Buying and holding shares of dividend-paying stocks is a fantastic way -- arguably the best way, even -- to consistently generate wealth over the long term. But not all dividends are created equal. Sometimes, unusually high payouts can be a sign of an unsustainable dividend or a stock whose underlying business has been hit by troublesome news.

So in the interest of finding you the best dividend names our market has to offer, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to find stocks with an annual yield of at least 4%. Read on to learn why they like Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (NYSE:SKT), Brookfield Renewable Partners (NYSE:BEP), and AT&T (NYSE:T).

Hand stacking successively taller stacks of coins


A novel way to cash in on retail and real estate

Steve Symington (Tanger Factory Outlet): The traditional brick-and-mortar retail industry is certainly facing disruption from the inevitable rise of e-commerce. But within that industry, leading brands and consumers alike continue to appreciate the value that factory outlet centers bring. As a real estate investment trust with 44 upscale outlet shopping centers across 22 states totaling 15.3 million square feet -- and a recently raised dividend that now offers an juicy 6.1% annual yield at today's prices -- Tanger Factory Outlet Centers is a fantastic way to invest in this difficult-to-disrupt niche.

That's not to say Tanger Factory Outlets hasn't had its challenges. Shares fell this past May as retail tenant bankruptcies took their toll on its operating results, causing the company to modestly reduce its full-year FFO guidance. But Tanger also followed with a solid quarterly report in August that reassured investors that its long-term story remains intact, especially as it works to readjust its tenant mix to both please consumers and keep occupancy rates high.

As it stands, we'll get our next insight into Tanger's latest performance when it releases third-quarter results later this week. But given its healthy dividend and the progress it showed to end the first half, I think patient investors who buy now will be more than happy with their results.

An energy dividend you can rely on

Travis Hoium (Brookfield Renewable Partners): High dividend yields are often associated with high-risk companies or businesses that are in a structural decline, but that doesn't have to be the case. Brookfield Renewable Partners is one of the world's largest renewable energy power plant owners, a booming business today and for the foreseeable future. 

Brookfield Renewable Partners owns 17,400 megawatts (MW) of renewable generating assets around the world with 76% of the portfolio comprised of hydroelectric power plants. Wind and solar assets, which are backed by long-term power purchase agreements with utilities, driving asset growth and are a growing percentage of the portfolio as the company acquires new projects. These projects deliver growing cash flow and diversify the asset base with highly predictable cash flows. 

Long term, the goal for the company is to deliver returns of 12% to 15% through the return of capital (dividends) and stock appreciation. Management says they have visibility into cash flow growth over the next five years with 6% to 11% growth in funds from operation growth expected without any major acquisitions. This will help grow a dividend that's already sitting at a 6.9% yield for investors. 

There aren't a lot of companies that have durable businesses and high yields, but Brookfield Renewable Partners isn't just any company. The renewable energy giant has a proven track record of strong returns and organic growth and the dividend yield should impress any dividend investor.

A beaten-down Dividend Aristocrat

Leo Sun (AT&T): I frequently mention AT&T as a reliable dividend stock, since it's raised its payout annually for over three decades and remains one of the elite "Dividend Aristocrats" of the S&P 500. However, AT&T's recent post-earnings plunge, which knocked the stock to a fresh 52-week low, recently boosted its forward yield to 6.7% while reducing its forward P/E to 8 -- making it seem like an undervalued income investment.

During the third quarter, AT&T beat estimates on the top line with 15% sales growth (mostly due to its takeover of Time Warner), but its 22% adjusted earnings-per-share growth missed expectations. The telco's growth was a mixed bag, with its growth in mobility and WarnerMedia revenues being partly offset by declines at its entertainment group, business wireline, and Latin America businesses.

Despite those challenges, AT&T still expects its adjusted EPS to hit the "upper end of the $3.50 range," which would represent at least 15% growth from 2017. This means that AT&T can easily cover its annual dividend of $2.00 per share. AT&T also expects the integration of WarnerMedia to boost its free cash flow (FCF) to at least $21 billion, compared to $17.6 billion last year. That should give AT&T plenty of cash to pay out its dividend and extinguish the current maturities on its long-term debt. AT&T's stock probably won't rebound anytime soon, but its high dividend and low valuation should limit its downside potential.

Pick up some shares and stay awhile

Of course, we can't absolutely guarantee that these three stocks will go on to beat the market or sustain their attractive yields. But between Tanger Factory Outlet Centers' unique retail real estate niche, Brookfield Renewable Partners' durable business and ambitious goals, and AT&T's long history as a Dividend Aristocrat, we believe investors who buy now will be handsomely rewarded over the long term.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.