What's more attractive to income-seeking investors than a solid dividend stock? A solid stock with dividends that increase year in and year out. The longer the track record of dividend increases, the better.
It's easy to find stocks that meet those criteria. Just check out the group of stocks known as Dividend Aristocrats. These stocks are members of the S&P 500 index that have increased their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years. But some of these elite stocks are smarter picks than others. Here are three Dividend Aristocrats that you can buy and hold forever.
1. Abbott Laboratories
Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) has increased its dividend for 48 years in a row. The big healthcare company has paid a dividend in every quarter since 1924 -- that's 387 consecutive quarters.
Most companies would be glad to be the leader in just one market; Abbott claims a leadership position in at least half a dozen. It sells market-leading cardiovascular care, diabetes care, diagnostics, neuromodulation care, and nutrition products plus top-branded generic drugs.
Abbott isn't content to rest on its laurels, though. Fast Company magazine named it the "2020 World Changing Company of the Year." This honor recognized the company's achievements in improving global health, including developing Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder, a device that treats babies with an opening in their hearts.
The company's innovation should translate to great long-term returns for investors. Wall Street analysts project that Abbott will deliver average annual earnings growth of nearly 15% over the next five years. This growth will be fueled by new products including the Freestyle Libre 2 continuous glucose monitoring system and Abbott's lineup of COVID-19 diagnostics tests.
2. Johnson & Johnson
If you like Abbott's dividend track record, you'll probably love Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). The healthcare giant has raised its dividend for an impressive 58 consecutive years. That's a streak that qualifies J&J as not only a Dividend Aristocrat but also a Dividend King -- stocks that have increased their dividends at least 50 years in a row.
Johnson & Johnson is a household name because of its consumer health products such as Band-Aid and Tylenol. While the company's consumer health segment is a multibillion-dollar business, it's actually the smallest of J&J's three segments. Medical devices and pharmaceuticals generate much higher revenue for the healthcare company.
One area where J&J hasn't been a leader in the past is in developing vaccines. That's probably about to change, though. The company recently initiated a phase 3 study of its coronavirus vaccine candidate, joining three other drugmakers that have begun late-stage testing of experimental COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.
Johnson & Johnson isn't likely to deliver mind-blowing growth. However, the company's diversification across the healthcare sector, continuous innovation, and financial flexibility to make strategic acquisitions arguably make it one of the safest dividend stocks on the market.
Walmart (NYSE:WMT) ranks as another solid Dividend Aristocrat that's approaching Dividend King status. The huge discount retailer has boosted its dividend payout for 47 consecutive years.
It's hard to overstate just how much Walmart has shaken up the retail landscape. The company currently operates around 11,500 stores in 27 countries. It estimates that more than 265 million customers visit its retail locations and e-commerce sites on a weekly basis.
The company's disruption isn't over yet. Walmart recently launched its Walmart+ membership program that provides free grocery delivery and fuel discounts at nearly 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA, and Murphy Express fuel stations.
The company could also soon be a leader in a very different market. The retailer is teaming up with Oracle to partner with TikTok in a deal to enable the video-sharing platform to continue its U.S. operations.