Ah, retirement! Golden days free from worry and care! At least, that should be the goal. And the right mix of dividend stocks in your retirement portfolio can help make sure you don't need to worry about your financial health after you've stopped working. But what dividend stocks are the "right" ones?
We tasked three of our Motley Fool contributors with this challenge: Suggest a dividend stock that they'd recommend as "perfect" for retirees. They came back with Target (TGT -0.73%), Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP -0.06%), and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) (RDS.B). Here's why they think these three dividend stocks are destined for success in retirees' portfolios.
A bona fide retail survivor
Leo Sun (Target): Target struggled with tough competition from Walmart, Amazon.com, and other rivals in recent years. Yet the retailer, which was founded 117 years ago, rolled with the punches and expanded its digital ecosystem, added new fast delivery and pickup options, remodeled its stores, and launched smaller-format stores for urban areas.
Those efforts kept Target's comparable-store sales firmly in positive territory, as its digital comps repeatedly rose by double digits. Its total comps rose 5% in 2018, marking its strongest growth since 2005, and its digital comps surged 36% -- marking the fifth straight year that digital sales grew more than 25%.
That momentum continued in the first quarter, as its total comps rose 4.8% with a 42% increase in digital comps. It even opened 22 new stores year over year, boosting its total store count to 1,851 to defy the so-called retail apocalypse.
Target's gross margin is being weighed down by higher supply chain costs and fulfillment expenses for digital orders, but it's offsetting that pressure by tightly controlling its expenses -- which boosted its operating margin 20 basis points annually to 6.4% last quarter.
Simply put, Target is a retail survivor and it's rewarding patient shareholders with big dividends. It currently pays a forward yield of 3%, which accounts for less than half of its earnings, and it's hiked that dividend annually for over half a century. That consistent payout, along with its reasonable forward multiple of 14, makes Target a rock-solid stock for retirees.
This stock checks off all the boxes
Keith Speights (Brookfield Infrastructure Partners): What do retirees want from a dividend stock? I'd put three items at the top of the list: an attractive dividend yield, long-term sustainability of the dividend, and solid growth prospects. Brookfield Infrastructure Partners checks off all three boxes.
The company's dividend yield currently stands at nearly 4.6%. That's an attractive level that any retiree would love. And the yield would be even higher had Brookfield Infrastructure stock not soared so far this year. I don't think that will prompt any complaints, though.
Can Brookfield Infrastructure keep the dividends flowing? I think so. Its dividend payout has grown steadily in recent years. The company's cash flow remains very strong and continues to grow. That should allow the company to boost its dividend between 5% and 9% per year.
Brookfield Infrastructure's long-term growth prospects center around its business model. The company continually looks for infrastructure assets that are underpriced, and it sells assets that don't perform as well as it would like. This perpetual wheeling and dealing allows the company to grow at a solid pace.
I really like Brookfield Infrastructure's expansion into data centers and additional cell towers. These are high-growth markets that complement the company's other assets, which include railroads, pipelines, ports, and utilities. All of these infrastructure properties provide reliable revenue streams that should enable Brookfield Infrastructure to keep making retired investors (and other investors) very happy.
One thing to note, though, is that as a limited partnership, investing in Brookfield Infrastructure Partners inside an IRA or other tax-favored retirement account can create some unusual tax complications. That doesn't make it a bad investment, but if those issues will cause problems for you, you might prefer to invest through an ordinary taxable brokerage account rather than in an IRA.
Through good times and bad
John Bromels (Royal Dutch Shell): Many retirees are looking for stability in their portfolios. If you're a retiree who's depending on your stock holdings for a steady income, you need to find a rock-solid dividend that's going to give you that payout in good times and in bad. That's why I'm recommending oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell.
Shell isn't going anywhere: As one of the largest companies in the world by both market cap and revenue, this integrated oil major is in no danger of collapse. Nor is the oil industry in trouble. Despite a rise in renewable energy, the U.S. Energy Information Agency predicts that oil and gas consumption will grow at a healthy clip through 2040. In fact, the market for natural gas is expected to grow by more than 30% over the next 20 years!
Now, as an oil and gas company, Shell is subject to the whims of the cyclical oil market...kind of. In recent quarters, even when oil prices have declined, Shell has still churned out record profits, thanks in part to cost-cutting and the investments it's made in natural gas.
Even during the oil price downturn of 2014-2017, Shell maintained its dividend, much to the relief of its investors. That dividend is now yielding a juicy 5.8%. With a strong business and a high yield, Shell is an excellent stock for a diversified retirement portfolio.