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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.
We all need a little spice in our lives, but McCormick (NYSE: MKC ) takes things a step beyond what most people think of when they see that maxim. By providing a variety of well-known spices, McCormick has been making its customers happy for well over a century. But as food prices rise, the impact on the spice giant seems uncertain. Will prevailing trends help or hurt the company? Below, we'll revisit how McCormick 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 McCormick.
What We Want to See
Pass or Fail?
|Size||Market cap > $10 billion||$8.02 billion||Fail|
|Consistency||Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years||5 years||Pass|
|Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years||3 years||Fail|
|Stock stability||Beta < 0.9||0.42||Pass|
|Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%||(13.8%)||Pass|
|Valuation||Normalized P/E < 18||24.40||Fail|
|Dividends||Current yield > 2%||2%||Pass|
|5-year dividend growth > 10%||10.3%||Pass|
|Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years||26 years||Pass|
|Payout ratio < 75%||41.4%||Pass|
|Total score||7 out of 10|
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.
Since we looked at McCormick last year, the company managed to boost its score by a point. Shareholders are even happier, though, with a healthy 30% gain in the stock over the past year.
McCormick is a great example of how a simple company can be a great investment. Simply by selling seasoning mixes, extracts, and food colors, McCormick has earned its place within millions of American homes.
Yet McCormick isn't just a play on the U.S.; it also has plenty of international prospects. The company has been exceedingly successful in penetrating the Chinese business world and has also made deals to acquire valuable distribution networks in India and across central and eastern Europe. That's something to be proud of, as iconic soup maker Campbell (NYSE: CPB ) gave up on trying to sell in Russia and will try its hand in China.
McCormick can also benefit from the success of its corporate customers. PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) is among its largest customers, and other food- and snack-oriented companies, including Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM ) and General Mills (NYSE: GIS ) , have relied on McCormick for spice and other solutions for improving their food offerings. Corporate customers offer lower margins, but McCormick has worked to keep its best customers while dropping less profitable clients.
For retirees and other conservative investors, McCormick's small size may be a deterrent at first. But a healthy dividend with a quarter-century track record of increases is extremely attractive. Waiting for a pullback before buying may be prudent, but eventually, you'll probably want to have McCormick among the stocks in 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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