For many, retirement brings a shift from building a nest egg to living off of their nest egg. That transition changes the investing equation in a big way, with income and dividends taking center stage. If you're in that situation, then U.S. midstream industry giant Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE:EPD) is your dream stock. Here's why.

Steady as she goes

One of the first things that should catch your eye about Enterprise is its impressive dividend history. For example, the partnership's distribution has been increased every year for 20 consecutive years. But hidden in that streak is another one: Enterprise has also increased its distribution every quarter for an incredible 52 consecutive quarters. That consistency means that, as a retiree, you can expect to get a check -- and a raise -- every three months.    

A man turning valves on a natural gas pipeline

Image source: Getty Images.

Now layer on top of that Enterprise's impressive 6.3% yield at a time when the broader market is offering a dividend yield closer to 2%. The historical distribution growth rate, meanwhile, has hovered around 5% annually, beating inflation's historical growth rate of 3%. That slowly growing distribution is a dream come true for retirees since it means their buying power is going up and not getting silently ravaged by inflation.  

Don't forget the past

But here's the thing: Focusing just on the distribution ignores a lot of important facts. For example, when oil prices started to plummet in mid-2014, Enterprise didn't skip a beat. It kept increasing its distribution every quarter, with annual distribution coverage never falling below 1.2. In other words, even during one of the worst periods for the energy industry in recent memory, there was never a question about the safety of Enterprise's distribution.    

What allows the partnership to have that level of safety is, in large part, its diversification. Enterprise has its fingers is a huge array of projects, including pipelines, processing facilities, terminals, and a fleet of boats, so it has a lot of levers it can pull as it works to keep results moving higher. In fact, through good years and bad, the partnership has steadily invested in its growth, expanding its asset base from $715 million at its IPO, in 1998, to over $50 billion today. It currently has around $8.6 billion worth of expansion projects under construction.    

KMI Financial Debt To EBITDA (Annual) Chart

KMI Financial Debt To EBITDA (Annual) data by YCharts.

The real benefit of these factors comes clearly into view when you compare Enterprise to other options. For example, similarly large and diversified midstream player Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI) has just announced that it plans massive dividend hikes over the next few years. But it was forced to cut its distribution in 2016 so that it could continue to invest in its business during the energy downturn. A much greater reliance on debt was the company's downfall. By contrast, conservatively run Enterprise was able to invest for the future and keep rewarding investors right through the worst of the slump.

It's a tortoise

High-yielding Enterprise is probably never going to excite you. But if you are retired that's a good thing. Slow and steady, as the saying goes, wins the race. And because the partnership's quarterly pay raises, on average, best inflation, your buying power is going to keep growing. All you have to do is sit back and relax, content about the fact that you own one of the largest and most diversified midstream players in the country.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.