stock is trading at 19.40 times forward earning and yields 3%. Check my analysis of PepsiCo.

Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM) explores and produces for crude oil and natural gas. This dividend champion has managed to increase dividends for 32 years in a row, and over the past decade has managed to boost them by 9.60%/year.  Currently, the stock is trading at 13 times forward earning and yields 2.70%. Check my analysis of Exxon Mobil.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), together with its subsidiaries, is engaged in the research and development, manufacture, and sale of various products in the health care field worldwide. This dividend champion has managed to increase dividends for 52 years in a row, and over the past decade has managed to boost them by 10.80%/year.  Currently, the stock is trading at 17.30 times forward earning and yields 2.80%. Check my analysis of Johnson & Johnson.

General Mills, Inc. (GIS) produces and markets branded consumer foods in the United States and internationally. This dividend achiever has managed to increase dividends for 11 years in a row, and over the past decade has managed to boost them by 9.90%/year.  Currently, the stock is trading at 19.10 times forward earning and yields 3%. Check my analysis of General Mills.

There are several lessons however, which are applicable to everyone reading, even if you really enjoy your work and never want to retire. Things change, people change, companies change, which is why it is quite possible to really start hating what you do in the future, which might be unthinkable to you today. I am very lucky that I never had much in terms of debt, other than a credit card I pay off in full every month. I am also very lucky that I have had the frugal mentality to save as much as possible from my income, and also focus on increasing it over time. The problem of course is that reaching the goal takes time, which is the one commodity we can never buy back. On the bright side of course, once you reach the point of your goals, you would only have to deal with the rest of life’s challenges.

So how do you stay motivated on your road to financial independence?

Full Disclosure: Long PM, PEP, XOM, JNJ, GIS

Relevant Articles:

How to become a successful dividend investor
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Generate a retirement paycheck with these dividend stocks

Investors spend a large portion of their working years accumulating a sizable nest egg, that will support them in retirement. Once they approach the age to retire however, investors are typically sold on asset depletion strategies such as the four percent rule, which rely on selling off assets in order to meet expenses. Selling off assets to pay for expenses in retirement is akin to cutting off apple trees for lumber, instead of harvesting the fruit and living off the income from it.

The issue with selling off assets is that there is a higher logical risk that once investors run out of assets to sell, they would have no other source of income other than their labor. Instead, dividend investors focus on generating income from their capital in the form of dividend or rent income that lasts in perpetuity. As a result income investors would be able to create their own retirement paychecks from the income generated by their investments. As a result, they would not be dependent on market volatility to generate the income in retirement they need.

In order to ensure that income lasts in perpetuity however, income investors need to consider the following factors, when creating their dividend portfolios:

1) Do not overpay for investments

Investors should avoid overpaying for stocks, since this could bring down their long-term returns. Investors in US stocks in early 2000s were willing to paying high multiples, given the rosy outlook for the economy and tech stocks. Even some quality companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Coca-Cola (KO) were selling at unsustainable valuations. The subsequent twelve years of flat returns served as a strong reinforcer to investors that overpaying even for quality dividend growth stocks could lead to sub-par returns. It makes sense that when you pay 40 - 50 times earnings and you lock in a current yield of 1% or less, you are not going to earn a lot in dividend income even if distributions double every 6 - 7 years.

2) Do not chase yield

Many novice investors tend to focus exclusively on dividend yield when choosing investments. As a result, they tend to ignore factors such as dividend sustainability as well as corporations ability to maintain and grow distributions over time. Many investors who focused on high paying bank stocks in 2007 – 2008 were burned in the process, as many financials had to cut distributions to shareholders in order to raise money and remain solvent.

3) Analyze the company in detail first

Investors should perform a detailed analysis of companies they plan on investing in, before they put their hard earned capital to work. By analyzing the company’s business model, and how it earns money, investors should be able to determine whether it can afford to grow earnings in the future. Over time, the potential for an increase in earnings will determine whether a company can afford to grow distributions or not. Most companies that have been able to raise distributions for decades tend to have strong brand recognition, which have allowed them to maintain purchasing power with customers, who are willing to pay a higher price in order to obtain the quality product or service.

4) Focus on companies whose culture has resulted in long dividend track records

In their quest for generating income off their portfolios, investors should focus on companies which have the ability and willingness to pay higher distributions. Companies that have managed to boost distributions for at least ten consecutive years, have achieved this by properly balancing the need to expand with the need to avoid diworseification by distributing excess cash flows to shareholders. Companies which generate so much in excess cash that they do not know what to do with it, after funding their business expansion plans, are very likely to keep paying and increasing distributions to loyal shareholders.

5) Diversify your dividend portfolio

Investors, who plan to generate a defensible income stream, should avoid putting all of their eggs in one basket. A portfolio consisting of at least 30 individual securities representative of as many sectors in the economy as possible, has a much better chance of ensuring that the dividend stream will continue uninterrupted for the long run. While currently it looks like a no brainer to focus on high-yielding master limited partnerships yielding 6%, past experience should note that overcommitting to a sector could be dangerous to your financial health. Investors who were overweight financial sector in 2007, suffered steep losses in the capital and dividend incomes, as the financial crisis of 2007 – 2009 exposed weak balance sheets and companies cut distributions.

Investors, who follow these five simple principles, will be able to not only generate a sustainable amount of income from their nest eggs, but also grow cash distributions to compensate for inflation. By living off income from their investments, these future retirees would be able to have a sustainable income stream that would be entirely dependent on the underlying investments financial performance rather than stock market gyrations.

Some examples of solid companies with strong competitive advantages and good long term prospects for earnings growth include:

McDonald’s Corporation (MCD) franchises and operates McDonald's restaurants in the United States, Europe, the Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, and Latin America. The company has increased dividends for 38 years in a row and has a five year dividend growth rate of 13.90%/year. This dividend champion sells for 17.90 times forward earnings and yields 3.10%. Check my analysis of McDonald's.

Chevron Corporation (CVX), through its subsidiaries, is engaged in petroleum, chemicals, mining, power generation, and energy operations worldwide. The company has increased dividends for 26 years in a row and has a five year dividend growth rate of 9%/year. This dividend champion sells for 11.50 times forward earnings and yields 3.50%. Check my analysis of Chevron.

Aflac Incorporated (AFL), through its subsidiary, American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus, provides supplemental health and life insurance products.The company has increased dividends for 31 years in a row and has a five year dividend growth rate of 8.10%/year. This dividend champion sells for 9.90 times forward earnings and yields 2.40%. Check my analysis of Aflac.

