High-yield stocks, those that boast an above-average dividend payout, can be a great way for investors to generate income or cash to buy more stocks. A high payout percentage can be tempting and seem like easy money.

That's not always the case, though. An above-average yield can also be an indicator that all's not right for a business. Carefully selecting which stocks make the cut as part of a high-yield portfolio is an important step. Three Foolish contributors are here to help. They think CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL), Omega Healthcare Investors (NYSE:OHI), and Public Storage (NYSE:PSA) are worth considering.

A lower but safer high-yield dividend

Nicholas Rossolillo (CenturyLink): Communications company CenturyLink has been no walk in the park for investors. The stock has steadily tumbled 75% since the start of the global economic downturn back in 2007. Legacy services such as TV cable and phone services have been in decline, supplanted by online streaming TV and mobile phones. Internet services -- including business and cloud-based services -- have been a bright spot for the company over the years, but not enough to offset the losses.

Further disruption may be in the cards, with mobile 5G networks set to start competing with traditional internet service providers like CenturyLink. The older business isn't going to go easy, though. After taking over and integrating Level 3 Communications in 2017, CenturyLink has shored up its cash flow situation. The combined company also recently cut its dividend to give it more room to invest back into its business and foster internet service growth.

Dividend cuts aren't exactly a great situation for a stock. Nevertheless, even after nearly halving its payout, CenturyLink still yields 8.2% a year as of this writing. Plus, the new dividend rate will only eat up about 30% of expected free cash flow in 2019. That will give the company breathing room to navigate the challenging environment it finds itself in.

Granted, there's risk that CenturyLink won't be able to turn things around, but that's par for the course for many high-yield stocks. With a yield north of 8% and price to free cash flow currently only at 3.2, these shares look like a good candidate for a rebound.

Check out the latest earnings call transcript for CenturyLink, Omega Healthcare Investors, and Public Storage.

A yellow ethernet cable plugged into the back of an internet modem.

Image source: Getty Images.

Caring for America's aging population

Chuck Saletta (Omega Healthcare Investors): Over the next 40 years, America's cadre of senior citizens is expected to double in size to around 98 million people and increase representation to almost a quarter of the country's total population. That seniors are growing in number and in percentage of the population indicates that services catering to them will probably see increased demand.

And that long-term growth trajectory bodes well for Omega Healthcare Investors, a real estate investment trust (REIT) that focuses on skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. Yet despite that long-term growth potential, the company sports a dividend yield of around 7.4%. That's a result of two key factors. The first is that as a REIT, Omega Healthcare Investors must pay at least 90% of its earnings out as dividends. That assures that as long as it's profitable, it will pay a dividend.

Second, despite the long-term potential from favorable demographic changes, the near term reality isn't quite so rosy. Some of the companies that lease its properties have found themselves in financial trouble, leading to impairments at Omega Healthcare Investors. Despite those issues, Omega Healthcare Investors generated $0.73 per share in adjusted funds from operations for the most recently reported quarter. That reasonably well covers the company's dividend of $0.66 per share per quarter.

The company's fairly high yield reflects the near-term risks it faces. Still, to the extent demographics really does drive destiny, patient investors may potentially receive long-term growth rewards to go with today's yields.

A top REIT

Daniel Miller (Public Storage): When looking for top stocks dishing out high dividend yields, one great place to start is with REITs -- real estate portfolios that receive income from a variety of properties and are required to pay out at least 90% of their taxable income in the form of dividends. One great example is Public Storage, which operates thousands of storage locations across the U.S. and Europe totaling more than 142 million net rentable square feet of real estate -- and its 3.8% dividend yield isn't too shabby, either.

From an investment perspective, the company is enticing for a few reasons, including that consumers will always need a place to store belongings. And while storing belongings will never go out of style, it is worth noting that the business is cyclical and tends to be stronger amid periods of economic growth. Furthermore, Public Storage properties have low construction costs, operating costs, and maintenance expenses, compared with other properties that generate income such as apartments. Management has noted in the past it could break even with only 30% of its properties occupied, yet the company commonly boasts occupancy rates above 90%.

One positive takeaway from Public Storage's 2018 results was that the average length of stay increased, driven by fewer move-outs. Because price increases are historically done on an annual basis, having more customers stay for longer periods can help drive top-line growth. As long as management can increase its top line by increasing prices, achieving higher occupancy rates, or expanding rentable square footage, the company offers a compelling portfolio of low-cost properties that support its healthy dividend.