Editor's note: The original draft of this article did not mention that Hartford has renewed its agreement with the AARP until the year 2020. We regret the error.

Quiz time, sports fans: What did the New York Yankees of the '50s 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 some of the best individual players of the time -- Yogi Berra, 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? No way! Because that's what carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks can offer.

Build 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.

Constellation Energy (NYSE:CEG), for example, is up more than 100% since July 2004, while it currently rewards shareholders with a 2.3% yield. Then there's Citizens Communications (NYSE:CZN), which has returned more than 28% since October 2004 on top of a 6.6% 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 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 other words, whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you are welcome to strut your stuff. 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:



Rayonier (NYSE:RYN)


Telefonos de Mexico (NYSE:TMX)


Magellan Midstream Partners (NYSE:MMP)


Hartford Financial Services Group (NYSE:HIG)


Plains All American Pipeline (NYSE:PAA)


Source: Capital IQ and CAPS as of Feb. 16.

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 may be worth checking out: Hartford Financial Services.

Many promising stocks I've looked at recently have some exposure to the coming boom from baby boomer retirement. Given the sheer size of the baby boom generation, not to mention the amount of assets that they collectively control, it makes a heck of a lot of sense. The story of Hartford doesn't disappoint.

Two CAPS players, RJA101 and TISHAZXCV1, point out two aspects of Hartford's success, namely its marketing agreement with AARP and its rapidly growing business in Japan. Sales through the AARP agreement make up a majority of the income from Hartford's $429 million personal lines business in the $1.1 billion property and casualty segment. Though this area has not been providing much growth for the company over the past few years, Hartford expects that the increase in AARP membership as boomers retire will drive significant future growth. The company currently has an exclusive agreement through 2020.

While growth through AARP sales may still be a few years off, Hartford's Japan operations are paying off now. Net income for international operations, of which Japan is the bulk, grew a killer 156% in 2006 and has been growing at an average annual rate of 166% since 2003. Hartford's SEC filings were the first place where I've seen reference to the Japanese baby boomers, but with $31 billion of assets under management in Japan, up from $26 billion in 2005, who am I to naysay?

You can check out more of what others have to say about Hartford, as well as chime in with your own thoughts, by heading over to CAPS. You may also want to check out a few of the other top-rated dividend payers above while you're there.

And looping back around to conclude my 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, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More interesting income Foolishness:

Love dividends? Who doesn't? Find great picks for great returns with a 30-day free trial of Income Investor.

Yankees fan and Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer hopes the Yanks can continue (regain?) their legendary excellence, and has his fingers crossed that the Cowboys will never get back to the top again. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is always on the winning team.