General Mills, Inc. (GIS) produces and markets branded consumer foods in the United States and internationally. The company has increased dividends for 11 years in a row and has a five year dividend growth rate of 11.50%/year. This dividend achiever sells for 18.70 times forward earnings and yields 3%. Check my analysis of General Mills.

Altria Group, Inc. (MO), through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes, smokeless products, and wine in the United States and internationally. The company has increased dividends for 44 years in a row and has a five year dividend growth rate of 9.20%/year. This dividend champion sells for 15.80 times forward earnings and yields 4.70%. Check my analysis of Altria.

Full Disclosure: Long MCD, CVX, JNJ, WMT ,KO, AFL, GIS, MO

Relevant Articles:

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Dividend Stocks for Consistent Cash Income

I was recently away from home for a two week period. During the time, I did not have the opportunity to check email or look at my dividend stock portfolio. The first thing I did after coming back was log on to my brokerage accounts. I noticed that everything had gone smoothly and I had more in cash than before. This should hardly come as a surprise to most readers – dividend investing is a low key, low activity process. It does not involve staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day nor does my portfolio require tinkering every day, week or month. Most of the companies I tend to purchase are held as long term investments. Heck, even if I don't do anything with my dividend for a couple of years, I highly doubt my portfolio income will be affected.

I am mostly a buy and hold dividend investor. I tend to purchase companies, which have a quality product or service that is valued by customers, and which have been able to deliver dividend increases for at least one decade. Most of these companies, such as McDonald’s (MCD) or PepsiCo (PEP) tend to remain in the same lines of business for years, as they have the expertise and know-how to keep existing activities and also continuously improve in order to stay competitive. Even five or ten years from now, both companies would still be performing essentially the same things they are doing today. These strong brands are synonymous for quality and consistency of product/service, which is why consumers are willing to pay up. This translates into strong pricing power that enables companies to remain profitable, and pass on cost increases to customers, while retaining and even increasing profitability. Most such companies also tend to sell their products on a global scale, which ensures that they are not overly dependent on a single marketplace. Because these companies tend to have a stable, predictable business models, and because they have a diversified income streams coming from countries around the world, they tend to deliver dependable earnings and thus afford to pay dependable dividends to shareholders.

By owning companies with consistent earnings, I tend to generate consistent dividends every quarter. I typically let distributions accumulate in cash and do not automatically reinvest them. However, once amount f cash reaches $1,000, I tend to initiate or add to stock positions. I only tend to reinvest dividends in companies that are currently attractively valued, and whose prospects appear bullish. In other words, if my analysis indicates that a company has a decent chance of increasing earnings and dividends over time, and it is attractively priced at the moment, I would consider allocating any excess cash I have. This excess cash could be from dividends I received, and need to reinvest, or from new contributions. I do not automatically reinvest dividends, because I do not want to invest in companies which are overvalued at the moment, even if they have great long-term prospects. The frustrations of millions of US investors over the past decade, also referred to as the lost decade for US stocks, were primarily caused by excessive valuations in 2000. Even some solid companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) or Coca-Cola (KO) were overvalued in 1999 - 2000, which led to poor total returns over the next decade, despite the fact that their underlying businesses were growing.

The positive factor for owning quality dividend growth companies is that they tend to generate solid increases in dividend income, coupled with solid total returns. Another positive is the ability to compound income and total returns over time. Companies such as Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Phillips Morris International (PM) and Casey’s (CASY) have been able to create strategies for increasing earnings, and then executing them. This has led to higher earnings and trickled down into higher distributions. As a result, investors who meticulously reinvested distributions at attractive valuations were rewarded by the amount of reinvestment plus the increase in distribution. As a result, they had effectively managed to turbo-charge their dividend compounding. The fact that earnings are growing, also makes the underlying businesses that dividend investors have put their hard earned money in, even more valuable. As other investors realize the extra value for the dividend paying company, they tends to deliver solid capital gains in the process as well. This icing on the cake also protects the purchasing value of the investment portfolio against inflation.

Full Disclosure: Long  MCD, PEP, KO, JNJ, CASY, PM

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Should dividend investors invest in index funds?

Index funds are perfect for most people who don’t want to bother about managing their finances and retirement. If your goal is to accumulate a certain amount of net worth in the future, and do not want to spend any time learning about investing, index funds could be your best solution. Therefore, index funds are great for 80% - 90% of the population out there, particularly if coupled with the tax advantages of 401 (k), Roth and Regular IRA’s etc. I own index funds in my 401 (K), because I cannot buy anything else there.

However, if your goal is to generate income in retirement, index funds might not be most optimal use of your resources. If your goal is to generate a positive stream of income that is not dependent on market fluctuations and grows faster than inflation (dividends), then index funds like the S&P 500 might not be for you. Dividend investing is probably practiced by less than five percent of the investing population, although it should be higher. Of course, do not take my word for that, as this percentage might be even lower than that. But this article is written for the dividend investor, who is willing to do some work, and not let their retirement in the hands of Wall Street.

With dividend growth investing, you put a portfolio of 30 - 40 equally weighted individual securities, from as many sectors that make sense, which are attractively valued at the moment. After screening for your entry criteria, you construct your portfolio, and sit on it, while receiving a rising stream of dividend income. You monitor your portfolio regularly, and only sell after a dividend cut or a crazy overvaluation. I have been doing this since 2008, and have experienced one cut in 2008, two in 2009, one in 2010 and none between 2011 and 2014. The proceeds from the sale of the stock which cut dividends is put to work in another company that fits your entry criteria. Typically, dividends are either spent or reinvested into more quality dividend paying stocks in the accumulation phase, in order to compound capital faster. The reason why relying on dividend income for retirement is superior to index investing is because dividends are more stable than capital gains, and are always positive. Therefore, if stock prices fall and stay down, the dividend payments will provide positive reinforcement to the investor, who would be motivated to keep holding and ignore market fluctuations. Otherwise, investors could panic during a market correction, and probably sell at the worst time possible. In fact, many investors do sell at the worst times possible. It is very difficult for the ordinary uninformed investor to see their portfolio being down 30% - 40% - 50%, and them losing several years worth of contributions in one bad year for stocks. Therefore, a lot of investors sell in order to stop the pain and stop their nest egg from dwindling down even further.

