Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



Will CSX Help You Retire Rich?

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.

High energy costs have changed a lot of things for consumers around the world. Here in the U.S., expensive gasoline has forced families to cut back on discretionary spending and made many struggle to make ends meet. For commercial transportation, though, high energy prices have supported CSX (NYSE: CSX  ) and the railroad industry, as moving goods by train offers distinct gains in energy efficiency over trucks and other alternatives. With oil prices plunging in recent weeks, however, are the days of strong railroads numbered? Below, we'll revisit how CSX 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 CSX.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?

Size Market cap > $10 billion $23.5 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 3 years Fail
Stock stability Beta < 0.9 1.24 Fail
  Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20% (25.1%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 18 13.10 Pass
Dividends Current yield > 2% 2.5% Pass
  5-year dividend growth > 10% 30.0% Pass
  Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years 8 years Fail
  Payout ratio < 75% 27.1% Pass
  Total score   6 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at CSX last year, the company has kept its six-point score. After a string of strong years, the railroad has seen its shares struggle over the past year.

CSX has had to deal with big changes in demand for its services. Until recently, strength in the coal industry helped keep shipment volumes high across the industry. But low natural-gas prices that have resulted from big supplies produced from hydraulic fracturing have pushed down coal demand, especially as utilities switch to natural gas for electricity generation. Although CSX has still seen decent activity abroad, it has far greater exposure to coal as a percentage of its revenue than Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP  ) and Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU  ) .

Ironically, though, the very industry that's giving railroads some difficulty has also opened up opportunities. Even as coal shipments fall, CSX and similarly coal-dependent competitor Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC  ) have greatly boosted shipments of sand needed for hydraulic fracturing to drilling companies in the Marcellus Shale region.

CSX has done an impressive job boosting its dividends lately. With a 17% boost just last month, the railroad continues a lengthening streak of substantially higher payouts.

For retirees and other conservative investors, those dividends are arguably the most compelling thing about CSX right now. Facing headwinds, railroads may continue to struggle for a while, but smart long-term investors will see low valuations as a great opportunity to look more closely at CSX as a potential addition to their retirement portfolios.

Keep searching
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.

Add CSX to My Watchlist, which will aggregate our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. 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 Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (1)

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.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1918491, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 5/28/2016 12:03:57 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 2 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 17,873.22 44.93 0.25%
S&P 500 2,099.06 8.96 0.43%
NASD 4,933.51 31.74 0.65%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

5/27/2016 4:00 PM
CSX $25.89 Up +0.11 +0.43%
CSX CAPS Rating: *****
KSU $93.37 Down -0.05 -0.05%
Kansas City Southe… CAPS Rating: ****
NSC $84.00 Up +0.17 +0.20%
Norfolk Southern C… CAPS Rating: *****
UNP $82.97 Up +0.63 +0.77%
Union Pacific Corp CAPS Rating: *****