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.

AllianceBernstein (NYSE:AB), for example, is up 177% since September 2004, and is currently rewarding investors with a 4% yield. And while AllianceBernstein happens to be an Income Investor recommendation, 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 each other identify stocks that can create consistent and substantial growth for any type of investor. That means 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:



Metso Corp (NYSE:MX)


Unilever (NYSE:UL)




Strategic Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:BEE)


Ennis (NYSE:EBF)


Sources: Capital IQ and CAPS as of March 23.

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 even get you started with some thoughts about one company here that may be worth checking out: Unilever.

Lately I've had Unilever on the brain, probably in part because I championed the stock in this year's Stock Madness tournament. Though Unilever went down in the first round, I certainly don't think the stock is down and out.

It's very likely that you bump into a number of Unilever's products on a regular basis. The company owns brands like Country Crock, Dove, Hellman's, Wish-Bone, Lipton, Vaseline, Slim-Fast, and my personal favorite, Axe. They're not particularly exciting products (with the possible exception of Axe!), but they're good ol' staple purchases, the kinds of products that you buy over and over again, no matter how the economy is doing. Over the years, Unilever has proven to be a solid, stable performer and, with the help of its dividend, has produced fantastic returns for its shareholders.

The company has come under fire recently for less-than-stellar growth. Rumors have also started to fly that activist shareholders might be looking to break up the $21 billion company.

But CAPS players, who have voted 112-4 in favor of the stock, seem to find the business and dividend anything but stale. A few players share their thoughts:

  • NoVaAmPro: "Unilever just makes tons of stuff (consumer non-durables, meaning you'll keep buying it over and over again) for sale all over the world. Besides keeping me smelling fresh throughout the day, its dividend yield should keep my portfolio looking fresh every 6 months."
  • Jnifer4: "Unilever is a good company that sells goods which everyone needs and will still sell product even in a recession. They also boast a dividend, which makes it a good company to hold in a portfolio for many years. The Unilever name has been building and growing and is growing up to (I really hope) be on par with Johnson & Johnson someday in terms of household recognition, but (at least currently) at a fraction of the cost."

You can check out more of what others have to say about Unilever, 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 CAPS coverage:

Johnson & Johnson, AllianceBernstein, and Unilever are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Take a 30-day free trial of the newsletter to find out why.

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 a true investing dynasty.