In addition, with dividend stocks, you are a buy and hold investor with a long-term view. You are not switching money from one company to another. Therefore, you are reducing reinvestment risk due to transactions, and have a much lower chance of generating lower returns that come out of frequent portfolio churning.

One reason against index funds, is that they include a lot of companies which do not pay ANY dividends. Therefore, the yields on index funds are very low, and not sufficient to live off of today. That’s why in order to live off this nest egg in retirement, you need to sell of a chunk of it every single year. This leaves you with a shrinking asset base, which is relying on continued growth in prices. Without the increase in stock prices, you are shrinking your asset base even further. If you retired at the end of 1999, you would have experienced stagnating stock prices, and as a result, you would have “eaten” more than half of your portfolio by now. I would not want to face the stress of eating into my capital when I retire. If I have $1,000,000, and I sell $40,000 worth of securities each year, I would be out of money in 25 years, assuming no inflation and no stock price growth. If the first five or ten years produce no increase in stock prices, then I face a high risk of running out of money. The last few years of living in such conditions would likely be horrible, as I would be counting every penny twice, and stressing over, while counting the days until I have to get a Wal-Mart job as a greeter out of necessity. The thing is that noone can tell you in advance whether the year you retire with index funds will be similar to 1972 or to 2000.

There are many flaws with index funds, particularly those on S&P 500, which make them poor choices for the enterprising dividend investor. The first is that there is a lot of turnover every single year, which is not good for wealth building. In fact, the turnover is approximately 3% – 5% per year on average. This means that every year anywhere between 15 and more than 25 companies are added and replaced by the benchmark, incurring fees for the investor. Buying and selling of stocks is the reason many investors underperform their benchmarks. For indexes like S&P 500, this frequency of asset turnover has lead to underperforming a purely passive portfolio of stocks. Did you know that the original 500 stocks of S&P 500 from 1957 outperformed the S&P 500 index by 1% point for 50 years? My previous article on the topic discusses research done to prove this.

The second flaw is that index funds are weighted based on float and market capitalization. This is to serve the mutual fund industry, not the investor. If you are a big shot mutual fund, and you want to raise 100 billion from investors, you cannot follow a passive strategy that requires you to put money equally between 500 companies, because for some the total amount of stock available to purchase might be less than $200 million. Therefore, some companies are ignored, at the expense of focusing on the biggest. In reality, the equal weighted S&P 500 has done better than the market cap weighted S&P 500 over the past decade.

The third flaw is that I do not know what criteria the index committee uses to include stocks in the S&P 500. Sometimes, they (just like any normal investor) follow the crowd into irrational exuberance and doing stupid things. For example, back in 1999, a lot of old economy stocks were thrown out of the index, and substituted for red hot technology stocks such as Yahoo! I would let you figure out for yourself how that worked out. The other sin of the S&P index committee is that it didn’t include Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in the index until 2010. With my strategy, I can select the securities that fit my criteria, and live or die by their performance, as I am the one in charge of capital allocation in the family.

The fourth flaw with index investing that they are not a magic panacea for sure stock market profits. An investor who doesn’t know anything about investing, and is passively saving in index funds, can still lose money. They can lose money if they panic at the wrong times such as in 2008 – 2009 and sell everything. They can also lose money if they put money to work without taking valuation into account. The ordinary investor can find a way lose money even with idiot-proof index funds. In fact, according to Morningstar, most investors in the Vanguard 500 index fund have underperformed the index by 2% per year over the past 15 years. The investor also needs to focus on valuation at the time of investment. You should not just blindly put your money in the market to work, without taking valuation into account. For anyone who bought S&P 500 index funds in the late 1990s, they were simply chasing market returns. This was not a smart decision, and the subsequent decade of low returns proved that ignoring entry valuation at the time of investment is not a good strategy.

The other thing is that while index funds have rock bottom expenses, they could still add up over time. For example, if you have a portfolio worth $100,000, you will end up paying $100/year in management fees. If your portfolio is worth $500,000, you will be paying $500/year for life.

In contrast, if you built a portfolio of 40 individual dividend paying stocks, and paid a $5/commission for each trade, you would pay $200 in total. If you never sell, you would never have to incur commission expenses again. Therefore, with a $100K portfolio, you are better off cost wise in 2 years. For the larger portfolios you are better off in individually selected stocks on your own, rather than index funds. That is one of the reasons why people who have several million in equities always pick their own securities, rather than rely on index funds. Why pay someone else thousands of dollars in fees per year for passive investments, when you can simply create a portfolio of the largest blue chip stocks, and do nothing after that?

Over the past decade, more and more investors are beginning to embrace passive index investing strategies. I am just wondering to myself, what if everyone is in index funds one day? I wonder what the consequences and inefficiencies that could arise from this phenomenon of people believe you do not need to know what you own, as long as it is an index fund.

If at one point everyone is invested in index funds, this could create all sorts of inefficiencies in the market. For example, if a company asks shareholders to vote on certain issues that could be otherwise profitable, noone would vote, since conventional efficient market theory says all information is already priced into the stock. As a result, index fund managers might not even bother voting, as they won’t believe their vote counts. Next, since these fund managers might not vote, because they probably haven’t done any research to know enough about the companies they hold for investors in the first place. Therefore, corporate managers at those large companies would face few consequences from angry shareholders. I think that one of the reasons why CEO’s are earning such high compensations is because ownership is being delegated to mutual funds, and not individual shareholders. If Warren Buffett owned 30% of Berkshire Hathaway, and he let his son be the CEO, you could be 100% sure that he would fire Howard on the spot if he paid himself an exorbitant amount of compensation while not furthering shareholders’ interests. This is the reason why as dividend investors, it pays to have your interests aligned with management, especially when management has an ownership stake.

In conclusion, there are a few main ideas that enterprising dividend investors should take from this article.

The first idea is to buy and hold, and not engage in active trading. If you slowly built a portfolio of 30 blue chip stocks, from as many sectors that made sense, and you HELD ON, for several decades, you should do very well for yourself.

The second idea is also to educate yourself about money and investing AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. The main idea is that you are the one responsible for your retirement future. You are the one whose retirement is at stake, and the only one who cares about succeeding. Therefore, you should be personally involved in the process, educate yourself and determine the best way to achieve your goals. Whether you end up buying dividend paying stocks, index funds, or daytrade internet stocks online, you are the person who will benefit or  lose from your actions. Therefore, do not outsource your retirement goals and dreams to a third party, whose only goal is to generate a commission or annual fees from you. Take your dream in your own hands, and get at it!

