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.

RPM International (NYSE:RPM), for example, is up 75% since November 2003, and it is currently rewarding investors with a 3% yield. Then there's Total SA (NYSE:TOT), which has returned 99% since January 2004 on top of a current 2.4% yield. And while both of these 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 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. 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:



Chevron (NYSE:CVX)




Votorantim Celulose e Papel (NYSE:VCP)


Brasil Telecom Participacoes (NYSE:BRP)


Prospect Capital Corp. (NASDAQ:PSEC)


Sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo! Finance, Morningstar.com, company filings, and CAPS as of July 12.

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: Paychex.

For investors eyeing Paychex for its dividend, the story just got a bit sweeter. After market-close on Thursday, the company announced that it will up its dividend from $0.21 per share to $0.30 per share, effectively raising the annual yield from 2.0% to 2.8%. In conjunction with that announcement, Paychex also announced the return of $1 billion to shareholders through a stock repurchase program.

Earlier in the week, the company announced revisions to its fiscal 2007 and fourth-quarter 2007 results because of litigation expenses. But its results prior to the additional expenses were in line with Wall Street's expectations. Revenue for the year was up 13%, and earnings per share, prior to the revision, also increased 13%. Paychex expects to up its adjusted EPS of $1.35 by 18%-20% in the upcoming fiscal year.

Though CAPS player csguernsey admits that he has been disappointed with Paychex recently, he also shares:

The company is extremely well run with excellent profitability ratios, but remains fairly expensive. On the other hand, dividend growth has been healthy and I am getting more dividend yield than if I had plunked my money in a [money market fund]. Along with modest capital appreciation it's not been a bad ride.

You can check out more of what others have to say about Paychex, and 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:

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.