If you have a strong portfolio with dividend income rolling in every few months, you can put yourself in a great position to retire early. Not only can the dividend income pad your returns and help your portfolio grow in value over the years, but it can also lessen your financial need to have other sources of income. Plus, if the companies you've invested in over the years increase their dividend payments, you'll also be collecting more recurring income, making it that much easier to retire early.

A couple of dividend stocks with impressive track records for making regular dividend payments include Medtronic (MDT 4.05%) and Enbridge (ENB 0.64%). These stocks can be pillars to build your portfolio around and are investments that can help you retire early.

1. Medtronic

Medical-device maker Medtronic didn't have a strong year in 2022 because it's still facing supply chain issues. As a result, its numbers aren't as great as they otherwise would be. For the three-month period ended Oct. 28, the company's sales of $7.6 billion were down 3% year over year due to foreign currency transactions and weaker demand than expected, which it says reflects a "slower supply recovery."

But the good news for long-term investors is that Medtronic is likely to recover from this, and the recent bearishness has made the stock a better buy -- it's trading at just 15 times future earnings based on analyst estimates. The average stock on the S&P 500 trades at a multiple of nearly 19 times its future profits. 

Medtronic stock is down 25% year to date, helping push its yield up to 3.5%. And management isn't to worried about the business, announcing an 8% increase to the dividend earlier this month, marking the 45th consecutive year that Medtronic has raised its dividend.

Although the company's payout ratio of 81% may appear high, investors should remember that Medtronic's business remains in recovery mode, and as demand improves, so too will its bottom line. With devices that help patients around the world with more than 70 different medical conditions, Medtronic is a well-diversified healthcare company to invest in for the long haul.

2. Enbridge

Enbridge is a pipeline company that helps connect the oil and gas industry. While there is a strong push in the world to transition to renewable energy, the demand for oil will persist for decades. And Enbridge is a business that benefits from long-term contracts, which can add significant stability for investors.

In 2020, for example, with low demand due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the company still posted a profit of nearly 3 billion Canadian dollars ($2.2 billion). Although that was a decline of 44% from the previous year, it still demonstrated strong resiliency, and that's what can make this an ideal investment to hang on to for the long term. Over the trailing 12 months, Enbridge's earnings have improved significantly and have totaled CA$5.5 billion.

In 2022, shares of Enbridge have been relatively stable and are up about 1%. Those returns were greater earlier in the year when the price of oil was higher. But even as commodity prices have softened, Enbridge remains a stable buy.

Its 6.6% yield makes this an attractive dividend stock to own, and the company announced a 3.2% increase to its payout in December. That's the 28th consecutive year that Enbridge has raised its dividend. Investors may be turned off by its payout ratio, which sits well above 100% of earnings. However, because of high depreciation costs, that can be a misleading figure.

Many companies in the industry rely on distributable cash flow (DCF) to determine their ability to pay dividends. It adjusts earnings for items such as maintenance capital, finance costs, and other items. And in terms of DCF, Enbridge says it payout ratio remains within its target range of 60% to 70%.

While Enbridge's dividend may look high, it is sustainable. Buying the stock now could be an excellent decision for investors. Enbridge is trading at less than 18 times its future earnings and is a safe investment option to buy and hold.