Full Disclosure: Long S&P 500 Mutual Fund

Relevant Articles:

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Monday, February 3, 2014

How to retire in 10 years with dividend stocks

The goal of every dividend investor is to generate a sufficient stream of passive dividend income, that would adequately cover their expenses. In order to achieve this goal however, investors need to select a strategy and fine-tune it over time to reflect current market conditions. In most of my articles I tend to focus on investing that would generate dividends for several decades to come. But how would someone who wants to retire in one decade afford to retire? Follow the guidelines in this article, and you might end up being one of the lucky ones who can afford to quit the rat race in a decade.

The first guideline is to contribute regularly to your dividend portfolio. This is important, because it allows our investor to dollar cost average their way over many years. This would provide them with the opportunity to build their portfolio brick by brick, without purchasing everything as a lump sum. Many articles on retirement focus on lump sum investing, which is not relevant to most future retirees.

The second guideline is to focus on dividend growth stocks, which are companies that regularly raise distributions. Since our dividend investor is likely to live off distributions for decades to come, they need to overcome the risk of inflation. As a result, they need to invest in stocks that can afford to regularly increase dividends, thus ensuring an inflation adjusted stream of income. Luckily, David Fish has the dividend champions list, which can be accessed from here. Investors can use this list as a starting point to identify dividend growth stocks, and apply their screening criteria.

The third guideline is to buy quality dividend stocks at attractive valuations. This is the step where the savings added to the brokerage account need to be invested. Investors should develop a set of standard screening criteria, in order to narrow down the list of dividend champions or achievers to a more manageable level. I typically look for companies yielding more than 2.50%, which have raised dividends for at least ten years in a row and trade at less than 20 times earnings. I then further avoid companies with high dividend payout ratios, depending on their industry and business form. After I do this, I research each stock in detail, in order to determine if it has what it takes to keep raising earnings and dividends over time. This is the most subjective part of the process. However, if you create a properly diversified portfolio of income stocks as outlined in the next step, you have a very good chance of success, even if you picked average companies.

The fourth rule is to focus on creating a diversified income portfolio, in order to reduce risk. In order to protect yourself, your goal is to have your income stream come from as many companies as possible. Leave the task of outperforming the market each year to the people who want to manage other people’s money or who are trying to sell you expensive newsletters. Your goal is to create an income stream that grows over time, which will support you in your retirement. As a result, in order to have a defensible income stream, you need to own at least 30 individual income stocks representative from as many industries as possible. Ideally, you would own three stocks from each of the ten sectors identified by Standard and Poor's, which comprise the S&P 500 index. In reality however, it might be difficult to achieve this strict diversification. However, since you are building your portfolio over a long period of time, you will likely be able to purchase quality stocks from different sectors, which would be priced right at different times over the next decade.

The fifth rule is to reinvest dividends selectively in these quality income stocks over the next decade. Until you reach your target dividend income, you need to use the power of dividend growth, new capital contributions and dividends received to plow back into your portfolio and turbocharge your dividend income. I typically avoid reinvesting dividends automatically. Instead, I wait for my dividends to accumulate, and then either add to an existing position, or initiate a new position in an attractively valued stock. While some might say I am missing out on compounding my income while waiting for my dividends to accumulate and buy a stock, I disagree. Re-investing dividends in an overvalued stock is a much worse offense than simply patiently accumulating cash in my book, and deploying it in the best values at the moment. This is another tool that will increase your odds of growing your dividend income stream faster.

Now that I outlined a list of few basic guidelines to follow, I will show how an individual can retire in ten years. Let’s assume that our individual manages to save $1,000/month for the next 120 months (10 years). The first month they only manage to save $1000. Let us also assume that our investor invests his or her hard earned money in dividend stocks yielding 4%, that grow distributions by 6%/year. Let's also assume that share prices grow by 6%/year as well (Such linear growth in share prices does not work in reality, but is only used for the model) If the distributions are paid monthly, and are reinvested back in stocks yielding 4% and growing distributions at 6%, our investor will generate $659/month after 10 years. Now granted, they only saved $1000/month for ten years. However, if they saved $2,000/month instead, their dividend income will rise to $1,309/month in 10 years. If your dividend crossover point is around $1,300, then after ten years of meticulously saving and investing $2,000/month, you will be able to retire. The table below shows how investing $2,000/month in dividend paying stocks that yield 4% and grow dividends by 6%/year, can result in monthly incomes exceeding $1,300/month in 10 years, and $2,000/month in 13 years.

As you can see, the second column shows number of shares purchased with the $2000 savings every month, plus the amount of dividends received as well. After the first year, the $2000 buys less than 2000 shares, because the share price goes up in lockstep with the dividend growth.

This spreadsheet is a guideline on the forces that will help someone reach financial independence. Your dividend crossover point will be dependent the amount you can save, amounts you need, returns you can generate, and time to retirement. By carefully managing those variable, the retiree will be able to devise a proper plan that will help them accomplish their ultimate goals of attaining freedom over their time.

Relevant Articles:

Complete List of Articles on Dividend Growth Investor Website
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Dividend Growth Investing is a Perfect Strategy for Young Investors
Dividend Growth Strategy for Retirement Income

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

My Dividend Goals for 2014 and after

With the end of 2013, many dividend investors are reviewing the year that passed, and are updating their 2014 goals. As I am reviewing results from my portfolio, I am trying to understand if I am on track to reach my goals.

The three inputs that will help me achieve my goals are organic dividends growth, reinvestment yield and new capital to invest. In my book, organic dividend growth is merely a result of corporations approving increases in distributions to shareholders. I strive for a 6% in annual dividend growth on average. Since I am in the accumulation phase of my dividend investing journey I am also reinvesting dividends into more income producing securities. I believe that if my portfolio keeps growing distributions by 6 – 7% per year, and I reinvest this cashflow back into more dividend paying stocks yielding 3- 4% today, I can essentially grow total dividend income by approximately 10% per year.

This of course assumes that I no longer put any new capital to work in dividend paying stocks. The biggest change I implemented in 2013 was to reduce the amount of contributions to my taxable accounts to the minimum. This was because I am starting to max out tax-deferred accounts such as 401 (k), Sep IRA and Roth IRA, in order to cut down on taxes today, and create a vehicle where I would generate dividend income that won’t be taxed for at least 30 – 40 years. When you put money in taxable accounts, you can withdraw dividends from one account and easily pool them into another account. Unfortunately, with tax-deferred accounts, the money generated in one account has to stay there. I am doing this, because my largest expense in my budget is taxes. This includes Federal, State and FICA taxes.

