The real-money Inflation-Protected Income Growth portfolio passed an important milestone since last week's update, reaching $10,000 in investing returns since its December 2012 launch. As of this Friday's close, the IPIG portfolio was worth $40,415.42, about $10,400 ahead of the $30,000 it started with.

While $10,000 in returns represents a nice and psychologically interesting round number, the reality is that it's just as meaningless as the celebrations over Dow 10,000 when that index crossed that mark. For one thing, that total return benchmarks as about average since the portfolio's launch. The following table compares the IPIG portfolio's returns with the S&P 500 index and to the Spiders (NYSEMKT:SPY), a low-cost ETF that tracks that index and includes dividend payments:


Return Since iPIG Inception

S&P 500 Index


iPIG Portfolio


SPY, Dividends as Cash


SPY, Dividends Reinvested


Data from the IPIG portfolio brokerage account and Yahoo! Finance, as of Feb. 28. 2014. 

What really counts
Perhaps more important than the portfolio's performance versus the overall market, however, is its performance versus its objective. Since launch -- and continuing today -- the IPIG portfolio has been designed to seek an income stream that increases to combat inflation. Fighting inflation is a long-term battle, but at least in these early rounds, the IPIG portfolio is doing very well at meeting that key objective.

Two IPIG selections stand out in February for their dividend performance -- toymaker Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS) and delivery titan UPS (NYSE:UPS). Both companies had troubles during the all-important holiday shopping season, but both managed to deliver solid dividend increases this February.

Hasbro's 2013 holiday quarter earning came in almost 7% below its 2012 holiday quarter -- and virtually 9% below expectations. For a toy company, there's not much more important than being there to help Santa Claus on his annual journey. Hasbro could have used that earnings miss as a reason to hold off from increasing its dividend. Instead, it declared a $0.43 dividend, a 7.5% increase from its $0.40 prior dividend. 

UPS also failed to deliver over the holiday season -- literally. Its network got overloaded by a last-minute surge in demand, which caused it to miss delivering some goodies in time for Christmas. In spite of that slip-up, UPS managed to increase its quarterly dividend in February to $0.67, up 8% from the $0.62 it had paid previously. 

Time -- and ongoing results -- will tell whether UPS and Hasbro can continue to pay and increase their dividends. Still, the fact remains that both companies undertook the effort and expense to raise those payments in spite of their recent troubles. If nothing else, those increases in tough times should show the potential of a dividend-growth oriented strategy to shine when things are going well.

Broad strength
Across the entire IPIG portfolio, all but two of the picks have increased their dividends since being selected -- typically by much more than the inflation rate. The two that haven't are banking titan Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and lawn-care giant Scotts Miracle-Gro (NYSE:SMG). Even that's not a real problem, as the two have increased their dividends within the past year. Only their relative newness in the IPIG portfolio has kept the portfolio from seeing the benefits of those increases.

Indeed, Wells Fargo has already declared its intent to seek permission from the Federal Reserve to increase its dividend in 2014. While dividends are never guaranteed, Wells Fargo's public declaration is a signal of its confidence in its ability to deliver an increase.

While Scotts Miracle-Gro hasn't been so bold as to project a dividend increase, it did recently indicate that it believes itself to be on track for a solid 2014. As a lawn and garden company, its strong season should be coming up soon as spring and summer approach. Still, the company's projection that it will earn between $3.05 and $3.20 for its fiscal year 2014 puts it on track to beat its fiscal year 2013 operating earnings. That suggests that the company at least will have the potential to provide an increase in 2014

Together, they're a portfolio that delivers
Put together a series of companies that each have a history of increasing their dividends and look capable of continuing that trend, and you might wind up with something like the IPIG portfolio. As of Friday's close, the overall portfolio looked like this:

Company Name

Purchase Date

Total Investment (Including Commissions)

Current Value
Feb. 28, 2014

Current Yield
Feb. 28, 2014

United Technologies

Dec. 10, 2012




Teva Pharmaceutical

Dec. 12, 2012




J.M. Smucker

Dec. 13, 2012




Genuine Parts

Dec. 21, 2012




Mine Safety Appliances

Dec. 21, 2012





Dec. 26, 2012





Dec. 28, 2012





Jan. 2, 2013





Jan. 4, 2013




Texas Instruments

Jan. 7, 2013




Union Pacific

Jan. 22, 2013





Jan. 22, 2013





Jan. 24, 2013




Becton, Dickinson

Jan. 31, 2013





Feb. 5, 2013




Air Products & Chemicals

Feb. 11, 2013





Feb. 22, 2013




Emerson Electric

April 3, 2013




Wells Fargo

May 30, 2013




Kinder Morgan

June 21, 2013




Scotts Miracle-Gro

Jan. 3, 2014








Total Portfolio




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Chuck Saletta owns shares of Aflac; Air Products & Chemicals; Becton, Dickinson; CSX; Emerson Electric; Genuine Parts; Hasbro; J.M. Smucker; Kinder Morgan; McDonald's; Microsoft; Mine Safety Appliances; Raytheon; Teva Pharmaceutical; Texas Instruments; Union Pacific; UPS; United Technologies; Walgreen; and Wells Fargo.

The Motley Fool recommends Aflac; Becton, Dickinson; Emerson Electric; Hasbro; Kinder Morgan; McDonald's; Mine Safety Appliances; Scotts Miracle-Gro; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries; UPS; and Wells Fargo. The Fool owns shares of CSX, Hasbro, Kinder Morgan, McDonald's, Microsoft, Raytheon, and Wells Fargo.

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