Dividends for 100 Years

In this crazy world, it's hard to find things you can count on, isn't it? After all, jobs come and go, your favorite breakfast cereals get discontinued, and even marriages end sometimes. Sure, you can count on death and taxes, but come on -- who wants to?

Fortunately, there is something valuable that you can count on, at least most of the time: dividends.

I know, I know. That's an easy statement to rebut, given that so many well-regarded companies have recently done the unthinkable and reduced or eliminated their dividends -- like General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , incredibly enough, which had to reduce its payout several months ago.

Awesome track records
Still, the fact remains that many well-known companies have been faithfully paying dividends for many years. Check these out:

  • ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) has been paying dividends since 1908, and has been increasing them annually since 1984. (My colleague Joe Magyer has dubbed it "the greatest company in the history of the world.")
  • Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) has an unbroken dividend-paying streak that goes back to 1890 (yes, 119 years), and has been hiking its dividend annually since 1957.
  • Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) recently reported its 342nd consecutive quarterly dividend. That's more than 85 years.
  • Walgreen (NYSE: WAG  ) has been paying dividends annually since 1934 and has been raising them annually since 1976.
  • Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) has been paying a dividend since its early days in 1925.
  • General Mills (NYSE: GIS  ) has a dividend-paying history that goes back to the 19th century -- 1899.
  • McDonald's, a relatively younger company, has been paying dividends annually since 1976.

Through thick and thin
Let's put these payments in context. Think back through history a little.

  • Think of World War I, which caused massive global chaos and more than 15 million deaths. It came and went, and General Mills kept on paying its dividend.
  • Think of the great flu epidemic of 1918, which took many more lives -- between 20 million and 40 million! A fifth of the whole world's population was affected, and the average American lifespan shrank by a full 10 years. Yet Procter & Gamble didn't interrupt its dividend.
  • Think of the great stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. It wasn't enough to interrupt Caterpillar's dividends.
  • Then there was World War II. A mind-bogglingly huge affair, derailing and transforming economies and geopolitics, with between 35 million and 60 million dead. ExxonMobil's forebears kept up the dividend throughout it all.

And more recently, think of our latest stock market implosion, with the S&P 500 losing about 37% in a single year and almost every stock losing value. Yet gobs of companies kept paying their dividends and many even raised them.

What to do
So I think you get the point now. Sure, the stock market can be volatile, as can our political and economic environments. But there are still many companies out there that are very likely to keep paying their dividends to shareholders. It's never guaranteed, but it's fairly likely.

To help you sleep at night, and to plump up your portfolio, consider adding some solid dividend payers to your mix of stocks. We'd love to introduce you to many via our Income Investor service, which you can try for free. On average, its picks are beating the market handily, and they boast an average dividend yield of more than 5%. Click here to learn more about a free trial.

Or research some on your own. In our Motley Fool CAPS community of investors, a quick stock screen for five-star (out of five) companies with yields of 2.5% or more delivers names such as these:

Company

Recent Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth Rate

PepsiCo

3.1%

17%

Taiwan Semiconductor

3.4%

N/A

Novartis

3.5%

17%

Sysco

3.9%

14%

Data: Motley Fool CAPS.

You'd need to research them further, of course, but it's a good starting place. Once you add more solid dividend payers to your mix, sit back -- and, along with your descendants -- enjoy the coming 100 years!

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, Novartis, and General Electric. Sysco is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Sysco are Income Investor selections. Novartis AG is a Global Gains recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble and Sysco. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


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