My taxable accounts would likely generate a sufficient stream of income to reach my dividend crossover point within five years. This would be as a result of organic dividend growth, dividend reinvestment and fresh additions of investable funds. I do believe that I need to be generating more in dividends than what my regular monthly expenses are, just to be on the safe side. Because I would be earning more than what my typical monthly expenses would be, I would be paying taxes on the buffer income I won't be using. Therefore, I have added the assets that would generate this dividend income buffer in tax-deferred accounts. I would have to jump through hoops in order to access these funds, which is why I would only tap them in the case of extreme circumstances. There is a high likelihood that these funds would not need to be used ever, but could provide a potential buffer in case I am wrong in my calculations. Plus, the money would compound tax-free for decades, before the tax person gets their share, if I do not need to use them.

Now that I provided some high-level background on the status of accounts, I am going to go over my goals for the next few years. As I had mentioned before, I plan on becoming FI by 2018. After looking at the numbers, it looks as if I am on track to reach this goal. I am currently able to cover approximately 60%-65% of expenses with dividend income. This is a slight improvement from 50% – 60% that I was able to cover in early 2013. Using a conservative 10% growth in total dividend income, I come up with the following calculations:

Expenses Covered by Dividends

The table shows percentage of monthly expenses that are covered by dividend income at year end. I have simply compounded the percentage of expenses covered by dividends by 10%/annum. It looks like I am on track right now to accomplish my goals. I prefer to discuss goals in terms of the longer-term goal, rather simply focus on isolated annual goals. I think that for 2014 I would strive for approximately 70% in dividend income coverage, but this is meaningless without understanding how this goal fits in the grand scheme of things.

The percentages in the table do not include dividends generated in tax-deferred accounts. I expect that most of my future contributions will be in tax-deferred accounts, which would hold the excess dividend income, that would be part of my safety net. Some portions of income will make their way to taxable accounts, which might increase the percentage of expenses covered by dividends. However, in order to be conservative in my assumptions, I am not going to change these estimates in the table above.

I am also not putting down exact dollar figures, because reasonable expenditures vary from individual to individual. For example, for a single individual living in the Midwest that owns their residence, they can probably get by on say $1,500/month. However, if you are a married couple that lives in New York City or San Francisco, you would likely need at least $4,000 - $5,000/month merely to get by. The goal of this article is not to debate whether a certain dollar figure is reasonable or not, but to discuss my thought process in getting to a reasonable goal within a reasonable time. After all, these are my numbers, and they make sense for me - your numbers are going to be much different.

Therefore, in order to get to a place, you need to determine what your goal is. Write it down, and then try to determine how to get to that goal. I figured out early that I would achieve my goal with my diversified portfolio of dividend growth stocks, which are companies that regularly boost distributions for shareholders. I then determined the monthly amount I plan to invest each month, and also determined reasonable assumptions about returns. Based on these assumptions, I then figured out the amount of time I would need in order to get there.

It is also important to have a plan B and even plan C in action, in case your assumptions don’t turn out as expected. The value of a job income cannot be overlooked. For example, a source of $100 in monthly income is equivalent to $30,000 - $40,000 invested at 3%- 4%. This should be something you enjoy however, and are passionate about. So if you enjoy doing taxes and learning how much others make – you might be a tax preparer between January and April every year. It is up to you to figure out what you can do. However, I am not going to tell how to spend your time in retirement, so I am going to end the discussion here.

One obstacle to my plans could include situations where I lose my primary job, and am unable to find another one after that. This could damage my ability to make future contributions, and would also prevent me from reinvesting distributions, as I would be using them for my day to day expenses. Another obstacle that could prevent me from achieving my goals include situations where I can find fewer securities that fit my entry criteria. After a relentless increase in 2013, it is getting to a point where quality dividend companies are tougher to find. I do not envy the dividend investor who is just about to start putting their hard earned money to work today.

However, all hope is not lost, as I do find quality at decent prices today. The types of companies that look priced fairly include:

McDonald’s Corporation (MCD) franchises and operates McDonald's restaurants in the United States, Europe, the Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, and Latin America. This dividend champion has increased dividends for 38 years in a row. Over the past five years, it has managed to raise them at a rate of 13.90%/year. Currently, the stock trades at a P/E of 17.30 and yields 3.40%. Check my analysis of McDonald'’s for more information.

Philip Morris International Inc. (PM), through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes and other tobacco products. This dividend machine has increased dividends for 5 years in a row. Over the past five years, it has managed to increase quarterly dividends by 15.40%/year. Currently, the stock trades at a P/E of 15.70 and yields 4.60%. Check my analysis of Philip Morris International for more information.

Chevron Corporation (CVX), through its subsidiaries, engages in petroleum, chemicals, mining, power generation, and energy operations worldwide. This dividend champion has increased dividends for 26 years in a row. Over the past five years, it has managed to raise them at a rate of 9%/year. Currently, the stock trades at a P/E of 9.90 and yields 3.30%. Check my analysis of Chevron for more information.

Target Corporation (TGT) operates general merchandise stores in the United States. This dividend champion has increased dividends for 46 years in a row. Over the past five years, it has managed to raise them at a rate of 21.40%/year. Currently, the stock trades at a P/E of 16.70 and yields 2.70%. Check my analysis of Target for more information.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) operates retail stores in various formats worldwide.This dividend champion has increased dividends for 39 years in a row. Over the past five years, it has managed to raise them at a rate of 14.20%/year. Currently, the stock trades at a P/E of 15 and yields 2.40%. Check my analysis of Wal-Mart for more information.

Full Disclosure: Long MCD, PM, CVX, TGT, WMT

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dividend Growth Investing is a Perfect Strategy for Young Investors

Imagine your perfect day. You wake up when you are rested, without the need of any alarm clocks. You then do some working out , followed by having a nice healthy breakfast. You then read at your leisure, have a lunch later in the day to beat the 11:30 – 1 pm crowds, and then review your brokerage accounts. You notice dividends from several companies are deposited today, and you decide to transfer them to your checking account. You check for any major items concerning your portfolio holdings, and spend a few hours researching a new dividend stock.

After that you get more time to concentrate on your activities, be it volunteering at the local homeless shelter, mentoring high school students, learning a new language or simply catching up on some good books. Later that day, you might decide to enjoy a few with your mates/gals. This dream is brought to you by dividend investing.

