In retirement, having a portfolio of dividend-paying stocks can provide a source of income to preserve your nest egg or, at the very least, help you keep up with inflation. 

There is evidence that consistent dividend payers outperform the market: A recent study showed that the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats -- companies that have raised their dividend for at least 25 consecutive years -- produced higher returns with lower volatility than the overall index. 

With that in mind, here are the three best dividend-paying stocks that can reward you in retirement.

1. Caterpillar

Caterpillar (CAT 0.59%), the world's leading construction equipment manufacturer, is a Dividend Aristocrat, having raised its dividend for 28 consecutive years. Caterpillar currently pays a quarterly dividend of $1.20 per share, which yields about 2.55%.

In line with the study on Dividend Aristocrats, Caterpiller stock -- down 16% year to date -- is faring better in 2022 than the S&P 500, which is down about 20% and yields roughly 1.6% annually in dividends.

Additionally, a key metric for any dividend payer is its payout ratio -- annual dividend payments divided by annual earnings -- to ensure the company can afford to maintain and potentially raise its dividend. Generally, any payout ratio higher than 75% should give an investor pause for concern. So, considering Caterpillar's payout ratio is about 36%, the company should be able to maintain its Dividend Aristocrat status for years to come.

Beyond Caterpillar's dividend, the company posted revenue of $13.6 billion in its most recent quarter, representing 14% growth from Q1 2021. Caterpillar's Q1 2022 profit of $1.5 billion remained flat compared to the same period a year ago due to inflationary pressures. However, the construction equipment manufacturer boosted its profit per share by about 3%, from $2.77 to $2.88, by repurchasing $3.5 billion worth of shares during that time.                                        

Whether the economy is booming or struggling, there will always be demand for roads, houses, and buildings. And Caterpillar is the go-to equipment for these projects, making its stock an excellent addition to any retirement portfolio.

2. Home Depot

Home Depot (HD 0.55%) has had a rough go of it in 2022, with its stock down 28% year to date. One reason why could be that management for the largest home improvement retailer in the United States gave soft revenue guidance for the year, projecting 3% growth to roughly $155.7 billion. Previously, Home Depot's 2021 revenue of $151.2 billion increased 14% compared to 2020.

Home Depot is not a Dividend Aristocrat -- the company didn't raise its dividend during the Great Recession -- however, it has paid a dividend for 141 consecutive quarters, or about 35 years.

Today, Home Depot pays a quarterly dividend of $1.90 per share, which equates to a 2.6% annual dividend yield. And with a payout ratio of roughly 43%, the company shouldn't have any problem continuing its impressive dividend streak even if its revenue growth is slowing down.

Rising interest rates could create some anxiety around the stock. However, Marvin Ellison, CEO of competitor Lowe's (LOW 1.45%), recently commented, "Historical trends will show convincingly that high interest rates, combined with other positive macro indicators, do not have a negative impact on home improvement."

Another factor in Home Depot's favor is the aging inventory of American houses. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, at least 50% of household units in the United States are over 40 years old, which means a repair could likely be around the corner for most Americans. So, with Home Depot being the go-to home improvement retailer for most Americans, its stores and its stock should be stable for the foreseeable future. 

3. Vail Resorts

After suspending its dividend in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vail Resorts (MTN 0.42%) resumed paying its dividend in late 2021. Since then, the mountain resort specialist has raised its quarterly dividend to $1.91 per share, equating to an annual yield of about 3.5%. 

Vail has the highest payout ratio of these three stocks at 47%, but still low enough that the company will likely raise its dividend in the future, just as it had done for eight consecutive years before the pandemic. 

Vail's vulnerability to weather conditions could be a long-term problem for the business. The company notes during the 2020 and 2021 North American holiday ski season, snowfall levels were well below average at its Colorado, Utah, and Tahoe resorts.

Vail has mitigated some of those concerns by marketing its season passes to skiers and snowboarders instead of one-time visits where the snowfall might be disappointing. Additionally, the company is investing in snowmaking machines that "provide a more consistent experience, especially in the early season."

With an impressive collection of assets -- 40 mountain resorts across three countries -- Vail's offerings are unparalleled, and for that reason, the company and its dividend should be seeing fresh powder for years to come.