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Should You Buy and Hold Chico's?

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Being able to retire rich, or at least comfortable, is the goal of almost any investor. However, it's much easier said than done. In a recent Wells Fargo survey, respondents between the ages of 50-59 said that they had, on average, about $29,000 saved up. With pensions all but gone, and Social Security targeted for cuts in the future, it's hard to count on anyone but yourself. But $29,000 isn't going to cut it for most people, so you've got to get involved in the stock market in order to grow that nest egg. Getting in the game is the easy part; choosing the right stocks is the hard part.

Making prudent decisions
Generally speaking, I look for four traits in a retirement stock:

  1. Valuation: Investors of all ages want to make sure they're not overpaying for a stock, but this matters even more in retirement. Retirees don't have the long time horizon that younger investors have, so it's essential to make sure you don't overpay in the short term.
  2. Dividends: Most retirees need a combination of both growth and income, as they'll be depending more and more on their portfolio to help with everyday expenses. Companies that pay dividends not only offer immediate income, but they've also proven to outperform non-paying dividend companies over long periods of time.
  3. Growth: Investors love dividends, but everyone wants to see their stocks rise over time. Growth can be as big a part of your portfolio as a steady dividend. It's important to note that you don't need a high-flying stock that's going to shoot to the moon; a company that can grow and outperform the market is hard enough to find, so steady growth is highly covetable.
  4. Low volatility: Retirees want to invest in great growth stocks just as much as anyone else, but they also want to be able to rest well knowing that their portfolio won't be taking them on a roller-coaster ride. At the end of the day, most retirees would rather own a sturdy company that lets them sleep at night than a company that whips up and down with the gyrations of the market.

Although some companies are definitely more geared toward retirees, which companies you choose to invest in will be dictated largely by what you already have in your portfolio. Small, mid, and large caps can all play a role in your investing strategy, so I chose to evaluate all varieties of stocks in this regular series.

So how does Chico's stack up?
In order to check out the valuation of Chico's (NYSE: CHS  ) , we don't want to look at only its P/E ratio of 20.6. That may seem expensive, but really we don't know without looking at the ratio in historical context. Over the last five years, Chico's average P/E ratio has been 34.6, which is greater than the current ratio. This suggests that investors could be seeing an opportunity to buy Chico's on the cheap right now.

Chico's dividend is 1.4%. This might not seem like a whole lot right now, but that dividend has room to grow, so I wouldn't discount its importance. Getting a dividend at all shows a company's dedication to its shareholders, and that's significant.

Next, we want to ensure that the company's stock has the ability to rise over the next five, 10, or 20 years. A company that's growing its net income has the best possible chance to see its share price rise over time. Of course, we can't predict the future, but we can look back to get an idea of how the company has performed in the past in order to try to ensure future earnings growth. Over the past five years, Chico's has shrunk its net income by 8.8% annually. Unfortunately, Chico's  has run into its own share of problems, and the financial collapse of 2008 certainly couldn't have helped, either. So the company has been unable to grow earnings, which doesn't exactly mean that it won't in the future, but it's certainly not the greatest of signs.

One of the best measures of volatility is called beta. Beta measures the impact that the movement of the stock market will have on a particular stock. For instance, a beta of 1.0 signifies that Chico's will move in tandem with the market; a beta of 2.0 means that the stock will move up twice as much as the general market, and vice versa. In this particular case, Chico's has a beta of 1.0, which is about average. Generally speaking, I like to see a beta below 1.2 for retirees. In this case, Chico's fits the bill.

Let's look at the competition
We've taken a look at Chico's, and maybe you think it's passed all the tests, or maybe you just don't feel comfortable with the results. Either way, it's beneficial to see how a company stacks up in its industry, because it's just as important to understand a company's competitors as it is to understand that particular company. Here are the company's stats when compared with three of its closest competitors:

Company

Current P/E

Dividend Yield

5-Year Net Income CAGR

1-Year Beta

Chico's 20.6 1.4% (8.8%) 1.0
Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD  ) 16.4 1.9% 4.2% 1.1
The Talbots (NYSE: TLB  ) 45.8 0% (35.0%) 1.4
ANN INC (NYSE: ANN  ) 24.8 0% (2.2%) 1.7

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Each company has traits to like and traits left to be desired. Either way, it's beneficial to look at the industry picture and not just Chico's in isolation.

Of course, I can't decide for you whether this is the best stock for retirement, but it has passed three of the four tests, which is pretty impressive. Depending on which traits are most important for you, you'd be wise to look further into this stock for your portfolio.

Interested in adding any of the companies above to your watchlist? Click below to get the latest commentary and analysis.

Jordan DiPietro owns no shares. The Fool owns shares of Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Limited Brands. 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 (2) | Recommend This Article (2)

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 June 13, 2011, at 12:31 PM, CromulentBrad wrote:

    number heavy articles like this drive me up a wall. has the author stepped foot into a chico's store lately? does he shop there? does he know anything about their product or target market? is he aware of the overhaul in image the company is trying to create? has he been to a mall lately? there are only 1,000 competitors fighting for market share in women's clothing.

    unless you can speak to the real world factors of what is actually happening, i think all the numbers in the world are worthless.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2011, at 8:05 AM, BBRAF wrote:

    I believe that chs has weathered the recession very well.It lost a lot of market value because it was growing very fast before the receesion and the growth came to halt.The stock was mercilessly punished but the company came out of it with half a billion of cash and it has started to run again while talbot and others are struggling to stay alive.As jukebox says go visit the stores.I believe the stock will double in a year.

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Related Tickers

8/22/2014 4:02 PM
CHS $15.95 Up +0.09 +0.57%
Chico's FAS, Inc. CAPS Rating: **
ANN $37.52 Down -1.29 -3.32%
ANN Inc. CAPS Rating: **
LB $63.90 Up +0.18 +0.28%
L Brands CAPS Rating: ***
TLB.DL $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
The Talbots, Inc. CAPS Rating: *

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