This is my retirement dream in a nutshell. The reason I started Dividend Growth Investor blog in 2008, is to write down ideas on how to make it happen. I believe that dividend growth investing works for all investors, regardless of their age. However, I do realize that older investors might have a preference for higher yielding stocks, while youngsters like myself can afford to build portfolios across the yield spectrum.

One of the most common misconceptions about dividend investing however is that it is not a good strategy for building your nest egg, and therefore it is not suitable for younger investors. Being a youngster myself, I (not surprisingly) disagree.

Younger investors are typically told to take a lot of risks early on, because they have time to recuperate those losses. I find this saying to be very dangerous for young investors. The problem is that taking risk is important, but it should not be mean gambling. Investors should only be taking on large risks when they have a strategy with positive expectancy of a positive return, while risk is minimized. If you invest in penny stocks, social media stocks, or if you bought dot-coms during the tech boom of the late 1990s, you took huge risks but you were likely making concentrated gambles. There is a cost to gambling, because losing your entire nest egg of $10,000 at the age of 24 means you will be poorer by $800,000 by age 70. This calculation assumes a 10% annual return for 46 years.

In contrast, with a typical dividend growth strategy, you get a slow and steady approach that will lead to a monthly passive income that will pay your expenses in retirement. Starting out early will be beneficial, because you would gain the necessary experience through trial and error, and find out the nuances that work out for you. This would make you successful, and ensure you maintain your success in investing. A big part of investment success is not losing too much in your investment career.

With this dividend strategy, we are focusing not on net worth per se, but on target annual dividend income. If your goal is to have a net worth of $1 million dollars, but you end up investing it in a relatively illiquid asset such as a personal residence, you might not be able to retire entirely on it. In some parts of the US, you might have to pay $20 - $30 thousand in annual property taxes plus paying for upkeep, maintenance etc. If instead you had a rental property generating $4,000 in monthly income or a portfolio of dividend stocks generating a similar amount, you might be set for life.

I believe that a new investor who does not have a lot of money today but who plans on accumulating their “financial nut” over the next years will be perfectly able to utilize dividend growth investing. With this strategy investors turbocharge the dividend income growth of their portfolios by putting money to work every month in stocks that regularly boost dividends, and then reinvesting those dividends selectively.

Since 2008, I have been on a mission to build up my portfolio income. Every month, I save an amount of money that I deposit in my brokerage account. I scan the market for investment opportunities all the time, followed by analyzing prospective investments. I identify dividend stocks for further analysis either by running my screening criteria against the dividend champions or contenders lists, by looking at weekly list of dividend increases as well as through interactions with other investors and the general method of my inquiry into business.

I do a complete stock analysis of each company I find interesting, in order to gauge whether the company in focus has any competitive advantages, pricing power and whether there are any catalysts for further expansion in revenues and profitability going forward. I focus on companies that can grow earnings over time, which will provide the fuel for future dividend increases. A rising earnings stream is also positively correlated with an increase in stock prices. You can have your cake and eat it too with dividend growth stocks.

My goal is to acquire the quality companies identified for purchase at attractive valuations. Entry price does matter to an extent, because a lower price provides a higher margin of safety in the investment and is equivalent to a higher dividend income. Of course, if you plan on holding stocks for 20 – 30 years however, it would not really matter whether you purchased Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) at $70/share or $75/share. If you overpay today however, it might mean that your returns in the first five years might be below average, until the growing earnings result in a valuation compression that would make the stock attractively valued today.

For my personal portfolio, I try to generate annual dividend growth in the 6-7% range on aggregate. My portfolios also yield approximately 3.50% – 4%. I achieve these aggregate figures by stacking three different types of dividend growth stocks, for maximum results. So far, I am able to cover approximately 50% of my expenses from my dividend income.

A few good picks include:

Coca-Cola (KO) engages in the manufacture, marketing, and sale of nonalcoholic beverages worldwide. This dividend champion has increased distributions for 51 years in a row. Over the past five years, Coca-Cola grew distributions at a rate of 8.40%/year. Currently, the stock is trading above the 20 times earnings limit I have set for myself, but yields a very respectable 2.80%. Check my analysis of Coca-Cola.

Phillip Morris International (PM) manufactures and sells cigarettes and other tobacco products. The company has managed to grow distributions by 13.10%/year since the spin-off from parent Altria Group (MO) in 2008. I like the economics of the tobacco business, without the liability stemming from doing business in one country. PMI's revenues are generated outside the US, and therefore are not dependent on a single country's onerous laws on smoking. Currently, the stock is trading at 16.60 times earnings and yields 3.90%. Check my analysis of PMI.

Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI) is the general partner of Kinder Morgan Partners (KMP) and El Paso Pipeline Partners (EPB). It also owns limited partnership interests in KMP and EPB.  The most important asset is the incentive distribution rights structure, which provide for a 50% share of any future distirbutions growth over a certain threshold for KMP and EPB. Given the growth projections for energy assets in the US, and Kinder Morgan in particular, this stock can achieve high single digit dividend growth for at least the next five years. Currently it is yielding a very attractive 4.20%.

Procter & Gamble (PG) engages in the manufacture and sale of a range of branded consumer packaged goods. This dividend king has increased distributions for 57 years in a row. Over the past five years, Procter & Gamble has managed to boost distributions at a rate of 12.20%/year. Currently, the stock is trading at 17.20 times earnings and yields a very respectable 3.10%. Check my analysis of Procter & Gamble.

Let’s see how a portfolio stacks, where a young dividend investor puts $3000/month in 4% yielders that grow at 6%/year.

After five years with this approach, you would be earning $750 in monthly dividend income. Ten years after starting this strategy you will be earnings $2,000 in monthly dividend income. Fifteen years after beginning your dividend investment journey, you will be making almost $4,000 in monthly dividend income. This slow and steady approach is very boring, and it is not as exciting as tripling your money in Tesla (TSLA) in less than a month. However, more investors who focus on long-term wealth accumulation potential of dividend growth stocks will be better off than investors who gamble on the next big growth stock.

An investor with a vision will look beyond the 3%- 4% current yields today, but look at the potential for higher distributions over time. An investor that starts small at a young age, builds a diversified portfolio of income producing securities with growing distributions when valuations are right, reinvests these rising distributions into more stock and continuously adds to his portfolio, will achieve wealth at a relatively young age.

