The Simplest Place to Find Great Dividends

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Many investors have had to scurry to try to find new ways to boost their portfolio income. But some of the best dividend stocks in the world are sitting right in front of your eyes in one of the longest-tracked market benchmarks in stock market history.

Sure, you can get huge yields from some areas of the market that you may never have heard of before. Mortgage REITs are taking advantage of wide interest rate spreads to reap profits. Master limited partnerships are turning high energy and commodity prices into big income for many investors.

But if you're already retired, near retirement age, or simply too conservative to go off the deep end with sky-high yields that almost look too good to be true, you'll find a much easier hunting ground for great dividend stocks. To find it, you don't need to look any further than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

How now, Dow?
You shouldn't be too surprised to find strong dividend prospects among the Dow's components. After all, the Dow represents 30 of the nation's leading companies, encompassing a range of market sectors including health care, financial, technology, and manufacturing.

But what may surprise you is just how rich in dividends the Dow 30 lineup is. Consider the following:

  • Every single stock in the Dow Industrials pays a dividend.
  • Eleven of the 30 stocks have yields of more than 3%. All but eight yield at least 2%.
  • Several top yielding Dow stocks, including Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , and McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , have raised their dividends at an annual pace of at least 10% over the past five years. McDonald's has seen an amazingly fast 28% growth rate since 2006.

Perhaps most interestingly, at 2.4%, the Dow has one of the highest dividend yields on the whole among the most widely followed market indexes. Compare that number with the S&P 500's dividend yield of less than 2% and the Nasdaq 100's piddling 0.97% yield, and you'll get a glimpse of why the Dow Industrials are a treasure trove of good dividend-paying prospects.

Falling short of perfection
Of course, just because the overall Dow has performed well from a dividend standpoint doesn't mean that the measure hasn't had its share of failures. A host of stocks, including Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) and General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) , chose to cut their dividends in recent years, largely in response to the financial crisis. And of course, the Dow's bank stocks -- currently JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) -- still haven't fully recovered from the dividend drubbing they took in 2008 and 2009.

But all that says is that you have to be discriminating in choosing from Dow stocks in search of good long-term dividend plays. In fact, you'll find a good range of stocks for investors of all temperaments and risk tolerances. At the top of the yield spectrum, telecom stocks offer relatively limited growth potential but strong cash flow from fading legacy businesses. Cyclical stocks let you invest in the health of the U.S. and global economies. Consumer stocks have growth potential thanks to their international reach, but they also play a defensive role in stock portfolios. And of course, tech stocks like IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) and Microsoft may be past their high-growth prime, but they have plenty of opportunities left to explore and potentially cash in on.

Collect your dividends
So if you're serious about wanting to boost your portfolio's income without necessarily taking on huge amounts of risk, be sure to give the Dow Industrial stocks a second look. Whether you take on the entire set by investing in a Dow-tracking ETF like SPDR Dow Industrials or pick and choose from the menu of 30 stocks, you may find exactly the mix of risk, current income, and future growth prospects that you want to see in the stocks you own.

You'll find some Dow stocks among the 13 top dividend stocks in this free special report on great dividend stocks from the Motley Fool. See what else we like by clicking on the link here.

Tune in every Monday and Wednesday for Dan's columns on retirement, investing, and personal finance. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger likes to keep things simple. He doesn't own shares of the stocks mentioned in the article. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of and has opened a short position on Bank of America. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Pfizer, Intel, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, and Microsoft, as well as creating a diagonal call position in Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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 Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2011, at 3:06 PM, sept2749 wrote:

    Good article and good advice - especially for those close to or retired.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2011, at 7:38 AM, JCashForever wrote:

    Good post.

    Another easy place to look for dividends is the list of dividend aristocrats generated by S&P every year. The dividend aristocrats are companies that have increased their dividends every year for 25 straight years. There's no guarantee that they will continue to do so, but if they're on the list, I think it's safe to say that they aren't just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. Some of the companies are boring non-household names...but if you want a steady source of income, boring is good.

  • Report this Comment On July 21, 2011, at 8:09 AM, Geofiz wrote:

    A great way to own those companies with a long history of increasing dividends is the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG). 5 stars with Morningstar and benefits from Vanguard's usual very low expense ratio.

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