Quiz time, sports fans: What did the Edmonton Oilers of the '80s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s have in common? (And exactly how can this help you with your portfolio?)

It wasn't just that they had the best individual players of the time -- Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, and Emmitt Smith, respectively -- although that certainly helped. And it wasn't just that they were able to bring home world championship trophies on a regular basis. It was simply that their organizations and performances were consistently excellent.

Consistent excellence is rare anywhere, but imagine seeing it in your portfolio. Impossible? Not at all. Because that's what carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks can offer.

Be the next investing dynasty
Finding these long-haul outperformers can help you build your fortune, as studies from investing gurus such as Jeremy Siegel have shown time and time again. Finding them for you is precisely what we do at our Motley Fool Income Investor service.

Sysco (NYSE:SYY), for example, is up almost 20% since August, while it has rewarded shareholders with a 2.2% yield. Then there's H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ), which has returned more than 26% on top of a 3.2% yield. And while both stocks happen to be Income Investor recommendations, you don't need to be a subscriber to get these great gains.

Identify new talent
With that last thought in mind, I'd like to introduce you to our brand-new community-intelligence database, Motley Fool CAPS. There, savvy investors help one another identify stocks that can create consistent and substantial growth for any type of investor. In fact, thousands of strategies, plays, and hunches are allowed to vie for supremacy. And, just as in professional sports, the cream inevitably rises to (and stays at) the top.

So, what are the best dividend-paying stocks around, according to CAPS? Here are a few dividend picks with five-star ratings -- the highest rating a stock can get in CAPS.



Waste Management (NYSE:WMI)


Student Loan (NYSE:STU)


Apollo Investment (NASDAQ:AINV)


Unilever (NYSE:UN)




*Provided by adr.com.

Stake your claim
I encourage you to join CAPS to learn more about why investors are so bullish on these companies, and perhaps to add your own thoughts to the system. I'll get you started with some thoughts about one company here that I believe merits extra attention: Unilever. At some point in time, you've touched at least a few of Unilever's products. Some of its big brands include Dove, Hellmann's, and Lipton, and that's just a few of them. As compared with other gigantic consumer-products makers such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever provides solid growth opportunities, a decent value, and a hearty dividend to boot.

The great thing about being a dividend investor is that your portfolio won't be shocked by the market's most volatile stocks. Instead, it will aim to outperform the market on the back of dependable, consistent cash flows.

So to conclude this extended sports metaphor, allow me to suggest that dividend stocks will help you turn your portfolio into the dependable New York Yankees, rather than the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins. And if you hate the Yankees, as I do, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

Fool contributorNick Kapur is not a professional athlete, but he wishes he were just so he could continue to refer to himself in the third person. He also owns none of the shares mentioned above. The Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.