Telecom and media powerhouse AT&T (NYSE:T) is a rock-solid dividend stock for retirement-focused investors. It sports an attractive 5.5% yield, which is more than twice what the average dividend-paying stock in the S&P 500 delivers. Further, it has increased its payout for the last 36 straight years, which puts it among the elite class of Dividend Aristocrats.

However, as good as AT&T's payout is, Enbridge's (NYSE:ENB) dividend is even better. Here's why income-seeking investors should take a closer look at the Canadian pipeline giant.

A person holding a bag with the word dividends on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

A bigger income stream now

One big reason why dividend investors should favor Enbridge is its high yield -- currently around 6.1%. While higher yields often reflect greater risk, that's not the case here.

The company expects to generate about 9.4 billion Canadian dollars ($7.2 billion) in cash flow that it could distribute to investors this year. Enbridge, however, only plans to pay out about 70% of those funds even after boosting its dividend by nearly 10% for 2020. The company intends to reinvest the money it retains to cover about 60% of its capital spending, and finance the remaining amount, which it can do under favorable conditions thanks to its top-notch balance sheet. Even with that incremental borrowing, Enbridge expects its leverage ratio to remain well below its target level. 

AT&T, meanwhile, anticipates that it will generate about $28 billion in free cash this year. At its current dividend level, its payout ratio will be in the low 50% range. What's left after that will cover a portion of its $20 billion capital program, but it will need to borrow to fund the remainder. While the company's leverage ratio is currently above its long-term target range, it's on track to bring the ratio back down into that range as it executes its capital allocation strategy. Because of that, its payout is on solid ground. 

More income later

Where Enbridge stands apart from AT&T is dividend growth. The three-year capital allocation plan the telecom unveiled last October calls for modest annual dividend growth through 2022. The higher priority for its free cash (as well as proceeds from asset sales) is to offset the dilution and debt from its Time Warner acquisition. As such, AT&T only increased its payout by 2% this year, compared to Enbridge's nearly 10% increase. 

Enbridge also expects to moderate its dividend growth after this year as it winds down a major expansion phase. However, it believes it can support 5% to 7% annual cash flow and dividend growth after this year. Because of that, income investors who buy Enbridge's higher-yielding stock these days can also expect a faster-growing income stream than they would get from AT&T. 

A more appealing option for dividend investors

While AT&T is a great stock for yield-seekers, Enbridge is even better. The company boasts a higher current yield, backed by an equally top-notch financial profile, and it expects to boost its payout at a faster rate over the next few years. Because of that, dividend investors will collect more income with Enbridge, which sets them up to potentially earn higher total returns.

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.