While having a nice cash savings is a great idea for when there's an unexpected expense, it's just about impossible to save your way to a big nest egg -- particularly in the low-interest rate environment savers have experienced for a decade now. But all isn't lost, particularly if you're saving for the long term, since high-quality dividend stocks can make for wonderful wealth builders.
Yes, they may lose value over the short term. But the best, most financially strong companies selling popular -- and profitable -- products and services, will ride out the ups and downs of the economy and the stock market, and investors who invest and hold for the long term come out ahead.
To help you get started on building your nest egg, three Motley Fool investors have identified a group of top dividend stocks -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), Polaris Industries Inc. (NYSE:PII), and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) -- that they think are up to the task.
A leader in next-gen connectivity
Keith Noonan (AT&T): With its low earnings multiple, defensible moat, and big dividend, AT&T stands out as a top stock for building your nest egg.
The company's premium wireless offering has actually held up fairly well in the face of budget-priced competition. AT&T added 329,000 new wireless subscribers in its December-ended quarter, and it's positioned to sustain an advantage in the telecom space by bundling mobile service with video packages and rolling out its next-generation network technology.
The company's early leadership in 5G should help it retain a top spot in mobile coverage, and that's just scratching the surface of the opportunity presented by the evolution of wireless internet. 5G networks will be the fabric that connects Internet of Things devices. This sets AT&T up to become a service and platform provider for smart cities, connected homes, smart cars, and a range of related product categories.
AT&T is also positioned to be one of the biggest winners from the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In addition to substantially lowering the company's effective tax rate, the telecom giant will benefit from more favorable guidelines for deducting expenses over the next five years -- developments that have significant, positive implications for the company's short-and-long-term-earnings picture.
Turning to the income side of things, AT&T stock offers a 5.4% dividend yield and a 34-year history of annual payout increases that suggests shareholders can continue to expect dividend growth on a yearly basis. Shares trade at roughly 10.5 times this year's expected earnings -- an attractive valuation in light of the company's competitive advantages, growth potential, and stellar returned-income profile.
Don't overlook this dividend
Daniel Miller (Polaris Industries): Polaris is known as a global powersports leader, with 2017 sales reaching $5.4 billion, but most investors don't recognize the company as a dividend play -- that's a mistake. In fact, management just increased the quarterly cash dividend by 3% to $0.60 per share. It's 2.1% dividend yield isn't enough to jump off the page, but it has a strong history and has notched 23 consecutive years of dividend increases.
In addition to its stable and increasing dividend, Polaris offers investors growth. In 2009, Polaris' sales totaled $1.6 billion, but that rapidly expanded to an adjusted $5.4 billion in 2017 with growth in all segments. Motorcycle sales, excluding Victory, were up 7% compared to the prior year, and ORV/snow and adjacent markets were up 9% and 16%, respectively.
Management is even preparing the next generation to get in line for its products. Polaris Industries signed on to be a "Premier Partner" for a new racing and action-adventure film that aimed at a younger audience and will feature several of the company's new products. While it might not immediately move the sales needle, the strategy in general has paid off well as Polaris has taken motorcycle market share from Harley-Davidson.
Polaris doesn't come to mind for many investors in search of dividend stocks, but its consistent and increasing payouts coupled with its ability to grow sales organically make it a great fit for your nest egg.
An overlooked dividend growth dynamo that's on sale
Jason Hall (Starbucks): With a small 1.9% yield at recent prices, Starbucks often gets overlooked by dividend investors. Furthermore, fears over slowing growth in the U.S. have the share price down. Since peaking last summer, Starbucks stock is down more than 11% from the all-time high.
And while the concerns over slowing growth in its biggest market isn't without merit, to focus exclusively on this is causing a lot of investors to miss out on the next big growth chapter for the company. That's giving forward-looking investors a nice buying opportunity. At recent prices, Starbucks trades for about 17 times company guidance for 2018 earnings. That's a great price considering Starbucks should continue growing earnings at close to double-digit rates for the long term.
Since instituting a payout about eight years ago, Starbucks has raised its dividend every year, increasing it 500% over that period while still only paying out about half its cash earnings. That makes it exactly the kind of company that could turn into a Dividend Aristocrat down the road and make investors who buy today and hold for many years a lot of money.