Dividend stocks can be an excellent long-term way to build your nest egg. Finding solid high-yield stocks -- or stocks with big dividend growth that could turn into high yields down the road -- can be even better. But investors must be wary with high yields, which sometimes are the result of a stock price falling when a dividend cut is imminent.
We asked three of our investing contributors to give us a stock that either pays a high yield that's both secure and likely to grow, or a stock with very good dividend growth prospects that could lead to a big yield in the near future. They gave us retail property owner Retail Opportunity Investments Corp (NASDAQ:ROIC), energy giant Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE:EPD), and utility company NextEra Energy Inc (NYSE:NEE).
Don't let the "retail apocalypse" fool you
Jason Hall (Retail Opportunity Investments Corp): Based on the headlines, you'd be remiss if you didn't think bricks and mortar retail was in big trouble. And a significant portion of it -- particularly national specialty retailers -- is struggling mightily against the onslaught of e-commerce rivals and closing thousands of locations.
But as my colleague Daniel Kline wrote recently, bricks and mortar retail is actually growing. Less than two-dozen chains account for nearly half of the retail store closures planned for 2017, while over 40% of retailers have added stores recently, and only about 15% have closed stores. As Dan put it, bricks and mortar retail is changing -- but it's still alive and thriving.
That's part of what makes Retail Opportunity Investments Corp -- or ROIC -- an excellent nest-egg stock. The company focuses on acquiring, improving, and then managing high-traffic, undervalued West Coast retail properties (like strip malls), which feature an anchor supermarket, or pharmacy tenant. These kinds of businesses are more recession and e-commerce resistant, and that drives traffic other retail operators can benefit from. This has driven a 97% occupancy rate at its properties every quarter since 2014.
The market's fear of a retail apocalypse has helped push ROIC shares down 18% from its all-time high in 2016, even as the dividend and cash flows have increased. With a 3.9% yield at recent prices, a healthy market for growth, and a strong management team, ROIC is an ideal stock to help build your nest egg.
Slow and steady
Reuben Gregg Brewer (Enterprise Products Partners L.P.): Midstream energy-giant Enterprise Products Partners and its largely fee-based business offers unitholders a distribution yield of 6.4%. The distribution has been increased every year for 20 consecutive years, with a streak of 52 consecutive quarterly increases. The average annualized increase over the past decade has been roughly 5%, ensuring increasing buying power since that bests the average 3% historical rate of inflation growth.
These wonderful pieces of information should give you a good feel about Enterprise. But that's the past -- what's it doing about the future?
For starters, Enterprise has $9 billion in expansion projects in the works today. It also has a long and successful history of acquiring assets -- it's made $26 billion in acquisitions since its IPO in 1998. In fact, it used the energy industry downturn to opportunistically buy three businesses, spending around $8 billion between 2014 and 2016. That was on top of nearly $10 billion of spending on internal growth projects.
But equally important, it hasn't sacrificed safety. For example, it's managed to keep growing its distributable cash flow even though oil has plummeted from over $100 a barrel, while distribution coverage never fell below 1.2 times, even during the worst of oil's plunge. In other words, it made sure there was a margin of safety for the distribution even while other midstream energy companies were cutting their dividends. Enterprise won't excite you, but it will help you build your nest egg slowly and steadily over time while providing you a high yield all along the way.
When dividend growth can lead to a high future yield
Neha Chamaria (NextEra Energy): While utility stocks have long been a favorite among retirees thanks to their defensive nature, NextEra Energy stands out for two reasons: its strong foothold in the renewable energy space and an impressive dividend growth history.
Instead of just a utility, NextEra Energy calls itself a "leading clean energy company," and it isn't without reason. Together with its subsidiaries, NextEra is the world's largest producer of wind and solar energy, and among the largest nuclear power operators in the U.S.
Its leadership position, disciplined capital allocation, and a rock-solid balance sheet has driven NextEra's earnings higher over the years, so much so that it has been able to grow its dividends at a compounded average annual rate of 8.5% since 2005. NextEra is targeting 12%-14% annual dividend increases through at least 2018.
As for growth, NextEra's subsidiaries, Florida Power and Light Company and NextEra Energy Resources, are planning to spend $40 billion-$44 billion combined over the next three to four years, primarily on renewables. NextEra projects these moves will boost adjusted earnings per share by 6%-8% compounded annually through 2020, and I expect the dividend to grow in line with adjusted EPS.
It's this growth potential that more than makes up for NextEra's dividend yield of 2.7%. NextEra's shares have nearly tripled in the past decade on a total-return basis, and I wouldn't be surprised if the rally continues in coming years, adding even more to your nest egg.