Millions of people have started investing in the past year, thanks in large part to the growing popularity of apps like Robinhood and zero-commission trading. Boredom also could have played a role; in the middle of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, trading stocks may have inadvertently become a new pastime for many looking to make money on the market.
Investing can be a great way to improve your financial position. But if you aren't careful and you buy shares of bad or risky companies, those mistakes can destroy your savings. If you are a new investor and aren't sure which stocks you should start your portfolio with, there are two that won't steer you wrong: Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO).
1. Eli Lilly
Drugmaker Eli Lilly is a great stock for beginners. The business is profitable, diverse, and contains many great products that can deliver growth for years. Diabetes and cancer drugs are prevalent in its portfolio, and that can make the business more resilient to pandemics or recessions, as patients will always need to take ongoing treatment for chronic conditions.
When the company released its most recent earnings report on April 27, its revenue topped $6.8 billion for the period ending March 31 -- 16% more than the $5.9 billion that it reported in the same quarter last year. Diabetes drug Trulicity led the way with $1.5 billion in sales and grew 18% year over year. Eli Lilly also got a boost from its COVID-19 antibody treatment, which generated $810 million in revenue that wasn't on its financials a year ago.
The healthcare company's business is also very profitable. Eli Lilly's net margin typically comes in at 20% or higher. That is important, because as new investors might painfully learn with companies that aren't as strong financially, a lack of profitability and cash flow can lead to dilution and a falling share price. Not only has Eli Lilly not had to rely on issuing shares to raise money, but last year it repurchased $500 million worth of stock, which helps bump up its share price. Over the past 10 years, its stock has soared nearly 400%, well above the S&P 500's gains of around 200%.
Strong financials also enable the company to pay a dividend. In 2020, its free cash flow of $4.5 billion was more than enough to cover the $2.7 billion it paid out in dividends. With a yield of 1.65%, you are also earning a bit more than you would be with the average stock on the S&P 500 that pays just 1.5%.
With a top-selling drug in Trulicity, a COVID-19 treatment for the short term, strong margins, and a solid dividend, Eli Lilly is one of the best all-around healthcare stocks you can add to your portfolio today.
Coca-Cola's products aren't as pandemic-resistant as Eli Lilly's are; it needs restaurants and businesses to be open and selling its popular beverages. But the good news is that even though the world is still far from where it was before the pandemic, Coca-Cola's business remains resilient.
On April 19 it reported net sales for the first quarter (for the period ending April 2) of $9 billion, which rose 5% from the prior-year period. And that is with the company's away-from-home channels (e.g. restaurants) still improving. The company notes that its case volumes are related to consumer mobility, in which vaccination rates play a significant role. And so as vaccination rates over the world continue to rise, the company's results will only get stronger.
The soft drink giant has maintained a strong profit margin of more than 21% in the trailing 12 months. Its free cash flow of 9.9 billion in the past year has also been sufficient to cover the $8.9 billion it paid out in dividends during that time. The stock's yield of 3% is even higher than Eli Lilly's, and what's even better -- Coca-Cola is a Dividend King, having increased its payouts for 59 years in a row. Dividend increases are important because they mean you will be earning more over the years just by hanging on to the stock. If nothing else, the company's most recent 2.4% rate hike would be sufficient to offset the impact of inflation.
Over the past decade, shares of Coca-Cola are up 60%. And although the S&P 500 has done better, you are sacrificing some returns in exchange for safety and the company's growing dividend income. Given how volatile the markets have been over the past year, choosing safety may not be a bad idea right now.