Whether you're new to the world of investing or a seasoned aficionado, focusing on investments that can generate and sustain portfolio growth over the long term rather than the short term is the most effective way to promote real wealth building through the stock market.
While personal trading styles and risk tolerance levels vary from investor to investor, a diversified stock basket should always feature companies with steady growth potential that can help to stimulate these kinds of meaningful shareholder returns for years to come. Long-term investor returns can come in the form of dividends or share price increases, and many top stocks offer investors the benefit of both.
The following two stocks offer shareholders the prospect of consistent dividend income, but they also bring something else of equal importance to the table. Both stocks have displayed remarkable resilience and generated consistent growth throughout the pandemic despite the broader volatility not only of the market, but their respective industries as a whole.
1. Realty Income
Realty Income (O 2.77%) is one of a smaller club of stocks that pay a dividend on a monthly rather than a quarterly basis. At the time of this writing, Realty Income's dividend yields a robust 4.2% for shareholders. The Dividend Aristocrat has a whopping 94 quarters of consecutive dividend increases and more than 600 quarters of continuous dividend payouts under its belt.
Realty Income operates as a real estate investment trust (REIT). It leases its portfolio of thousands of commercial properties to hundreds of clients all over the world in industries ranging from grocery to apparel to fitness to financial services. Realty Income boasts some pretty big names on its client roster, including Walgreens, FedEx, Walmart, Home Depot, CVS, and 7-Eleven. As a result, Realty Income has delivered a compound average annual total return of more than 15% since it began trading publicly in 1994.
In 2020, Realty Income's total revenue grew by roughly 11%, while funds from operations (FFO) increased by about 10%. And despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, Realty Income still managed to collect 94% of contractual rent from its total portfolio of clients and 90% of the rent owed from its top 20 clients in the final quarter of 2020. Realty Income also continued to expand its stable of lease agreements and real estate holdings last year, another excellent sign of its ability to not only weather economic uncertainty but thrive in it.
In the full-year financial report, CEO Sumit Roy said the company "invested over $2.3 billion in high-quality real estate ... of which approximately $921 million was invested internationally" in 2020. For 2021, management is forecasting that Realty Income will manage more than $3 billion in acquisition volume.
Given Realty Income's continued dividend increases and balance sheet growth throughout the pandemic, it's not surprising that shares have surged 30% over the past year alone as investors have rushed to fill their portfolios with more recession-resilient buys. REITs have faced their fair share of headwinds since the pandemic began, but the fact that Realty Income's portfolio of clients is anchored by a wide selection of mainstay businesses that have remained open throughout the crisis has undoubtedly anchored it during the storm.
Realty Income also has plenty of cash to weather any additional near-term volatility that might arise from uncollected rent, reporting $824.5 million in cash and cash equivalents on its balance sheet at the close of 2020. If you're an investor searching for reliable dividend income and looking to add stable growth to your portfolio, Realty Income is a worthy contender to add to your list of safe stock buys.
2. Scotts Miracle-Gro
Scotts Miracle-Gro's (SMG 1.51%) dividend of 1.1% isn't quite on par with what the average stock trading on the S&P 500 pays, but the company has an exceptional track record of raising its dividend. In fact, Scotts has hiked its dividend every year for more than a decade.
When someone mentions Scotts Miracle-Gro, you might automatically think of its flourishing consumer lawn and gardening business, which the company is primarily known for. But Scotts Miracle-Gro is quickly becoming known for its influence in the marijuana industry. Scotts Miracle-Gro's fast-growing subsidiary Hawthorne Gardening Company, which it founded in 2014, is a key supplier of hydroponics equipment to cannabis growers across the nation. And the Hawthorne business segment is quickly becoming the key impetus for a much larger slice of Scotts' overall balance sheet growth.
In Scotts' fiscal 2020 (ended Sept. 30), the company reported 24% year-over-year sales growth in its U.S. consumer segment. Hawthorne, the company's other major reporting business division, generated a remarkable 61% surge in sales. These two segments also registered respective fourth-quarter sales increases of 90% and 68% from the year-ago period. CEO Jim Hagedorn also noted that September was Hawthorne's highest month of sales to date. For the full-year fiscal 2020, Scotts Miracle-Gro reported total sales growth across all segments to the tune of 31%.
Scotts has already started its fiscal 2021 on a high note. The company's total first-quarter sales grew by a whopping 105% year over year, while sales in its U.S. consumer and Hawthorne segments increased by 147% and 71%, respectively.
Scotts Miracle-Gro's rapid expansion within the ancillary marijuana stock sphere makes it a shrewd buy for investors looking to circumvent the typical volatility that often accompanies pot stocks operating on the retail and cultivation side of the industry. Shares of Scotts Miracle-Gro have surged 96% over the trailing 12 months alone, a sign that more and more marijuana investors are seeing the long-term value and growth the stock has to offer a diversified portfolio.
As Scotts Miracle-Gro continues to strengthen its consumer business and expand its Hawthorne segment, its balance sheet and share price should also continue to realize notable growth and boost long-term investor returns.