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.
Like it or not, most people need insurance. Chubb (NYSE: CB ) is a company that provides a wide range of insurance coverage in areas ranging from auto and home insurance to business services like workers' compensation and commercial insurance coverage. But with the insurance industry having taken big hits last year due to catastrophic weather events and natural disasters, has Chubb handled the damage well? Below, we'll revisit how Chubb 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 Chubb.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Size||Market cap > $10 billion||$19.5 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||1 year||Fail|
|Stock stability||Beta < 0.9||0.51||Pass|
|Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%||(4.1%)||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 18||13.70||Pass|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||2.3%||Pass|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||2.4%||Fail|
|Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years||47 years||Pass|
|Payout ratio < 75%||27.0%||Pass|
|Total score||8 out of 10|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at Chubb last year, the company has kept the same eight-point score. Better revenue growth has made up for slower dividend growth, but the insurance company has done well in a tough year.
The rising incidence of natural disasters recently has led some to fear that higher losses for insurance companies are here to stay. Yet while that has pressured shares of Loews (NYSE: L ) and some other insurers, Chubb's stock has held up relatively well, reflecting optimism about the future. In fact, with Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) having reported good results due to rising insurance rates, Chubb could be primed to benefit from higher revenue resulting from the bad loss season last year.
But one thing that Chubb hasn't really done is to grow its business. As Fool contributor Sean Williams points out, Chubb's revenue has stayed constant for years, and big share repurchases have been the big growth driver for earnings. That's obviously better than the massive contraction in business that AIG (NYSE: AIG ) has seen in recent years after divesting itself of several divisions in order to survive -- but it's not the best recipe for healthy, dependable growth.
For retirees and other conservative investors, a nearly half-century record of annual dividend increases is the perfect recipe for success. As long as you're comfortable that Chubb's stagnant revenue reflects smart, conservative business practices rather than a threat to its long-term viability, then Chubb may be an attractive choice for your retirement portfolio.
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.
If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.
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