Kermit Weeks has a great life. Because his geologist father asked for a 2.5% royalty from BHP Billiton in lieu of payment for helping the company find oil, Kermit and his kin are multimillionaires. Kermit's antique airplane collection was even featured in Forbes.

But that can't happen to you, right?

Actually, it can ... with dividends.

Be smart with your cash
While BHP still pays Kermit, that money is "less significant than his income from investments." You see, Kermit reinvests his dividends, and that's the secret to supercharging returns.

Reinvesting means using dividends to buy more stock. It's a simple process, and its effect is overwhelming. While a $1,000 investment in Altria in 1980 would be worth $71,000 today, 25 years of reinvested dividends would make it worth nearly $170,000 (and you'd be earning $7,000 per year in dividends).

Multiply that effect a few times over. That's why Kermit Weeks is living in the lap of luxury.

Make your dreams come true
But you have to be smart when choosing dividend sugar daddies. And since nearly 3,000 publicly traded companies pay shareholders, that can be tricky. After all, you can't reinvest in a company that goes bankrupt.

The key is to find companies that deliver capital gains and growing dividends. For Fool dividend guru James Early, these are growing companies that generate substantial free cash flow and pay out less than 50% of that cash to shareholders. PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG) fits this profile. So do McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Mercury General (NYSE:MCY), BB&T (NYSE:BBT), and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP).

Even if you have no interest in antique airplanes, living off your investments may still sound appealing. Click here to let James and his Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter service help you do it.

This article was originally published on Dec. 23, 2005. It has been updated.

Tim Hanson does not own shares in any company mentioned in this article. PPG Industries and Mercury General are Income Investor picks. No Fool is too cool fordisclosure.