Recessions are inevitable, but there are ways to protect your portfolio against them. One of the best is by choosing stocks that pay a strong dividend. When selecting such stocks, there are three main characteristics you need to consider: The company must be of good quality, with strong financials; it should help to diversify your portfolio across different sectors; and it should, of course, pay dividends. Here are my top five dividend-paying stocks worth investing in today.

1. AT&T and its long history

Dividend Yield: 6.3%

Offering numerous services including cable, wireless, satellite TV, and broadband, telecommunications giant AT&T (T 1.17%) has more than 100 million customers in Latin America and the United States. The high dividend yield of more than 6% is impressive, even more so when you consider that it's been continually increased for the past 35 years (and plenty of increases are expected in the quarters ahead). Revenue at the $170 billion-plus company was up by 18% in the most recent quarter, with earnings per share rising 1.2%. The company's significant $85 billion investment in Time Warner will give AT&T access to popular media brands including TBS, HBO, CNN, and TNT, as well as to programming from the NBA, the NCAA, the NFL, and MLB, all of which should provide a competitive edge over other providers. Management expects to generate earnings per share of $3.60 by the end of fiscal 2019, and the annual ongoing dividend hikes make it a top choice for income investors.

2. Ongoing outperformance at Chevron

Dividend Yield: 4%

With a market cap of $223 billion, Chevron (CVX 0.57%) is one of the world's top oil and gas companies, and this Dividend Aristocrat has been increasing its dividend payout since 1988. Over the past five years, the compound annual growth rate of of those dividend increases has been 2.8%; the most recent boost, at the start of 2019, rose the payout by 6.25%. Strong cash flow and an industry-leading balance sheet ensure the dividend -- currently at 4% -- will continue, and if commodity prices continue to rise, Chevron will be a major beneficiary. 

3. Interesting investing at Invesco

Dividend Yield: 6.2%

Global investment management firm Invesco (IVZ -6.42%) serves more than 150 countries with a total of $975 billion under management. In the first quarter of 2019, the company had revenue of $887 million and earnings per share of $0.56, both of which beat analyst expectations; management raised the dividend by 3.3%. The company is heavily involved in growth through acquisitions, having purchased Oppenheimer Funds for $5.7 billion and an ETF business from Guggenheim Investments for $1.2 billion. These acquisitions have made it the sixth-largest U.S. retail investment management company. At $15.79, the undervalued stock is a good buy, and the dividend looks safe, with a 2019 payout ratio of 53%. The current yield of 6.2% makes it an attractive, high-yield income play. 

4. A home for growth and income at Home Depot 

Dividend Yield: 2.7%

With a market cap of $225 billion, Home Depot (HD 0.86%) is the largest home improvement retailer in the United States. As an ongoing leader in its industry, the company has the financial strength to make consistent dividend payments; the most recent 32% increase in February brought the annual payout to $5.44 per share. The payout ratio is 55%, which means there is plenty of room to increase the dividend in the future. Home Depot has had a successful fiscal 2018, with sales up 7.2% to $108 billion and net earnings up 29% to $11.1 billion.

5. Discounts on dividends at Tanger Factory Outlet Centers

Dividend Yield: 8.6%

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT 2.81%) is a real estate investment trust, or REIT, that operates real estate properties for rental income. The company is the largest owner and operator of outlet centers in Canada and the United States. Occupancy is high, at 95.4% in the first quarter, and investors can enjoy a dividend yield as high as 8.6% that looks secure given the stability of the balance sheet and Tanger's BBB+ rating from S&P Global Ratings, which is high for a REIT.