While dividend investors often look for the highest yields they can find, smart investors know that there's a lot more to successful dividend investing than just capturing a big payout. And when we asked three Motley Fool investors to help identify three dividend stocks that are top candidates for anyone looking to grow their nest egg, their results put the proof to that statement. After all, two of the stocks they recommended -- Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) and American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) -- only pay investors 1.57% and 1.36%, respectively, at recent prices.
But that's not to say that no higher-yielding investment is worth it. After all, one healthcare-steeped Fool made a solid case for investing in AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN), with its nearly 4% yield at recent prices one of the highest in the sector and far above the average.
Which is the best fit for you? In part, that depends on your goals. If near-term income is more important, the higher yield from AstraZeneca could be best, but if it's long-term nest egg growth you're after, Disney or AmEx might be right up your alley. But don't stop here. Keep reading below to gain the unique insight three real-world investors have to offer on these companies.
The comeback is finally here
George Budwell (AstraZeneca): Although AstraZeneca's bout with the patent cliff hasn't been kind to its top line, the company has still managed to create considerable value for shareholders over the last five years. The trick, if you will, is a top-flight dividend that yields 3.9% at recent prices. That's among the richest payouts in all of biopharma, and close to the top for the healthcare sector in general.
The good news is that the risk that Astra will suspend or drastically reduce its payout is starting to wane, thanks to the breakout success of new cancer medicines like Imfinzi and Tagrisso. While Imfinzi's fate in the all-important frontline setting for lung cancer has yet to be decided, Tagrisso has continued to rack up new approvals for high-value indications like metastatic non-small cell lung cancer in patients whose tumors express epidermal growth factor receptor mutations.
As a result, Astra's growing footprint in oncology, combined with its already strong diabetes franchise, are set to return the company to mid-single digit revenue growth by next year -- perhaps marking the end of the company's protracted battle with the patent cliff. Specifically, Wall Street is forecasting Astra's annual revenues to growth by a healthy 6.4% in 2019.
That being said, Astra's projected levels of top-line growth won't be enough to radically alter the company's elevated payout ratio that presently stands at 118%. But that shouldn't matter all that much in the big scheme of things. Management, after all, has stuck by its progressive dividend policy during the worst of times, showing a deep commitment to rewarding loyal shareholders. So this big pharma stock is arguably worth a deeper look by investors on the hunt for a reliable dividend and sustainable levels of capital appreciation.
The entertainment titan with a voracious appetite for growth
Chuck Saletta (Disney): Savvy dividend investors know that the best dividends are ones paid by businesses that have the opportunity to grow their profits -- and thus future dividends -- over time. On that front, few dividend-paying companies are quite as well positioned as media and entertainment titan Disney.
The house that the mouse built has grown through both organic expansion and through acquisitions to be an incredible powerhouse in its industry. Movie blockbuster after blockbuster ranging from Star Wars and the Avengers to its own traditional princesses are all within its wheelhouse. Add in some of the world's most popular theme parks and the large -- even if currently challenged -- ABC and ESPN networks, and you have an entertainment behemoth with incredible long-term potential.
Disney's dividend gets paid twice a year, and while its yield is currently a mere 1.7%, its payout represents less than a quarter of its earnings, giving it room to continue increasing it over time. Last year, Disney increased its dividend by a respectable 7.6%. With its earnings expected to grow by around 11% annualized over the next five or so years, Disney certainly looks capable of handing its investors more cash over time.
Despite Disney's incredible strength and overall growth potential, continuing challenges in its television businesses are weighing on its shares. Those worries are what allow investors to buy a stake in that solid and still-growing company at around a mere 13.5 times expected earnings. Combined with its growth potential, that adds a reasonable valuation to the reasons to consider owning its stock.
When it comes to Disney, the investment magic encompasses a solid, well-covered dividend, a reasonable valuation, and strong growth potential. That's exactly the combination you want in a dividend stock that you'd like to use to fund your nest egg.
Don't let the small yield make you miss out
Jason Hall (American Express): With a yield below 1.5% at recent prices, many dividend investors will skip right past American Express. And if your goal is to build the biggest nest egg you can over the long term, I think that's a big mistake. The bottom line is, American Express has both a strong track record of dividend increases while also possessing incredible long-term growth prospects.
American Express has paid a dividend since the mid-1980s, and has been aggressive at raising it. Over the past 20 years, the payout has increased 367%, while the yield has stayed relatively low due to the strong performance of its stock over that same period. Since 1998, AmEx has delivered 408% in total returns, sharply higher than the 310% delivered by the S&P 500 over the same period. Furthermore, it was able to maintain its dividend during the Great Recession, while many other lenders cut -- or even eliminated entirely -- their payouts.
Looking forward, AmEx has great prospects, as the global middle class continues to expand at a high rate, and more consumers and businesses look for sources of credit and financing. With a track record of low-risk lending practices, high profitability, and regular dividend increases, American Express should be on your list. Considering that shares trade for a very cheap 14 times the midpoint of 2018 earnings guidance, it should probably be at the top of your list.