Full Disclosure: Long KMI, KO, PM, PG, JNJ, KMR

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- Carnival of Personal Finance #421

Monday, June 24, 2013

Your Retirement Income is on Sale!

Everyone loves a good sale! When you purchase quality merchandise at 50% off, or at everyday low prices, it is considered a bargain and a smart move. When stock prices decline however, investors all of a sudden lose their common sense to become fearful. Lower prices on quality stocks causes investors to shun buying stocks. Higher prices on the other hand, excite everyone.

Stocks have finally began sliding down, and I am starting to get excited. I would love for stocks to get down even further from here. As someone in the accumulation stage of the dividend machine building process, I welcome any price weaknesses with open arms, as it translates into higher entry yields.

The amateurs are starting to get nervous however. They need positive reassurance through rising prices. If they don’t get rising prices, they get scared, and start selling everything. These investors view stocks like lottery ticket substitutes. Many dividend investors, myself included, started their investing journey treating stocks like lottery tickets in their early days. After a while however, it all starts to sync in that stocks are ownership pieces of real businesses, and not just some paper certificates or kilobytes on a computer screen. Success if determined based upon the growth in the underlying business, not because of meaningless short-term stock price fluctuations.

At the end of the day, smart dividend investors view stocks as partial ownership shares of real businesses. They do their research in uncovering those businesses, and then try to buy existing owners out at bargain prices. They can then sit back, monitor their business interests, and collect dividends one check at a time. After all, if you owned an apartment building next to a college that is always occupied, you won’t give a damn if its quoted valued fell by 5% - 10%- 20% in one single day. As long as you can rent your building out, you should do just fine by ignoring “quoted values”.

And what a great time it is to be a collector of business profits, through generous dividend distributions. Corporate balance sheets are flush with cash, more people are going back to work, and that housing market is coming back up. It is even better, when the price of your dividend stream is getting cheaper by the dozen. Just a month ago, everyone was complaining that stocks are overextended, and quality REITs such as Realty Income (O) yielded only 4%. This caused me to ask myself, whether we were in a REIT bubble. Since then, the stock has gone down over 26%, and is yielding a cool 5.30%.

The chicken littles however are scared that the Federal Reserve will stop pumping $85 billion into the economy every single month. However, they seem to be forgetting that the economy seems to be recovering. Most importantly, they seem to be forgetting that most profits in investing are made by the long-term buying and holding, not flipping stocks.

I keep hearing from amateur investors of the world, that the improving economy and the ending of Qualitative Easing by the FED will lead to higher interest rates. Those rising interest rates will be bad for dividend stocks. I usually ignore such talk, not because I am smug, but because I try to look 20 -30 years down the road. I cannot imagine a scenario, where US businesses will not be better off in 20 – 30 years. Businesses will have better productivity, access to more markets, and would have made more in profits. Chances are that we would have new products that few are probably even dreaming of right now. I assume that these products would likely improve lives significantly. I wake up every day, trying to achieve something for myself and my family – I imagine that millions of other people in the US and the Globe are trying hard to achieve just that. Some of these people would be the ones to invent the products mentioned above, that will improve our lives.

In addition, rising interest rates are bad for all stocks, not just dividend stocks. If I had to choose between owning some highly speculative Chinese internet stocks or some blue chip dividend paying stocks that pay me rising dividends every year, I would always go with the dividend stocks. Chances are that the mature dividend stocks will have access to credit at much better terms when things get tough, while the hot growth Chinese internet stocks will get clobbered and many might have to resort to cooking the books to get credit. Again, the goal is to try to select the companies that have what it takes to be here in 20 -30 years, and then try to buy their stock at attractive valuations. You can also call these qualities competitive advantages, wide moats or strong brands. Trying to outguess the economic cycle is a fools game. Even people whose primary job is forecasting macroeconomic trends have trouble getting it right. Your job is again to invest for the next 20 – 30 years, which would cover several economic cycles, and several periods of interest rate fluctuations. In those 20 -30 years, stocks would likely drop by half at least once.

One of the smartest people in the world, who became a billionaire because of his intelligence, once said:

"If you are not willing to hold stocks though 50% loss, you should not be in stocks."

Let that sink in. This person is Charlie Munger, the long-standing business partner of Warren Buffett. If Buffett had chickened out in 1974, when the price of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) had fallen down by 50%, and put everything in Treasuries, he would have never become a billionaire.

When shares of Aflac (AFL) dropped from $25 to $10/share in 2008 - 2009, it was a pretty scary experience. I held on, bought some more, and have been adding to the position and collecting dividends ever since. I am welcoming drops in prices, especially if it would bring companies such as Coca-Cola (KO) to trade at 15 - 16 times earnings. Given forward earnings of $2.14/share for 2013, this would translate into $32.10 to $34.34/share.

Some quality companies like Phillip Morris International (PM) are trading at 16.80 times earnings, yield 3.90%, while having a sustainable distribution. The company is expecting to grow earnings by 9 - 12%/year for the foreseeable future, fueled by its expanding growing operations. Check my analysis of PMI.

Other companies such as Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) are trading at 14.50 times earnings and yield over 2.50%. Wal-Mart Stores has been able to increase dividends for 39 years in a row.Over the past decade, the worlds largest retailer has managed to boost distributions by 18.10%/year. Check my analysis of Wal-Mart.

So back to our Realty Income story mentioned above. If you had $500,000 in May 2013, and you invested the whole stash in realty Income (O), you would have only been able to generate $20.000 in annual dividend income. If you bought Realty Income today, you would be able to make over $26.000. I don’t know about you, but the drop in stock prices is making me feel richer. If I were a rational dividend investor, I would actually hope for lower prices from here. If you get a cash machine that spits out an ever rising stream of dividend income, then wouldn't you want to buy a piece of it at the lowest prices possible?

After all, it would make the cost of your retirement much lower.

Full Disclosure: Long O, KO, AFL, PM, KO

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The right time to sell dividend stocks

With the market hitting fresh 17 month highs, investors have to look hard in order to find attractively valued opportunities. Plenty of stocks such as Aflac (AFL), Emerson Electric (EMR), 3M (MMM) and Realty Income (O) ,which in early 2009 rewarded enterprising dividend investors with their highest yields in a decade, are now yielding much less. Many stocks are also trading at rich valuations, which suggests that investors these days are willing to pay a premium for future growth.

