Although investing offers no guarantees, Wall Street has consistently shown that time is investors' greatest ally. If you buy stakes in high-quality stocks and allow your investment thesis to play out over a long period of time, your chance of building serious wealth is very high.
Even with the broad-based S&P 500 on the doorstep of 60 record closing highs in 2021, bargains can still be found by long-term investors.
As we steam forward into November and march ever closer to the end of the year, the following three companies stand out for all the right reasons. Buying this trio of top stocks now can make you richer in November, and most importantly well beyond.
The first top stock investors can confidently pile into in November is payment-processing kingpin Visa (V -1.01%).
While it doesn't happen often, Visa's quarterly operating results failed to impress Wall Street. In particular, Visa's revenue guidance for the upcoming fiscal year is expected to be the "high end of the mid-teens," which fell short of the roughly 20% sales growth analysts had been looking for. With this guidance "shortfall" pushing shares of the company to a seven-month low, it's the perfect time for opportunistic investors to strike.
Buying Visa gives long-term investors the opportunity to take advantage of growing domestic and global economies. Even though recessions are an inevitable part of the economic cycle, they don't last very long. Whereas economic downturns typically last a couple of quarters, periods of expansion are measured in years. In fact, the previous economic expansion in the U.S. lasted for more than a decade. Since consumers and businesses tend to spend more when the economy is expanding, purchasing shares of Visa allows investors to take advantage of this numbers game.
Investors will also enjoy Visa's dominance. As of 2018, Visa controlled a 53% share of credit card network purchasing volume in the U.S., which was more than 30 percentage points higher than its next-closest competitor. Following the Great Recession, no payment processor picked up more share in the world's No. 1 economy than Visa.
Another key to success is its avoidance of lending. On one hand, it could be reasonably argued that Visa is leaving fee and interest income potential on the table by not lending. On the other hand, when inevitable recessions do arise, Visa doesn't have to set aside cash to cover rising credit delinquencies. This is why Visa's profit margin has so consistently stayed at or above 50%.
In November and well beyond, Visa has all the tools necessary to make investors richer.
Similar to Visa, Altria was smoked following its quarterly earnings report. But unlike Visa, it had nothing to do with the company's guidance. Rather, Wall Street wasn't impressed with the company's quarterly income, which fell modestly shy of expectations. However, this short-term pain could equate to long-term gains for investors looking out to the horizon.
Altria, which is the company behind the premium Marlboro cigarette brand in the U.S., has exceptional pricing power in its corner. Since the nicotine in tobacco is an addictive chemical, it's created an army of inelastic buyers. In other words, Altria has been able to counter lower cigarette shipment volumes over time with higher price points for its products. While it's unlikely we see a resurgence in tobacco cigarette sales in the U.S., it's very possible for Altria to continue growing its sales from price hikes on its Marlboro brand.
Of course, it should be noted that the company is taking steps to generate revenue beyond traditional tobacco products. For example, Altria has invested in both vaping company Juul and Canadian pot stock Cronos Group. Vaping has been popular with younger adults, while a legalization of cannabis at the federal level in the U.S. would position Cronos Group to enter the U.S. weed market. Should the latter occur, Altria would almost certainly step in to aid Cronos with derivative cannabis product development and marketing.
But the real lure of Altria Group is its shareholder-friendly management team and board of directors. This is a company aiming to return 80% of its quarterly earnings to investors as a dividend. Based on its $3.60 base annual payout -- Altria has raised its payout 56 times in the past 52 years -- Altria's yield is now up to 8.1%.
The board also expanded its $2 billion share repurchase program to $3.5 billion. Approximately $2.5 billion remains of this program, with repurchasing activity expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2022. With fewer shares outstanding, Altria should expect a modest lift in its earnings per share.
Tobacco stocks aren't the growth story they once were, but they continue to make patient investors richer.
Walgreens Boots Alliance
A third top stock that can make investors richer in November and well beyond is pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA -1.72%). Pay close attention value investors, because this stock is for you!
Generally, healthcare stocks are highly defensive and generate very predictable cash flow in any economic environment. Since we can't control when we get sick or what ailment(s) we develop, there's always a need for drugs, devices, and healthcare services. Walgreens, however, wasn't so lucky during the pandemic. Because pharmacy chains rely on foot traffic to drive front-end sales and clinic revenue, various lockdowns clamped down on its top-and-bottom line. Thankfully, these struggles are temporary, and they've made Walgreens highly attractive to value seekers.
The big catalyst for Walgreens is the company's multifaceted turnaround plan that's aimed at cutting costs, going digital, and reaching customers at the local level.
In the cost-cutting department, Walgreens was initially aiming to reduce its annual operating expenses by $2 billion. Though the goal was to reach this figure by the end of fiscal 2022, the company surpassed $2 billion in cost-savings this year. To add, Walgreens Boots Alliance also divested its wholesale business (Alliance Healthcare) to AmerisourceBergen in a $6.5 billion cash-and-stock deal. Walgreens used much of this cash to reduce its long-term debt from over $12 billion to the $7.7 billion it sits at today.
While reducing expenses in some areas, the company has been spending aggressively on digitization initiatives. In particular, Walgreens is bolstering its direct-to-consumer efforts. Even though it'll continue to rely on its brick-and-mortar locations for most of its revenue, the ease-of-use of online ordering can generate sustainable organic growth opportunities.
Finally, Walgreens has partnered with VillageMD to launch co-located full-service health clinics in more than 30 U.S. markets. The plan is to have 80 clinics up and running by the end of 2021, more than 600 by 2025, and roughly 1,000 by 2027. These will be physician-staffed, meaning they can handle a broad array of services and easily funnel patients to Walgreen's higher-margin pharmacy. Walgreens is so committed to this partnership that it recently upped its investment stake in VillageMD to 63%.
Investors can gobble up shares of Walgreens for just 9 times forward-year earnings -- and they'll net a 4.1% dividend yield to boot!