If you're like most investors, at least some of your stocks were likely chosen because they were prominently featured in the news. There's nothing inherently wrong with choosing trendy stocks. But such an approach just might steer you away from better-grounded, less splashy holdings that offer much-needed stability.
To this end, investors saving for retirement -- and perhaps those already retired -- may want to consider scooping up some names like Service Corporation International (NYSE:SCI), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Public Storage (NYSE:PSA), and Lamb Weston Holdings(NYSE:LW).
These four companies are hardly riveting; some are even relatively unknown. All of them, however, bring something important to the table when establishing a winning retirement portfolio.
1. Service Corporation International
You may have never heard of the company, but there's a good chance you've experienced Service Corporation International's ... service. The organization is North America's biggest funeral outfit, handling more than 450,000 services per year. Funerals, burials, and cremation are all in its repertoire.
It seems grim, but it's a steady business to be in nonetheless. Indeed, it may be the world's only truly recession-proof industry.
Although the company's top line somehow doesn't move higher in a perfectly straight line, it very nearly does. It's also a profitable business more often than not, and particularly so for Service Corporation International since 2014, after it grew its scale via the acquisition of Stewart Enterprises.
Sure, the dividend yield of around 1.5% isn't huge, and single-digit sales growth is the norm. However, the dividend's grown consistently since 2006, and again, the industry will never become obsolete.
There was a time when this software giant was a risky technology stock, buffeted higher and lower by the tech sector's ebbs and flows. As such, it wasn't an appropriate pick for retirement portfolios.
Much has changed over the course of the past couple of decades, though. One of those changes is a dramatically diversified revenue mix. Cloud computing, business services, and consumer-oriented things like operating systems and video gaming each accounted for about a third of last fiscal year's top and bottom lines. And even within those three segments, Microsoft offers a wide variety of services.
It's also made recurring revenue a big part of its business model. It now serves 45.3 million subscribers to its cloud-based office suite Microsoft 365, all of whom pay a monthly fee for online access to those tools. Those customers -- along with the company's corporate cloud customers -- collectively currently represent $111 billion worth of revenue that's already been set up but is yet to be booked. Microsoft expects to report about half of that figure as revenue within the next 12 months.
These two shifts make the company an all-weather play with real growth potential.
3. Public Storage
Public Storage is (perhaps sadly) a great play on people's inability to throw things away. The company is the world's biggest operator of self-storage facilities, offering up 170 million square feet worth of space to renters who don't have room to store all their stuff in their homes.
It's not a perfectly consistent business, but like funerals, it's pretty close. In fact, its revenue has fallen in only one quarter since 2011, and that one instance was forgivable. That happened in the second quarter of this year when COVID-19-related shutdowns presented logistical challenges. Income growth has been a little less consistent, although not dramatically so.
The real upside of Public Storage, however, is its dividend. The company is set up as a real estate investment trust, or REIT, which is a tax-advantaged way to pass along income to shareholders. Its dividend is presently yielding 3.6%, and while the annual payout of $8.00 per year hasn't grown since 2018, it hasn't shrunk either. While the coronavirus pandemic has pressured the bottom line enough that a dividend increase isn't in the near-term cards, this is a real estate name with plenty of long-term potential.
4. Lamb Weston Holdings
Finally, have you ever wondered where McDonald's gets all its french fries? It's not growing and cutting its own potatoes. It's buying them from a company called Lamb Weston. The company is also a supplier of frozen potato products available at your grocery store. In fact, Lamb Weston is the United States' biggest frozen potato supplier, and the world's second-biggest.
Boring? You bet. That's the point, though. Consumers may skip a vacation or postpone the purchase of a new car, but they're not going to suddenly stop eating the U.S.'s most consumed vegetable. It's just a question of how or where they'll eat it. Lamb Weston Holdings, however, is positioned on all possible fronts.
Like most other companies, this one ran into a revenue headwind when the pandemic hit. Sales fell in the first and second calendar quarters for the first time in three years. That headwind appears to be abating now, however. CEO Tom Werner commented last month: "We drove sequential improvement in sales and earnings this quarter [currently under way], and are optimistic about the improvement in restaurant traffic in the U.S. and our key international markets." Analysts expect that rebound to lead into sales growth of 7.1% next year, pushing earnings per share up from this year's projection of $2.45 to $3.02.