6 Dividend Winners for Patient Investors

Many investors won't settle for anything less than the best they can get right this minute. However, if you're willing to wait, rather than taking the immediate payoff, you can often find great opportunities before anyone else has even heard of them. Dividend stocks offer just one example.

Good things come to those who wait
Most people want just one thing from a dividend stock: the biggest payout possible. Some investors -- especially those who got burned chasing former high-yielding financial stocks during the market meltdown -- might qualify that answer by arguing that they want the highest sustainable payouts they can find. Nevertheless, those investors want cash, quarter after quarter -- and for the most part, they don't want to wait to get it.

If you're completely dependent on the income you get from dividend stocks, that attitude makes perfect sense. In looking for investments that will generate much-needed cash from your portfolio, dividend investors are more focused on the here and now -- and on whether the stocks they own will remain stable enough to keep cranking out their dividend payments well into the future. If a stock doesn't have a good yield today, then it wouldn't meet their needs.

So even if I showed you some dividend-paying stocks that could rank among tomorrow's highest-yielding investments, many dividend investors wouldn't be interested -- at least, not yet. But if you want to make more money over the long run, you should be.

Finding big yields before they come
When it comes to picking dividend stocks, the current high-yielders are just too obvious. There's nothing easier than looking up whatever stocks have the highest yields at any particular moment. As a potential shareholder, therefore, you have absolutely no competitive edge over any other investor when it comes to buying shares of these companies. Essentially, you're investing with the herd.

Again, that's not necessarily a problem -- if you're comfortable with the dividend herd's results. To gain an edge, though, you have to look deeper at something that doesn't pop off the stock pages. In my opinion, that edge lies in dividend growth, especially among stocks whose yields are at least still on the low side.

Gains of the second order
Here's the theory: Before any dividend stock can arrive among the highest-yielding investments out there, it has to come up through the ranks. At some point, nearly every dividend stock started out paying a relatively small amount to shareholders. Yet time after time, you'll see how over the years, those modest dividends increase and eventually represent real money to investors.

That's why I decided to look for stocks that combine strong historical dividend growth with reasonable yet modest current dividend yields. I also looked for good stock performance -- because even under challenging economic circumstances, you'd expect the best stocks to be on the upswing. Here are some of the stocks I found:

Stock

Current Yield

Annualized Dividend Growth, Past 5 Years

5-Year Average Annual Return

Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI  )

2.1%

64%

10.6%

Williams Companies (NYSE: WMB  )

1.8%

41%

7.8%

Steel Dynamics (Nasdaq: STLD  )

1.7%

39%

19%

Fastenal (Nasdaq: FAST  )

1.6%

29%

14.7%

Tiffany (NYSE: TIF  )

1.6%

24%

10%

AFLAC (NYSE: AFL  )

2%

24%

10.4%

You'll notice that most of these stocks aren't well-known big-name blue chip companies. If you look closely, you'll find a few that match up with these companies -- Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) is perhaps the best example, with dividend growth of nearly 29% per year since 2005. But for the most part, companies with dividends that are rising quickly are small companies that aren't on the radar screens of most income investors. Or at least, they aren't yet.

Get there first
With yields around 2%, these stocks definitely aren't the highest-yielding stocks you can find. But they aren't dividend slackers, either, with yields close to the S&P's average of 1.8%.

More importantly, though, each of those companies has demonstrated a desire to share its success with its shareholders through higher dividends. With a solid track record behind them, you can expect each of these stocks to follow through on its promise, and eventually take its place among the investments offering the richest payouts. That's definitely something worth waiting for.

If income is what you crave, read on -- Fool contributor Anand Chokkavelu has one pretty darn compelling stock for you.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is less patient at airports than with his stocks. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. AFLAC is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. The Fool owns shares of Intel, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy won't keep you waiting.


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  • Report this Comment On April 12, 2010, at 10:51 AM, wjcoffman wrote:

    I'm probably missing the point. If you're purely after dividend yield, why waste years of dividend income on the up and comers if you can buy the here and nows? If your here and nows are solid companies, purchased using the same guidelines as used for buying the up and comers, aren't you sacrificing some unknown number of years of dividend income?

    Now, if you're buying the up and comers because of their stock price growth potential then I'm with you. You can buy into their growth period while waiting for the dividend yield to increase. Then you'd have the price growth to offset your sacrifice in yield.

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