The New York Yankees of the '50s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s have one crucial element in common: consistent excellence in their organizations and performance. That's a rare accomplishment, but if you think it could never occur in your portfolio, think again. Carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks could be your key to superstar returns.

Build the next investing dynasty
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 is the mission of our Motley Fool Income Investor service.

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB), for example, has beaten the S&P 500 by 20 points since April 2008, and it currently is rewarding investors with a 4% yield. Or consider Partner Communications (NASDAQ:PTNR), which has topped the S&P by 41 points since May 2007, atop a current 6.2% yield. While 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 the help of Motley Fool CAPS, we'll search for the best dividend-paying stocks around. Here are several dividend picks that have also earned high ratings from the 140,000-plus members of our CAPS community:



CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)



ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP)






General Mills (NYSE:GIS)



Nokia (NYSE:NOK)



Source: Yahoo! Finance and CAPS as of Aug. 27.

Any one of these quality companies would add some dividend excellence to your portfolio, but let's take a closer look at why CAPS members think ConocoPhillips is worth a hard look.

Does my dividend have a glass jaw?
The last thing we want in a dividend-paying company is the risk that the company will fall off a cliff and have to pull back its dividend. This usually ends up being a double whammy because not only do you lose your dividend payout, but many of the dividend-loving investors who own the stock will run for the hills, causing the stock price to fall.

With that in mind, there are three things that I immediately look for when kicking the tires of a dividend payer -- dividend history, financial statements, and business stability.

Conoco has its dividend bases pretty well covered. Though Conoco hasn't always been good about raising its payout, the company has paid a dividend for more than two decades. And while it doesn't have a perfectly clean balance sheet, it has the interest payments on its debt well under control.

As far as business stability goes, it's highly unlikely that the world is going to get over its dependence on oil anytime soon. And though oil prices are well down from their peak last year, they've been on quite a run since bottoming out earlier this year, and may yet benefit from the demand crunch that everyone was babbling about last summer.

If there's one concern we could have here, it's that leaner times will put a cash crunch on the company and force some tough decisions about the dividend.

What the bulls say
Conoco is a clear favorite among the CAPS community, with more than 5,000 outperform ratings against just 141 underperform ratings. Could they be right where Warren Buffett was wrong? Only time will tell.

Among the optimistic CAPS members is 4thRockFool, who gave the stock a thumbs-up back in July, betting that oil prices will be on the rise:

This is an energy sector play. Nothing sophisticated - just a fundamental belief that energy prices will be higher in 2-4 years than they are now, and that companies with the resources to provide energy will be more profitable then than they are now. In the meantime, [Conoco] has a dividend yield of >4.5%.

Get into the action
You can check out who else has been bullish on these stocks, as well as chime in with your own thoughts, by heading over to CAPS

Dividend stocks could help you transform your portfolio from the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins into the dependable New York Yankees. And if you hate the Yankees, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Kimberly-Clark, Procter & Gamble, and Partner Communications are Income Investor selections. ABB is a Global Gains recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out the stocks he's keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or connect with him on Twitter @KoppTheFool. And don't forget to check out The Motley Fool on Twitter. The Fool's disclosure policy pays its dividends in reliability.