In a frothy market, increasing your holdings in dividend stocks is a smart way to fortify your portfolio for long-term wealth creation; however, simply buying stocks that offer high yields is a risky approach. Instead, investors will typically be better served by selecting companies that have a history of regular payout increases and sturdy businesses that pave the way for continued payout growth.
Dividend Aristocrats are companies that have raised their disbursements annually for at least 25 years, and stocks that meet that criteria tend to be strong candidates if you're seeking reliable payout growth. Here's why Pepsi (NYSE:PEP), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), and AT&T (NYSE:T) are standouts even among this prestigious group of income-generating stocks.
The leader in the wireless world
With a 5.1% dividend yield and a 33-year history of annual payout growth, AT&T offers a a dividend profile that's tough to beat. The telecom giant also looks cheap, trading at roughly 13 times forward earnings estimates.
AT&T is a leader in the telecommunications space, with America's second-largest wireless network and the largest paid-television service in its DirecTV subsidiary. It's true that the company's wireless service is facing pressure from cheaper competitors, but its market advantage will likely become more pronounced with the rollout of 5G networks, and the company is also positioned to be a leader of Internet of Things services for connected cars and smart cities -- product categories in which the performance advantages of premium service will likely be even more valuable.
With indications that its merger with Time Warner will be approved, AT&T is also set to become a leader in entertainment content, a development that will open up a range of synergistic benefits. For one, AT&T will have the opportunity to offer packages that bundle together wireless service, DirecTV television, and content platforms like HBO for lower than its competitors. The company also expects that the merger will open up new advertising opportunities, with the potential to harness user data for targeted ads that have between two and three times the market value of those sold with Time Warner's current, stand-alone television networks.
With a great dividend profile and better growth prospects than its current valuation implies, AT&T should be a top candidate for income investors.
The consumer goods powerhouse
When adding income-generating stocks to your portfolio, investing in some companies that are buttressed by brand strength is an advisable move. Strong brands help companies retain pricing power, which, in turn, has the effect of sustaining cash flows and keeping the dividend payouts flowing. With that in mind, few companies in the consumer goods sector have a better brand portfolio than PepsiCo.
The company currently boasts 22 brands that generate at least $1 billion in annual retail sales, and PepsiCo is already having success in diversifying its product line in order to adapt to a more health-conscious customer base. As examples, Naked Juice is on track to become the company's 23rd billion-dollar brand, and LIFEWTR, which the company debuted in February, is on track to clear $200 million in first-year sales.
Of course, the company's moat consists of more than just having a stable of great brands. PepsiCo's size and distribution network create economy-of-scale advantages, making it unlikely that it will be destabilized by smaller competitors. And ongoing efficiency improvements thanks to automation and other supply chain innovations give the company another avenue to continued earnings growth.
Turning to the dividend, the stock currently yields 2.8%, and a 45-year history of annual payout growth suggests that it's a safe bet that PepsiCo will continue to raise its payout. With a forward P/E of roughly 22, the food and beverage leader's stock might not look cheap, but it falls under the category of being a great company at a reasonable price, and it has the potential to be a big winner for long-term investors.
The consumer staples stalwart
Procter & Gamble is another Dividend Aristocrat that benefits from having a stellar brand portfolio. Between Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste, Bounty paper towels, the company manufactures some of the most trusted products in the consumer staples space, and that helps make it a standout stock for those who are looking for investments that can weather market volatility and economic downturn. Demand for essential goods is likely to remain relatively consistent even if other consumer-spending habits change, and the company's trusted brands should help ensure that its offerings are some of the last products to be switched out for lower-cost, generic alternatives.
Shifting to recent business performance, P&G has been delivering earnings growth by implementing cost-cutting initiatives, and it expects to deliver another $8 billion in savings through 2020. Sales have slipped over the last five years, but the company has growth opportunities in online selling and international markets, and margin expansions put it in good shape to continue growing cash flows.
On the income side of things, P&G packs a solid 2.9% yield and has raised its payout annually for 61 years running. With that kind of track record, the company is clearly keen on maintaining its reputation for delivering regular (and growing) income generation for its shareholders.