There are plenty of stocks on the S&P 500 with impressive dividend growth. In fact, the well-known S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats index was created to track the performance of index components that have raised their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years. However, if you're wondering what are the best of the best S&P 500 stocks in terms of dividend growth, here are the 10 with the longest records of consistently growing their dividends.

Money Growing

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The 10 longest-growing dividend stocks on the S&P 500

I won't keep you in suspense. Here are the top 10 stocks on the S&P, based on the number of consecutive years each company has increased its dividend.

Company

Symbol

Industry

Consecutive Years of Dividend Growth

Dividend Yield

Dover Corp.

NYSE: DOV

Machinery

60

2.32%

Procter & Gamble

NYSE: PG

Personal products

59

3.18%

Emerson Electric

NYSE: EMR

Electric utilities

59

3.37%

Genuine Parts

NYSE: GPC

Specialty retail

59

2.69%

3M Corporation

NYSE: MMM

Conglomerate

57

2.49%

Parker-Hannifin

NYSE: PH

Conglomerate

56

1.77%

Cincinnati Financial

NASDAQ: CINF

Insurance

55

2.52%

Coca-Cola

NYSE: KO

Beverages

53

3.37%

Johnson & Johnson

NYSE: JNJ

Health care

53

2.78%

Lowe's

NYSE: LOW

Home improvement retail

53

1.89%

Data source: www.Dividend.com.

Why is dividend growth so important?

Why am I making such a big deal out of the stocks that have done the best job of increasing their dividends? Simply put, dividends provide you with income. Dividends that grow provide you with income that can outpace inflation, and when reinvested, growing dividends have some serious compounding power over the long run.

To illustrate why this is so important, let's say that you invest $10,000 in Company X, which has a dividend yield of 4%, and has historically increased its payout at a 6% annualized rate. Assuming annual share price growth of 6%, this means that your investment would grow to $281,000 after 35 years. What's more, your investment would now be generating dividend income of $11,240 per year -- more than you paid for the shares in the first place.

Although this is a simplified example, it shows the compounding power of growing dividends -- as well as the importance of dividend reinvestment -- to long-term investment performance.

Best buys on this list?

To be fair, any stock with a 20-plus year record of growing its dividend has built up an impressive track record, so I'm not saying you need to stick to this list. The difference between a 20-year dividend grower and a 50-year dividend grower is not much, all other factors being equal.

That said, from the list above I do have a couple of favorites as we head into 2017:

Lowe's (NYSE:LOW) could be a big beneficiary of the upcoming Donald Trump presidency, especially if he follows through with his infrastructure spending and other growth plans. After all, job creation and wage growth translate to more cash available for remodeling and other home improvement activity.

Although Lowe's dividend yield of 1.9% is one of the lowest on the list, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the company has increased its dividend at an annualized rate of more than 20% for the past five years. Also, the current dividend represents just 31% of next fiscal year's expected earnings. In other words, there's a lot more room to increase the payout ratio. Finally, remember that a dividend is just one way to return capital to shareholders. Lowe's has an aggressive share buyback program, and has reduced its outstanding share count by nearly 20% since 2013.

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) is another favorite of mine for long-term investors. The company has been in business for almost 180 years, and its product portfolio is full of rock-solid brand names such as Tide, Gillette, Crest, and Charmin, just to name a few. Procter & Gamble has a widespread global presence, and more than half of the company's sales come from outside of the U.S. Management is shifting its focus to core, high-margin products, which should help boost profitability over the coming years.

As far as the dividend goes, Procter & Gamble has increased its payout at a 9.9% annualized rate over the past 20 years -- impressive for such a long time period.

The bottom line is that while these two are my current favorites on the list, it's hard to go wrong with stocks that have managed to raise their dividend every year for more than a half century -- during wars, recessions, and everything else that's happened. A well-crafted portfolio of dividend-growth stocks is the most certain path to long-term wealth, so these may be worth a closer look.

Matthew Frankel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola, Emerson Electric, and Johnson and Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.