The rapid increase in prices since March 2009 lows has many dividend investors wondering whether they should lock in some or all of their gains today. Investors who were able to purchase stocks in 2008 and 2009 might be sitting at gains, which seem equal to the dividend payments they could expect from a stock for several years to come. The issue with this thinking is that dividends typically increase over time on average while cash in the bank typically loses its purchasing power over time. As a result the investor who takes profits today might lose on any increases in dividends as well as on any future price gains. They would also have to find a decent vehicle to park their cash, which is getting harder and harder to find these days.

Because of the reasons stated above I would not consider selling even if my position went up 1000%. It would not be a wise idea to sell a stock which was purchased as a long term holding and its business hasn’t changed much. What is important is that the original yield on cost that has been locked with the purchase in 2008 or 2009 is there to stay, as long as the dividend is at least maintained. I would only consider selling when the dividend is cut. If a stock you purchased had a current yield of 8%, your yield on cost of is 8%. The nice part about this is that you keep receiving 8% on your original cost as long as the dividend is maintained. Then it doesn't really matter if the stock is currently yielding 1% or 2% - you still earn 8% on your cost. If the dividend payment is increased then your yield on cost rises as well. Companies like Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) or Abbott Labs (ABT) for example have low current yields of 3%, but their growing dividend payments produce substantial yields on cost over time.

If you were thinking of selling a stock which generates great yield on cost, you should remember that currently the market is overvalued. But the market could keep getting overvalued for a far longer period than you or I could remain sane. Retirees need income, and in the current low interest environment dividend stocks seem to be the perfect vehicle for an inflation adjusted source of income in retirement.

Back in the late 1980s Procter & Gamble (PG) yielded less than 3% for the first time in decades, which was much lower than the 4% average yield that investors received in the mid 1980s. In early 1991 the stock traded at 10.50, yielded 2.40%, and paid 6.25 cents/quarter. Although bonds yielded at least three times what P&G yielded at the time, they couldn’t provide rising income payments and the possibility for high capital gains as well. By early 1994 Procter & Gamble stock increased to $14, after a 2 to 1 stock split, paid 8.25 cents/quarter and yielded 2.20%. In early 1999 Procter & Gamble traded at $46.50 and had split 2:1 in 1997. The company paid out 14.25 cents/share but yielded only 1.30%. The yield on cost for the early 1991 investor was a more comfortable 5.50%. Fast forward to 2010 and Procter & Gamble is trading close to $64 and yielding 2.80%. The yield on cost on the original 1991 purchase is 16.80%. This example goes on to show that selling Procter & Gamble (PG) when it became overvalued, was not a very good idea, because the company kept generating higher earnings and kept increasing its dividend payment. While investors could have found other stocks to reinvest Procter & Gamble (PG) dividends or allocate any new cash, they would have been well off simply holding on to Procter & Gamble (PG) and other dividend raisers despite them being overvalued for extended periods of time.

Right now Procter & Gamble (PG) looks like it could again stay below 3% for the foreseeable future. This time I am planning on adding to my position around $59 ,even though it is not exactly trading at a 3% yield.

Full Disclosure: Long ABT, AFL, EMR, JNJ, MMM, O, PG

Note to Readers: This article was originally published on March 24, 2010. The basic ideas behind it however are still valid, three years later.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Four Percent Rule is Dependent on Dividend Yields

I recently read a very interesting article from author Dave Van Knapp, related to the four percent rule. Dave analyzed research from Morningstar, which claimed that the four percent rule is no longer relevant, and should be replaced with a three percent rule. In this argument, I am going to discuss the root causes behind this issue, as well as the surprising reasons behind the real factors behind the four percent rule that made it truly successful.

The following chart below shows the dividend yield in the S&P 500 (SPY) between 1926 and 2011. All data used was obtained from Prof. Schiller’s website.

The following chart shows the current yield on Ten-Year US Treasuries between 1926 and 2011:

This chart, shows the average annual yield of a portfolio where 50% invested in S&P 500 and the remainder is put in a US Ten-Year bond.

The next chart shows the growth in dividend payments of the S&P 500. I used the S&P 500 as a proxy for dividend stocks, given the fact that data was widely available for the index, and it is an adequate proxy for dividend stocks.

Annual dividend returns are less volatile than annual price returns. It is extremely difficult to forecast if a stock is going to return a positive price gain in a given year or a negative one. However, it is much easier to forecast whether a company will be able to deliver a dividend return to its shareholders over the course of a year. For example, I am 99% certain that Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), McDonald's (MCD) and Coca-Cola (KO) would still be paying a dividend over the next 12 months. Chances are also that these companies would raise dividends through April 1, 2014 at least once. I believe that the reason why the four percent rule was successful was not because stocks tended to increase in value over time, but because the income generated from an equally weighted stock and bond portfolio is a reliable source of spending money for retirees.

It is easier to begin retirement if you invested at times when stocks were attractively valued. When stocks are cheap, they have low P/E ratios and relatively high dividend yields. A sustainable dividend payment, which more than covers investors expenses, provides for an adequate margin of safety to cover these expenses.
Based on the data, it could be argued that the four percent rule has traditionally been based on the stability of stock and bond yields and the positive dividend growth that investing in a basket of blue chip common stocks can deliver over time. Back in the early 1990’s, when William Bengen conducted his research, dividend yields were close to 4%, while yields on 30 year US Treasuries were anywhere between 7 – 8%. For the large part of the 1926 - 1994 study period, the average yield of a portfolio that consisted of 50% equity and 50% fixed income exposure was 4.87%. The average yield was less than 4% in only 24 out 69 years observed.

It is particularly interesting that in a traditional dividend portfolio, the goal is to generate a growing stream of distributions. A portfolio could yield 4% today, but over time and given a 6% dividend growth rate, it could double the yield on cost to 8% in 12 years and to 16% in 24 years. In the traditional portfolio described in Bengen’s research, an investor starts out by withdrawing an amount equivalent to 4% of the initial portfolio value every year, and then adjusts it every year with inflation. I see some similarities between the two approaches, and find that Bengen incidentally might have been following portfolio yield on cost, that many dividend growth investors tend to closely monitor.

Given the steep declines in bond and dividend yields over the past 20 years, the new research now claims that the four percent rule should be a three percent rule. Not surprisingly, an allocation to stocks and bonds could easily yield 3% in today’s environment. This further strengthens the argument that that the original four percent rule was based on relying on the stable dividend and bond interest factor that investors would have received.

Full Disclosure: Long WMT, KO, MCD

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