Dividends for 100 Years

In this crazy world, it's hard to find things you can count on. Death and taxes, sure. Jobs, marriages, even your favorite breakfast cereal? Not so much. But there's another, more positive element you can usually rely on as well: Dividends.

Awesome track records
True, many well-regarded companies have recently done the unthinkable: reduced or eliminated their dividends. Even General Electric, incredibly enough, had to scale back its payout several months ago.

Still, many well-known companies have faithfully paid dividends for many years:

  • ExxonMobil has been paying dividends since 1908, and increasing them annually since 1984. (My colleague Joe Magyer has dubbed it "the greatest company in the history of the world.")
  • Procter & Gamble has an unbroken dividend-paying streak that goes back to 1890 (yes, 119 years), and has been hiking its dividend each year since 1957.
  • Abbott Labs recently reported its 343rd consecutive quarterly dividend. That's more than 85 years of payouts.
  • Walgreen has been paying dividends annually since 1934, and raising them annually since 1976.
  • Caterpillar has been paying a dividend since its early days in 1925.
  • General Mills has a dividend-paying history dating back to 1899.
  • McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , a relatively younger company, has been paying dividends annually since 1976.

Through thick and thin
World War I couldn't derail General Mills' dividend. The Spanish Flu didn't stop Procter & Gamble's payouts. The stock market crash of 1929 couldn't shake Caterpillar. And ExxonMobil kept on paying dividends right through the geopolitical turmoil of World War II.

Even after our latest stock market implosion, with the S&P 500 losing about 37% in a single year and almost every stock shedding value, gobs of companies kept paying their dividends. Many even raised them.

The world and the stock market can both be volatile. But many companies out there will remain very likely -- though admittedly not guaranteed -- to keep paying dividends to shareholders no matter what the world throws at them.

Dividend dynamite
In our Motley Fool CAPS community of investors, a quick stock screen for our top-rated five-star companies with yields of 2.5% or more delivers names such as these:

Company

Recent Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth Rate

PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  )

2.9%

17%

Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY  )

3.6%

25%

BP (NYSE: BP  )

5.7%

14%

SYSCO

3.5%

16%

Novartis (NYSE: NVS  )

3.2%

17%

Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR  )

3.2%

10%

3M (NYSE: MMM  )

2.6%

7%

Sources: Motley Fool CAPS and DividendInvestor.com.

You'd need to research these possibilities further, of course, but they make a good starting place. Once you add more solid dividend payers to your mix, sit back and (along with your descendants) enjoy the coming century!

Need a little more assistance in finding solid dividend players to help you sleep at night and plump up your portfolio? We'd love to introduce you to a sterling selection via a free 30-day trial of our Income Investor service. 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.

This article was originally published Oct. 2, 2009. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of PepsiCo, McDonald's, Novartis, Procter & Gamble, Emerson Electric, 3M, and General Electric. 3M and SYSCO are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and SYSCO are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. Novartis is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


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