Go on, admit it! There's nothing to be ashamed about. You love huge dividends.
In uncertain times, it's great to have the security of dividends from stalwarts, and the bigger the payout, the better. But not only does it feel good: In fact, you have tons of research on your side. High-yielding stocks lead to attractive returns over the long term, according to a Tweedy, Browne review of the literature.
Below I highlight a few high-yield stocks that you should consider owning for decades, and I'll offer you free access to a Fool tool that can help you stay updated on these dividend dynamos. So go on and love these high yielders!
It's not just academic
Investment manager Tweedy, Browne looked at a range of studies -- both from researchers and actual investors -- that examined the returns of high yields across various eras. The upshot? According to Tweedy:
- "There is substantial empirical evidence to support a direct correlation between high dividend yields and attractive total returns."
- "At least one study demonstrated that the returns associated with market-beating high dividend yield stocks were also less volatile in terms of the standard deviation of returns."
- "At least one study found that high dividend yield stocks outperformed other value strategies as well as the overall stock market return in declining markets."
So there you have it, the advantages of high-yield stocks -- good total returns, less volatility, and better downside protection. That's a great advantage for investors building a portfolio for the long term.
Importantly, Tweedy also notes that three studies show that the best returns were gained not by the highest-yielding tier of stocks but rather by the second-highest tier. High-yield investing is not simply buying the fattest dividends on the market, since enormous yields tend to signify that investors have lost confidence in the stock, often for good reason.
For example, wireline communications provider Frontier Communications (NYSE: FTR ) offers a 9.3% yield currently. And while I've said before that it's a good near-term pick as the stock appreciates and can cover its payout, the long-term prospects of that sector are not nearly so attractive as competition intensifies. Instead, it's important to focus on high sustainable yields and businesses with solid prospects.
The high-yield contenders
So let's take a look at six companies that I think you should consider owning for decades. Each company here has a stable franchise and a solid future. In addition, they all sport manageable payout ratios and have shown an ability to grow their payouts over time.
5-Year Dividend Growth Rate
|Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM )||4.0%||25.9%*||50.7%|
|McDonald's (NYSE: MCD )||3.3%||27.5%||57.3%|
|Vodafone (NYSE: VOD )||4.8%||11.3%||55.3%|
|Exelon (NYSE: EXC )||5.1%||5.6%||72.4%|
|Plum Creek Timber (NYSE: PCL )||4.0%||2.0%||72.0%|
|National Grid (NYSE: NGG )||6.6%||7.5%||40.9%|
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
* Two-year average growth rate, since the company was spun off.
Those yields are certainly on the high end, but they're not the exorbitant numbers put up by mortgage REITs such as Annaly Capital or wireline players such as Frontier, dividends that are sure to decline once times change.
Philip Morris markets the world's best-known tobacco brand, Marlboro, across the globe. The company is dominant, with 27% of global share (ex. China and the U.S.) Philip Morris sports enormous 41% operating margins and has returned $30 billion to shareholders via dividend and buybacks since it was spun off in 2008. With its strong brands and government regulation acting as barriers to entry, Philip Morris looks poised to continue its dominance.
We all know the Golden Arches for its burgers and fries, but McDonald's should also be known for its increased commitment to dividend investors in recent years, fattening its payout by 27% per year over the last half-decade. McDonald's has been taking steps to unlock value, including refranchising locations and expanding internationally. In addition, the company has a spate of hidden assets, which I detail here.
Vodafone provides mobile communications across the world, serving some 300 million customers, but it's primarily focused on Europe. Perhaps that's why shares trade at just 8 times earnings. I like the prodigious cash flow, which looks set to grow even more as Vodafone's 45% stake in Verizon Wireless begins to pay dividends in the near future. That's what has investor David Einhorn interested enough to buy a stake here.
With all the furor over nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake, you might think that nuclear was dead. Not likely. As one of America's largest utilities, Exelon relies heavily on nuclear power. It's been sitting at five-year lows for the last year -- all the while gushing out its huge dividend.
Plum Creek's dividend growth doesn't look as spectacular as some of the other players' here, and this manager of timberlands has had a rough time in recent years. It's been hurt by the downturn in housing, but there's still a lot to like. Plum Creek is the largest private landowner in the U.S., and timber -- unlike other commodities -- grows in volume each year, about 7%. Also nice, the dividend is treated primarily as a long-term capital gain, despite the fact that Plum Creek is a REIT.
I've called National Grid an outstanding dividend stock and followed through on my commitment to buy shares in the utility, as Fool Rules permitted. The company offers vital infrastructure assets in the U.S. and U.K., and earns a regulated return on its investments as a utility. The payout here is nice, and the company has said that it will plump those dividends by 8% for the next couple of years. The high yield and stable assets make this a juicy play.
A cool Fool tool
These dividend stocks look poised to deliver years and years of great returns, and we can help you keep tabs on your companies with MyWatchlist.com, our free, personalized stock-tracking service. You'll get access to our Foolish content on every stock on your list. Just click on the name to add these companies to your Watchlist: Philip Morris, McDonald's, Vodafone, Exelon, Plum Creek, and National Grid.
What's your personal story on the power of compounding dividends? Have you turned a relatively small initial investment into a dividend dynamo? So many investors have these success stories. What's yours?