Who doesn't love dividends? Perhaps only those not very familiar with them.

Dividends have a lot to offer and can boost your portfolio's growth. When paid by healthy and growing companies, dividends offer an income stream that will likely be increased over time, and that's in addition to the stock-price appreciation that growing companies offer over long periods. Dividend yields these days often easily top available interest rates, and dividend increases can help you stay ahead of inflation.

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Given all those reasons to love dividends, here are three dividend-paying stocks to consider for your portfolio:

1. Philip Morris International

If you haven't been keeping up with the tobacco industry, you may not have noticed some key developments. You may have known Philip Morris as the company with major cigarette brands such as Marlboro, Benson & Hedges, Chesterfield, L&M, Merit, Parliament, Players, and Virginia Slims. But in 2003, the company changed its name to Altria -- presumably to put some distance between it and bad publicity linking tobacco to cancer and deaths. Then, in 2008, Altria spun off its international operations into a new company, called Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM). Today, they remain two companies, though there's talk of them recombining.

So why own shares of Philip Morris International? Well, while it's true that many smokers around the world are trying to quit and many will succeed, gobs of others will take up the habit, which is, literally, addictive. Many countries regulate tobacco less than the U.S. does, too, and haven't been waging information campaigns for many years about the risks of smoking. Also, tobacco companies have been expanding the scope of their products, embracing smokeless and alternative forms of tobacco consumption. Philip Morris International's website leads with the tag line "Delivering a smoke-free future," and its boilerplate message on press releases starts, "Philip Morris International (PMI) is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, and its shareholders."

So what about the dividend? Well, it was recently yielding a hefty 5.85%.

2. NextEra Energy

NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) is another solid long-term holding offering significant dividend income. It's the world's largest producer of wind and solar energy, and it's not resting there. It has a backlog of projects to develop additional renewable power generation facilities, with a total capacity greater in size than its current renewable capacity.

That's not all there is to NextEra, though. It also owns the biggest regulated electric utility America, Florida Power and Light, and owns Gulf Power, too. Altogether, NextEra is the largest utility company in the world. Want more? One of its backlog projects will be the world's largest stand-alone battery storage system.

The company recently reported its results for 2020, which featured adjusted earnings per share (EPS) up 11% year over year. NextEra noted that over the past decade, its adjusted EPS has grown by an annual average of about 8%, compared to less than 3% for the top 10 power companies. All in all, this is a strong company growing well, with dependable utility income and a big commitment to renewable energy.

NextEra Energy's dividend recently yielded 1.64%, which may not seem that substantial, but it has been increased at an annual average clip of 13% over the past five years. If it maintains that rate, its yield would top 3% in another five years -- assuming the share price held steady. And it's not likely to do that. Odds are, it will be trading higher in 2026.

3. Cisco Systems

If you've been investing for a long time, you'll remember Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) from decades ago, when it was a major name before the internet bubble burst. Indeed, it once sported the world's largest market capitalization. It's still a major technology player, recently with a market value topping $190 billion. The networking hardware giant pays a solid dividend that recently yielded 3.2%, and that payout has been increased by an annual average of 11% over the past five years. Its payout ratio, recently below 60%, suggests that the dividend is in little danger and that there's plenty of room for further growth.

While excitement over Zoom Video Communications has sent that stock soaring, it's not the only video-conferencing application around. There's Cisco-owned Webex, for example, which is favored by plenty of big companies and ranks third among web conferencing services, per Datazyne.com (Zoom is ranked first). Cisco doesn't break out numbers for its Webex business, but it has been busy improving the service, with features such as voice enhancement and noise cancellation.

When the pandemic passes, video conferencing businesses are likely to see decreased demand, but Cisco is likely to see its fortunes improve, as much of its business comes from companies and governments ordering its networking products and services. The pandemic has held many of them back from doing so, but an improving economy will provide wind for Cisco's sails.

These are just a few of the many terrific companies out there worthy of consideration for your portfolio. Dig more deeply into some or all of these or some others -- and consider keeping a meaningful portion of your portfolio in healthy and growing dividend-paying stocks.

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.