Yes, dividend investing is popular. Last year, Congress extended legislation that maintains the low tax rate on many corporate payouts through 2012. A great place to look for dividend stalwarts is among those companies that have successfully paid out cash for decades.
The authoritative list of Dividend Champions is compiled by the DRiP Investing Resource Center annually and features those companies that have increased dividends for more than 25 years straight. The latest list details about 100 companies that have met the center's criteria, and these companies need not be part of the S&P 500 in order to qualify, unlike the Dividend Aristocrats index.
Below I highlight the 25 highest-yielding Dividend Champions in rank order by yield. I've also included the number of years that they've raised their dividends:
Number of Years Raised
|CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL )||8.7%||37|
|Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI )||8.2%||29|
|Old Republic International (NYSE: ORI )||7.5%||30|
|Cincinnati Financial (Nasdaq: CINF )||6.7%||50|
|Washington Real Estate Investment Trust (NYSE: WRE )||6.3%||39|
|Altria (NYSE: MO )||6.2%||42|
|AT&T (NYSE: T )||6.2%||27|
|HCP (NYSE: HCP )||6.1%||26|
|Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG )||6%||39|
|United Bankshares (Nasdaq: UBSI )||5.9%||37|
|Vectren (NYSE: VVC )||5.6%||51|
|Universal Corp. (NYSE: UVV )||5.4%||40|
|Black Hills (NYSE: BKH )||5.2%||41|
|Community Trust Bancorp (Nasdaq: CTBI )||5%||31|
|RPM International (NYSE: RPM )||4.6%||37|
|Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED )||4.6%||37|
|Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB )||4.5%||39|
|Nucor (NYSE: NUE )||4.5%||38|
|Diebold (NYSE: DBD )||4.3%||58|
|WGL Holdings (NYSE: WGL )||4.3%||35|
|Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY )||4.3%||33|
|Middlesex Water (Nasdaq: MSEX )||4.2%||38|
|Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE: NWN )||4.2%||55|
|Sonoco Products (NYSE: SON )||4.1%||28|
Source: Dripinvesting.org. As of August 11, 2011.
Given their strong track records, these stocks are a great place to begin your research, but they're not formal recommendations. High yields could be time bombs, and that really attractive high yield could suddenly die. So investigate such companies thoroughly and diversify across sectors, no matter how delicious that dividend looks.