Income investing is harder than it seems. Finding the most generous dividend yields on the market simply isn't good enough, and that strategy will lead you into many value traps along the way. Long-term investors with a yen for dividend payouts must focus on stable and flexible businesses with plenty of fiscal discipline.

To help you in this difficult quest for the perfect dividend stock, we asked for some help from a few of your fellow investors. Read on to see why our panelists recommend Enbridge (NYSE:ENB), Kyocera (NYSE:KYO), and Boeing (NYSE:BA) for income investors seeking long-term dividend growth.

Coins stacked around a large hourglass.

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A titan in its very critical industry

Chuck Saletta (Enbridge): Imagine what would happen if energy pipelines suddenly vanished. Gas for your car would quickly become hard to come by. Natural gas for heating homes or running power plants would also become scarce in a hurry. It's incredibly important to not only produce all that energy but also to get it from where it's produced to where it's consumed. And that transportation is what Enbridge specializes in.

A Canada-based energy transportation titan, Enbridge has growth through both natural expansion and acquisitions to become North America's largest energy infrastructure company. It, more than any other company, is responsible for moving all that energy around the continent. From a dividend perspective, the company boasts a 64-year history of paying dividends to its shareholders. In addition, it has managed to increase its dividend at a better-than-11% annualized rate over the past 20 years. 

While past performance is certainly not a guarantee of future results, it can certainly provide you with strong reasons to consider what might be possible. When you combine the company's rich history of dividend payments with its strong market position and the criticality of its industry, you get a very good reason to believe that Enbridge may be able to continue paying its dividend for a long time to come. Perhaps it may even be able to keep it up for the rest of your life.

Kyocera checks all my dividend boxes

Anders Bylund (Kyocera): When looking for truly long-term dividend stocks, I'm interested in three things above all else:

  • A flexible business model, giving the company lots of options in response to changing markets.
  • A proven commitment to creating shareholder value through a combination of dividends and share buybacks.
  • Enough free cash flow to fund those buybacks and dividend payouts -- with some cash left over for other uses. I like flexibility, remember?

The first requirement makes for a success story with strong prospects for the long haul. The second ensures that shareholders get to participate in those long-haul wins, and the third one provides a stable foundation for the other two. Take out any one of these three support pillars and the whole dividend strategy is sure to come crashing down over time.

Kyocera easily meets all three of these criteria, making it a top-notch dividend stock in my book. The dividend yield stands at a modest 1.9% today, but I'm much more interested in signs that the policy will be around and well-funded for decades to come.

What started as Kyoto Ceramics nearly six decades ago has grown and evolved into a cross-sector conglomerate. Kyocera's operations include consumer electronics, solar panels, telecommunications equipment, semiconductor packaging, manufacturing services, and advanced ceramic materials. The company often jumps into new markets by acquisition, buying out a thought leader or promising underdog in a new field. Kyocera has enough operations going on to unlock synergies in many adjacent markets.

Kyocera generated $950 billion of free cash over the last four quarters out of $13.8 billion in top-line revenue. The company has used this strong cash machine to double its dividend payments over the last decade. Dividends still account for just 45% of Kyocera's annual free cash flow, leaving lots of room for other cash investments.

So Kyocera ticks all the boxes I require from a strong dividend investment for the long term.

Let your dividends fly higher

Dan Caplinger (Boeing): Boeing isn't the first stock you'd probably think of as being a dividend leader, with its current 2.1% yield just barely topping the overall market's average. Yet what smart dividend investors realize is that it doesn't just matter what a stock pays out right now. It also matters whether a dividend stock will give you steadily growing payouts well into the future, and Boeing is among the best-positioned stocks in the market to give you that growth for years to come.

Boeing has been amassing a huge backlog of aircraft orders for years, taking advantage of favorable conditions in the airline industry to provide customers with the opportunity to upgrade their fleets. Competition among airlines has gotten fierce, and no company can afford to give a rival the advantage of a newer lineup of aircraft that cuts operating expenses and boosts profits.

Already, Boeing has returned much of its bounty to shareholders, with dividend increases ranging from 20% to 50% in each of the past five years. With no signs of good conditions letting up, Boeing should be able to sustain similar dividend growth for the foreseeable future, and any further share-price gains that the aircraft manufacturer can deliver will just be icing on the cake.

Anders Bylund has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Chuck Saletta owns shares of Enbridge. Dan Caplinger owns shares of Boeing. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Enbridge. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.