If you're like me, you want to build wealth for life by beating the market. You want to stay ahead of the masses who stash their money in savings accounts (gasp!), bonds, or even index funds. But you certainly don't want to lose to them. There's no worse feeling than knowing that you'd be doing better by doing nothing.

But you take on the risk of losing to the market if you stash substantial portions of your hard-earned dollars in non-dividend payers, underperformers -- or worst of all, non-dividend-paying underperformers. Because when your investment dollars stagnate, even the lowly T-bill will take you to the woodshed.

The greatest growth is fueled by dividends
Master investors like former Vanguard Windsor Fund manager John Neff knew that a solid dividend payer is a lifelong investment. During his 32 years at the helm, Neff beat the market by more than three percentage points each year on the back of dividends! That's a true dividend dynasty -- and you can build one, too.

Building your dividend dynasty
has been one of the market's best-performing stocks, up nearly 100,000% since its IPO. And it's been paying and increasing its dividend ever since the company declared its first dividend in 1974. That's proof positive that a dividend doesn't hamper growth.

Another great long-term investment has been Ingersoll-Rand (NYSE: IR), which has paid a dividend in every quarter since 1919. Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), another substantial outperformer, boasts 33 consecutive years of dividend increases. More incredibly, natural gas distributor UGI (NYSE: UGI) has paid dividends for 123 consecutive years and has raised its dividend in each of the past 20 years. Not only did these dividends put money into shareholders' pockets, they also indicated that management was confident in the future and that their business models were generating substantial amounts of cash.

These are good companies now, but 15 years ago, they could have been the foundation of your dividend dynasty -- a source of financial security for you and your family. Former Microsoft CFO John Connors expressed it best when he said, "Declaring a dividend demonstrates the board's confidence in the company's long-term growth opportunities and financial strength."

The secret to success
It may shock you to hear that the best stocks are not always those with the best products, biggest revenues, or even the largest profits. The best investment opportunities are those run by managers who want to create maximum shareholder value. You'll find amazing winners among unknowns such as Oshkosh Truck (NYSE: OSK). Oshkosh has paid a dividend in every quarter since it went public in 1985, and it managed to return 31% annually over the past 10 years. Compare that performance with such big name non-payers as Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: JAVA) and Agilent (NYSE: A)!

Great management can come from anywhere, and it can build a company with rising earnings per share, limited dilution, manageable debt, and a consistent ability to deploy capital and use its assets effectively. That all leads to the richest treasure of all: considerable amounts of free cash flow, which allow a company to reward shareholders with a growing dividend.

As I see it, the dividend is the key to it all.

The cornerstones of tomorrow's dynasty
The stocks of tomorrow's dividend dynasty aren't just the ones paying substantial yields. If that were the case, everybody and his broker would be building one. Tomorrow's dividend dynasties are both dividend and capital gains growth opportunities. That means they're:

  1. Underfollowed.
  2. Undervalued.
  3. Underappreciated.
  4. Committed to creating shareholder value.

To build your own dynasty, search for these traits and don't ignore boring industries -- utilities, insurers, consumer products, banks -- or even foreign countries.

That's how James Early and Andy Cross do it, and they're beating the market by five percentage points. To view their more than four dozen income stock recommendations, enjoy a free 30-day trial of Income Investor. There's no obligation to subscribe, and a trial includes access to all back issues and previous picks, current risk-adjusted values, and the Income Investor discussion boards. Click here to learn more.

This article was originally published on June 29, 2005. It has been updated.

Tim Hanson owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Wal-Mart and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. No Fool is too cool for disclosure.