Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.
Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) has faced the same challenge that many of its fellow defense contractors are dealing with -- namely, how to make do with a falling defense budget. Lockheed has many essential systems that the military relies on, so it isn't in any danger of disappearing. But as the pie shrinks, established players will increasingly try to poach each other's turf. How will Lockheed deal with that trend? Below, we'll revisit how Lockheed Martin does on our 10-point scale.
The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.
Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.
When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:
- Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
- Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
- Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
- Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
- Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.
With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Lockheed Martin.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Size||Market cap > $10 billion||$29 billion||Pass|
|Consistency||Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years||4 years||Pass|
|Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years||4 years||Pass|
|Stock stability||Beta < 0.9||0.91||Fail|
|Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%||(18.6%)||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 18||12.92||Pass|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||4.4%||Pass|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||21.1%||Pass|
|Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years||9 years||Fail|
|Payout ratio < 75%||41.2%||Pass|
|Total score||8 out of 10|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at Lockheed Martin last year, the company has kept its eight-point score. Overall, the company seems to be dealing well with budget cuts, but it will have to stay vigilant as the situation evolves further.
Lockheed has always had a strong presence in the defense industry, with its current huge project being the F-35 fighter jet program. Unfortunately, the Defense Department has postponed a big part of its planned F-35 purchase, and other countries, including Italy and Japan, may follow suit with deferrals or cancellations of their own.
With the F-35 being a major target of potential cuts, the company is looking for ways to find growth elsewhere. The company is hoping to win the right to develop a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, although its prototype, like those of General Dynamics (NYSE: GD ) and Navistar (NYSE: NAV ) , has proven unwieldy and overly heavy. However, its existing F-16 program stands to gain from delays in the F-35, and problems with spy planes made by Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC ) have led the Air Force to keep Lockheed-built U-2 planes in service longer than anyone expected.
Some are speculating that growth could come via acquisitions. Last week, Esterline Technologies (NYSE: ESL ) rose on the idea that Lockheed might be among possible candidates to buy out the aerospace and defense parts supplier.
For retirees and other conservative investors, a steadily rising dividend has been good news. But all eyes have to look to the future to see if the company can survive the budget cuts intact. Retirement investors have to be willing to take on some risk to buy Lockheed shares, even at the attractive valuation the stock offers now.
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.
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