Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why dividend investing beats US Treasuries today?

With yields on 10 year and 30 year US Treasuries reaching their lowest levels since 2008, investors are left with one less potential source of income in retirement. Currently, investors who purchase a $1000 bond that matures in 30 years are expected to receive an annual yield of $38. Investors who lock their money in a 10 year Treasury bond will receive $24. The reason for the low yields is low expected inflation for the near future, and the fear of a double dip recession which could even lead to deflation. The risk behind investing in treasuries today is that the low yields would not compensate investors even for a small inflation of 3% per year until maturity. In other words, the purchasing power of the interest income from an investment in fixed income will be much lower five, ten or thirty years from now. So how can investors manage to generate income from their nest eggs, which they have worked so hard and for so long to accumulate?

What investors need, is an instrument, or an asset class, that not only provides decent current yields, but also generates an income stream that meets or exceeds inflation over time. One such class is dividend paying stocks. Stocks in general have been mostly flat over the past decade, with the majority of returns coming from dividends. One of the reasons why stocks didn’t perform so well over the past decade is because they were grossly overvalued in 2000. Investors who want to generate income in retirement however should focus only on a select number of companies which have the following characteristics:

1) A history of consistent dividend increases. I prefer companies which have raised dividends for at least ten consecutive years.

2) An adequately covered dividend from earnings. I search for companies where annual earnings per share are at least twice the amount of annual dividends

3) A low price earnings ratio and at least some earnings growth. Overpaying for stocks could turn costly, and lead to low returns over time. I prefer stocks which have a P/E of less than 20.

4) A current yield of at least 2.50%. While some investors see this yield as “low”, they tend to forget that with regular dividend increases, the yield on cost would increase over time. By stacking companies with varying yield and dividend growth characteristics it is possible to create a portfolio yielding 4% where dividend increases match or exceed the rate of inflation.

There are only 300 or so stocks trading on US exchanges that have a history of growing their distributions for at least ten years. By applying a simple screen where P/E ratio is less than 20, the current yield is 2.50% or more and where the dividend is sustainable, investors could end up with a manageable list of stocks for further research.

A sample of seven dividend growth stocks which met these criteria include:

Chevron Corporation (CVX) operates as an integrated energy company worldwide. The company is a dividend achiever, and has consistently raised its dividends for 23 years in a row. Annual dividend payments have increased by an average of 8.30% annually since 2000. Yield: 3.40% (analysis)

The Clorox Company (CLX) engages in the production, marketing, and sales of consumer products in the United States and internationally. The company operates through four segments: Cleaning, Lifestyle, Household, and International. Clorox has paid uninterrupted dividends on its common stock since it was spun out of Procter and Gamble (PG) in 1968 and increased payments to common shareholders every year for 32 years. The company is a member of the elite S&P Dividend Aristocrats Index.Annual dividends have increased by an average of 13% annually since 1999. Yield: 3.20% (analysis)

McDonald’s Corporation (MCD), together with its subsidiaries, operates as a worldwide foodservice retailer. It franchises and operates McDonalds restaurants that offer various food items, soft drinks, coffee, and other beverages. The company is also a dividend aristocrat, which has been consistently increasing its dividends for 33 consecutive years. Annual dividend payments have increased by an average of 28.20% annually since 2000. Yield: 3.20% (Analysis)

Medtronic, Inc. (MDT) develops, manufactures, and sells device-based medical therapies worldwide. The company operates in the following segments:Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management , Spinal, CardioVascular, Neuromodulation, Diabetes, Surgical Technologies and Physio-Control. This dividend champion has raised distributions for 33 years in a row. The annual dividend payment has increased by 17% per year since 2000. Yield: 2.70% (analysis)

PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) manufactures, markets, and sells various foods, snacks, and carbonated and non-carbonated beverages worldwide. The company operates in four divisions: PepsiCo Americas Foods (PAF), PepsiCo Americas Beverages (PAB), PepsiCo Europe, and PepsiCo Asia. The company is a member of the S&P Dividend Aristocrat index, after raising distributions for 38 years in a row. Annual dividend payments have increased by 13.60% on average since 2000. Yield: 2.90% (Analysis)

Sysco Corporation (SYY), through its subsidiaries, markets and distributes a range of food and related products primarily to the foodservice industry in the United States. SYSCO Corporation is a dividend champion as well as a component of the S&P 500 index. It has been increasing its dividends for the past 40 consecutive years. Annual dividend payments have increased by an average of 17% annually over the past 10 years. Yield: 3.50% (Analysis)

United Technologies Corporation (UTX) provides technology products and services to the building systems and aerospace industries worldwide. The company is a dividend achiever, and has been consistently increasing its dividends for 16 consecutive years. Annual dividends have increased by an average of 15.80% annually since 2000. Yield: 2.30% (analysis)

It is important to also hold a diversified portfolio of dividend stocks, in order to avoid concentration to particular segments, which could jeopardize dividend income in retirement. As a result holding at least 30 individual stocks representative of the ten industry groups of the S&P 500 makes sense.

Last but not least, while investing in dividend stocks would likely lead to a higher income stream in ten or thirty years, which would be much better than the fixed income from US Treasuries, dividend investing still has its risks. One of the biggest risks for dividend investors is that companies could cut or eliminate dividend payments. A diversified portfolio of stocks would soften the blow to total dividend income of course. However there have been times like during the Great Depression, when most companies cut dividends substantially. During those times investments in government bonds produced not only decent income, but also decent total returns as well. In addition to that, investors in Japan in the 1990’s were also faced with low yields on the long term government bonds. However this was a much wiser investment than buying Japanese stocks as represented by the Nikkei 225 index.

While dividend stocks would likely do much better than US Treasuries, investors should understand risks of dividend paying stocks before investing. This could provide them with the edge against investors who chase unsustainable yields and overpay for income streams.

Full Disclosure:

Relevant Articles:

- Living off dividends in retirement
- Four Percent Rule for Dividend Investing in Retirement
- Inflation Proof your income in retirement with Dividend Stocks
- The case for dividend investing in retirement

Popular Posts