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Will Visa Help You Retire Rich?

http://www.fool.com/retirement/general/2012/10/25/will-visa-help-you-retire-rich.aspx

Dan Caplinger
October 25, 2012

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.

As the largest credit card network in the world, Visa (NYSE: V) has revolutionized the way we pay for things. Yet just as credit and debit cards have sought to replace the check as the primary vehicle for making payments, Visa now has to deal with the onset of payment systems that use mobile devices rather than physical plastic cards. With huge competition threatening its dominance, will Visa keep standing tall? Below, we'll revisit how Visa 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 Visa.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Size

Market cap > $10 billion

$91.3 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

0.77

Pass

 

Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%

(19%)*

Pass

Valuation

Normalized P/E < 18

24.00

Fail

Dividends

Current yield > 2%

0.6%

Fail

 

5-year dividend growth > 10%

20.3%*

Pass

 

Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years

3 years

Fail

 

Payout ratio < 75%

40.5%

Pass

       
 

Total score

 

7 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes. * Since going public in 2008.

Visa scores seven points, showing that it has much of what conservative investors like to see in a stock. Although the stock's yield is low and its valuation is somewhat rich, Visa has rewarded shareholders well over the past year with a nearly 50% gain over the past year.

Visa has been flying high lately, as the global move away from cash transactions and toward electronic payments has taken hold. With Visa taking a cut of these transactions, scale matters, and Visa's commanding lead over MasterCard (NYSE: MA) and competi