Supplementing ordinary income is a powerful tool for accelerating your path to retirement, and the stock market is an excellent place to do just that. Capital appreciation can sometimes fatten the pockets of market participants, but dependable dividend yields are a surefire way to grow your net worth.
It is vital to pick from the companies with both attractive yields and healthy balance sheets, indicating dividend sustainability. Amid COVID-19, the list of sustainable dividend companies has shrunk, but here are two great examples for your portfolio.
First is Altria Group (NYSE:MO). In a crisis environment like the one created by the coronavirus pandemic, it is wise to pick companies with the least elastic demand. Sales were resilient for Altria this quarter at 12% growth and actually accelerated compared to roughly flat sales for the market. As a tobacco company, Altria enjoys a reliable consumer base. Smoking tobacco is not something to encourage, but it will continue to happen.
CEO Billy Gifford confirmed the company's continuation of its dividend less than one month ago. The massive payout gives the stock a dividend yield of 8.5%. With treasury yields below 2%, that premium is immense. Executives on the earnings call expressed their continued commitment to keeping the dividend. Altria generated 38% earnings growth this quarter and maintained a payout ratio (percent of earnings allocated to dividend payments) of roughly 0.8, making this commitment quite feasible.
To further enable continued dividend payments, share repurchase programs were halted, with the earmarked funds used to strengthen the company's already strong financials. Its cash position of $5.5 billion assures continued dividends into the future.
Next: Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). Coke's brands enjoy demand inelasticity similar to Altria's thanks to the company's extensive sales within snacks and beverages. Coke's exposure to necessary goods, rather than luxury goods, is ideal in today's chaotic environment.
For an idea of the sheer consistency of Coca-Cola's performance, this past quarter marked the 58th consecutive dividend increase. This kind of dependability is key when uncertainty dominates market headlines. Coke's dividend yield of 3.5% is robust. This is notably well ahead of the average dividend yield of stocks in the S&P 500 of 2%. Further, its payout ratio of 70% is even better than Altria's and a hint of continued dividend payment ability.
CEO James Quincey expressed conviction in his company being poised to exit the pandemic in a better position than it entered it. Quincey is already seeing strong recoveries in Asia, and now the United States is following suit. Its quarterly free cash flow of $229 million through COVID-19 hints at continued financial health.
While the coronavirus halted some public companies' operations, Coke endured. Sales held up remarkably well despite the global shutdown, with revenue declining just 1%. Earnings even grew during the period by 8%, depicting enviable operating leverage in the business model.
More signs of dividend payment capabilities: Coke has yet to access the credit markets this year and is even donating $150 million to coronavirus relief efforts. Clearly, liquidity is not a pressing concern.
When choosing companies based on dividend yield, there is more to consider than the nominal return. A company's balance sheet strength, credit market activity, and management commentary can all hint at continued yield visibility for a company. Altria and Coca-Cola enjoy strong financials, and both are poised for dividend growth going forward.