There is no shortage of investing strategies that can pay off handsomely on Wall Street. Whether you love chasing after the innovative capacity of growth stocks or prefer the simplicity of value stocks, either strategy can work wonders over the long run.
But when it comes to wealth building, few investing strategies have been more consistent than buying dividend stocks.
Although it's a report I reference often, J.P. Morgan Asset Management's comparison of the performance of dividend-paying stocks to those not paying a dividend over multiple decades speaks wonders. J.P. Morgan Asset Management, a division of money-center bank JPMorgan Chase, found that dividend-paying companies returned an annual average of 9.5% between 1972 and 2012. By comparison, the companies not paying a dividend crawled to an annualized return of 1.6% over the same period.
Over time, we should expect dividend stocks to outperform. Companies that parse out a dividend on a regular basis are often profitable, time-tested, and have transparent long-term outlooks. These are typically companies that won't keep investors awake at night with worry.
Ideally, income seekers want the highest dividend yield possible with the least amount of risk. However, risk and yield tend to correlate once yields hit 4% or above. In other words, high-yielding stocks can be yield traps -- i.e., companies with enticingly high yields where the underlying business model is struggling or broken.
The good news is that not all high-yielding stocks are bad news. The following three ultra-high-yielding stocks, which are averaging (yes, averaging) a 12.32% dividend yield, can generate $2,000 in annual dividend income with an initial investment of only $16,250 (split evenly, three ways).
Annaly Capital Management: 12.12% yield
Mortgage real estate investment trust (REIT) Annaly Capital Management (NLY -2.34%) is no stranger to ultra-high-yield dividend stock lists. It's perhaps the most-trusted ultra-high-yield stock, with an average yield of around 10% over the past two decades. The company has also doled out more than $20 billion in dividend income since its inception in 1997.
Mortgage REITs like Annaly have a relatively straightforward operating model, even if the securities they own can be somewhat complex. Annaly is looking to borrow money at the lowest short-term rate possible, and use this capital to purchase higher-yielding long-term assets, like mortgage-backed securities (MBSs). The wider the gap between the average yield on MBSs and the average borrowing rate (this difference is known as the net interest margin), the more money mortgage REITs like Annaly can make.
As you might imagine, the mortgage REIT operating model tends to be interest-rate sensitive, with lower rates often providing the best environment for companies like Annaly to thrive. Over the past couple of months, the interest rate yield curve has flattened a bit, with the 2-year and 10-year yields on U.S. Treasury bonds narrowing. Since the 10-year Treasury bond is a good predictor for where mortgage rates head next, this tightening has resulted in a shrinking book value for Annaly.
But if you pan out beyond just the next couple of quarters, there's a lot to be excited about. If the Federal Reserve does raise lending rates, as expected, it'll also lift the yields on the MBSs Annaly is purchasing. Over time, this will widen the company's net interest margin.
What's more, the interest rate yield curve spends a disproportionately longer period of time in steepening than it does flattening. That's because the U.S. economy spends years expanding, compared to a couple of months or a few quarters in recession. In short, patience should pay off handsomely for Annaly's shareholders.
Icahn Enterprises: 14.44% yield
Another high-yielding dividend stock that can deliver an enormous amount of income from a relatively small investment is diversified holding company Icahn Enterprises (IEP -0.91%). This master limited partnership has paid a quarterly distribution for nearly 17 consecutive years and is currently yielding north of 14%!
There are two key reasons Icahn Enterprises is a smart buy for patient, income-seeking investors (aside from its insanely high yield). First, you get the leadership of Carl Icahn, who's the founder of the company and the chairman of the board of directors. Icahn is arguably one of the best-known activist investors on Wall Street. Activist investors usually buy up a single-digit-percentage stake in a company with the goal of gaining board seats or effecting change(s) to increase shareholder value. Sometimes this means pushing for the sale of noncore assets, introducing a capital return program, or perhaps putting an entire company up for sale.
The beauty of the activist-investor approach is that it usually benefits shareholders. While no activist investor has a perfect track record of success, Icahn has shown that he can help create value in virtually any economic environment. That's been demonstrated by Icahn Enterprises' 66 consecutive quarterly distributions.
The second reason this ultra-high-yield stock can be a foundation for income seekers is the cyclical ties of its core holdings. The company has more than a half-dozen different industries represented by its operating segments. But a large percentage of this representation is tied to the energy and automotive industries. As noted, even though recessions are inevitable, periods of expansion last considerably longer. This suggests the natural expansion of the U.S. and global economy over time will allow the value of Icahn Enterprises' cyclical holdings to increase.
AGNC Investment Corp.: 10.4% yield
The third ultra-high-yield dividend stock that can pad investors' pocketbooks is AGNC Investment Corp. (AGNC -1.00%). It has averaged a double-digit yield in 12 of the past 13 years, making it one of the most consistently high-yielding companies of the past decade.
AGNC is another mortgage REIT that investors can trust. It has the same basic operating model as Annaly Capital Management, with a unique aspect or two that income seekers should be aware of.
For instance, AGNC has been parsing out its dividend on a monthly basis since October 2014. Most dividend stocks and mortgage REITs, including Annaly, pay their dividends once a quarter. If you prefer the adrenaline rush of nabbing a payout from your holdings on a monthly basis, buying AGNC is the smart way to go.
Something else to note about AGNC Investment is the company's penchant for buying agency securities. An agency asset is backed by the federal government in the event of default. As of the end of 2021, $79.7 billion of AGNC's $82 billion investment portfolio was agency securities. This is an even higher percentage of agency securities, relative to total portfolio holdings, than Annaly has. Though this added protection does lower the yields AGNC nets from the MBSs it purchases, it also allows the company to deploy leverage to boost its profit potential.
The transparency of the mortgage REIT industry also allows income investors to make smart decisions. The stocks in this industry tend to trade very close to their respective book values. With AGNC's shares changing hands for just 88% of their book value at the time of this writing, it makes for not only an excellent income stock, but a fantastic bounce-back candidate from a share price perspective.