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.

Diageo, for example, is up 51% since May 2004, and is currently rewarding investors with a 2.86% yield. Then there's Citizens Communications, which has returned 24% since October 2004 on top of a current 6.98% 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. That means that whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you're 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:



Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (NYSE:BWP)


EV Energy Partners (NASDAQ:EVEP)


Linear Technology Corp (NASDAQ:LLTC)


Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU)


DCP Midstream Partners (NYSE:DPM)


Source: Capital IQ and CAPS as of March 15.

Stake your claim
I encourage you to join CAPS to learn more about why investors are so bullish on these companies, and perhaps 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: Linear Technology.

Linear is a designer and manufacturer of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors. As opposed to digital semiconductors from companies like Intel and AMD, which input and output digital information, analog chips interact with "real world" information such as light and sound. Mixed-signal chips translate digital information to analog (or vice versa) for applications like playing digital music from your iPod. Designing analog circuits has often been referred to as a "black art," and top-notch engineering has allowed Linear to maintain an impressively high gross margin -- 79% for the past 12 months, as of Dec. 31.

Though the semiconductor industry is notoriously cyclical, Linear has managed to maintain a strong base of business that has allowed it to be a consistent dividend payer since 1992. However, the recent semiconductor business environment has been difficult, and this has been reflected in a sliding stock price for Linear. Over the past few weeks, though, positive results and comments out of competitors Analog Devices (NYSE:ADI) and National Semiconductor (NYSE:NSM) seem to have woken investors up a bit.

You can check out more of what others have to say about Linear, 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 (very) 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:

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. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool's disclosure policy thinks you should take a load off and put the load, put the load, put the load right on it.