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# Double Your Dividends in 6 Years

Wells Fargo cut its dividend back in March. At the time, it was yielding nearly 10% -- a figure that turned out to be too good to be true.

I didn't own Wells Fargo at the time (and don't today), but I can sympathize with shareholders. A while back, lured by a juicy yield, I bought shares of International Paper ... not long before the company reduced its dividend by 90%.

Ouch
Though you should view double-digit yielders with a raised eyebrow, high yields aren't dangerous in and of themselves. However, rather than chasing companies that offer the fattest payouts, you'll do better to focus on dividend growth instead.

You can double your dividends, and double the yield you enjoy on the price you paid for your stock, just by being patient. How? Healthy, growing companies not only tend to pay out sizable dividends, but also to increase those dividends over time.

Math trick time
You can use the handy "Rule of 72" to see how long it will take to double your yield. Divide the number 72 by the expected growth rate, and you'll get the number of years it'll take for your yield to double. For example, a stock whose dividend grows at 12% annually would double your effective yield in six years.

Let's try the Rule of 72 on some real-world examples:

Company

Dividend Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth

Vale (NYSE: VALE  )

1.9%

31%

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  )

3.1%

14%

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  )

3.9%

18%

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  )

2.8%

47%

Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  )

3.1%

12%

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  )

2.2%

21%

Home Depot (NYSE: HD  )

3.3%

28%

Source: MSN Money.

If we assume that (1) Johnson & Johnson averages dividend growth of just 12% over the coming years, and (2) you're earning a 3.3% yield on your cost, then in six years, your yield will double to roughly 6.6%. Six years later, it'll top 12%. In 20 years, you'll be reaping a yield that represents more than 30% of your original purchase price.

If you'd invested \$10,000, you'd be raking in more than \$3,000 yearly. With a little luck, the stock's actual price will also have appreciated over 20 years. That one-two punch is hard to beat.

Foolish final thoughts
Remember that high yielders with slow growth might not be as attractive as average yielders with high growth. While some in the former group may be relatively safe dividend payers, other dividend payouts aren't so sustainable.

That's why you shouldn't just go out chasing high yields. Never assume that two companies offering 4% yields are largely the same, dividend-wise. For long-term investors, dividend growth matters.

So, where do you find stocks with healthy, growing, sustainable yields? You're in luck -- now is a very attractive time to buy dividend payers. Companies you may have wanted to own anyway are now offering more attractive prices (with better yields, in some cases) than they were a year or two ago.

Of the names highlighted in the above table, Vale, Conoco, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson have earned top five-star ratings in our CAPS community of investors (and most of the others have earned impressive ratings). If you'd like some help identifying dividend dynamos, we'd love to introduce you to many promising dividend payers via our Income Investor service with a free 30-day trial. On average, Income Investor's 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.

This article was originally published on June 8, 2009. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot. Home Depot, Intel, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

• ###### Report this Comment On October 13, 2009, at 3:32 PM, daddyurafool wrote:

S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats highest dividend stocks top 50:

http://www.TopYields.nl/Top-dividend-yields-of-Dividend-Aris...

• ###### Report this Comment On October 13, 2009, at 4:18 PM, pondee619 wrote:

Prior to their cut, what was the dividend growth record of:

Wells Fargo?

International Paper?

GE?

Bank of America?

any other company that cut their dividend in the past 18 months?

• ###### Report this Comment On October 15, 2009, at 10:41 AM, pondee619 wrote:

Why would one be lured by a "juicy" dividend that has remained static for the past five years? (IP)

Selena; did you not answer my question because the answer runs counter to the thesis of your story? Dividend growth tells you nothing about the future. Your story says nothing about finding those increasing dividends that are sustainable and those that are about to be cut. BAC doubled its dividend in the five years (or so) prior to its drastic cut. Wells Fargo and GE increased by at least 50% prior to their cuts. Pointing out rising dividends as a positive without anything more is less than helpful, if not deceptive. Shouldn't we expect more from the Fool? Perhaps not.

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Selena Maranjian
TMFSelena

Selena Maranjian has been writing for the Fool since 1996 and covers basic investing and personal finance topics. She also prepares the Fool's syndicated newspaper column and has written or co-written a number of Fool books. For more financial and non-financial fare (as well as silly things), follow her on Twitter...

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