Do you ever feel like taking a step back and spending a little less time thinking about stocks and keeping tabs on the market? If so, you're not alone, and you're not crazy. Plenty of investors find they make more money by being less active, letting time and dividends do the heavy lifting.
With that as the backdrop, here are three dividend-paying blue-chip stocks you could easily step into with plans to hold them forever. All three have already proven their payout prowess, qualifying as Dividend Aristocrats (S&P 500 companies that have raised their annual dividends every year for at least the past 25 years).
1. McDonald's earns the right to be a difficult landlord
Dividend yield: 2.2%
It's usually revered as a restaurant stock, but that's not what McDonald's (MCD -0.53%) is at all. The tongue-in-cheek categorization of the company as a real estate landlord is actually quite an accurate one.
Of the 39,160 McDonald's locations in operation as of the end of March, less than 7% of them are owned by the parent corporation. The other 93% of these stores are owned and operated by franchises. That's not unusual within the restaurant business. What's so unusual for McDonald's franchisees, however, is that many are required to pay rent to the franchisor -- not at a fixed monthly fee, but as a percentage of each of their stores' sales. This variable cost in some regards penalizes operators for doing well and growing their business.
Not surprisingly, this agreement is a source of friction between the company's franchised restaurateurs and its corporate management. Fanning the flames of this tension is similarly required spending the company requires of franchisees on things like store remodels, technology upgrades, and branded supplies that can only be purchased from the parent organization at non-negotiable prices.
At the end of the proverbial day, though, most franchisees gladly pay their required rent because McDonald's is the most successful (and most recognizable) restaurant brand in the world. A big chunk of these rent payments are reliably passed along to investors in the form of dividends.
2. Clorox isn't just bleach anymore
Dividend yield: 2.5%
There's the Clorox (CLX -0.80%) you know: Bleach, disinfecting wipes, and all sorts of cleaning sprays. These consumer products, however, are only a small piece of the Clorox company's entire portfolio. Liquid-Plumr, Kingsford charcoal, Fresh Step kitty litter, and Glad trash bags are just a small sampling of the numerous brands that are part of the Clorox family.
This diversified lineup is a big part of the reason this company has been able to increase its payout for 52 consecutive years now -- it's always got something to sell someone, as consumers regularly deplete goods like disinfecting wipes and trash bags.
This forward progress isn't apt to slow anytime soon, either. The IGNITE initiative unveiled in 2019 not only calls for new products aimed at developing megatrends, but also seeks to build brands with a bigger purpose, like sustainability. Last year, for instance, Clorox unveiled Glad-branded trash bags made from 50% recycled plastic.
There's a clear fiscal upside to this sort of social stewardship too. Public relations firm Edelman says more than four-fifths of consumers must be able to trust that a brand is doing "what is right" to buy that company's products. In this vein, and given IGNITE's key tenets, Clorox's go-forward goals of net sales growth between 2% and 4% and EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margin rate growth of 25 and 50 basis points are more than achievable; the stretch goal is a plausible 175 basis points.
Regardless of the specifics, this is a company being rebuilt to last.
3. Consolidated Edison is a picture of consistency for good reason
Dividend yield: 4%
Finally, add utility outfit Consolidated Edison (ED -0.23%) to your list of Dividend Aristocrats to buy and hold forever.
The bullish argument for owning New York City's top power provider isn't a complicated one. Keeping the lights on typically isn't optional for most people, so they make a point of paying their electricity bills. ConEd simply passes a good portion of these payments along to shareholders. About 70% of the company's profits are dished back out as dividends, which is generous, but still leaves Consolidated Edison with some financial wiggle room should something unexpected take shape.
Yes, this is the same utility company that seemingly wasn't prepared to deal with all the power outages caused by Hurricane Isaias in August 2020. It was a gaffe that exposed operational and readiness shortcomings that will, in turn, lead to ramped-up preventive spending now and in the future.
The fact of the matter is, however, the company is reliably permitted to increase its rates by as much as is needed to support its service. That's how it's got 47 uninterrupted annual dividend increases under its belt.
And that streak isn't apt to end anytime before 2023 either.
While it's been largely buried under the noise of the pandemic, early last year New York State's Public Service Commission approved a 4.2% rate hike for 2020 and a 4.7% price increase this year, to be followed by another 4% price hike next year. The company's already said these rate increases will be used to fund infrastructure improvements, leaving the remainder of income behind to support dividend payments.
More of the same is a good thing in this case, especially when the current yield's at a healthy 4%.