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 our Motley Fool Income Investor service's mission.

H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ), for example, has beaten the S&P 500 by 20 points since August 2004, and it currently is rewarding investors with a 4.1% yield. Or consider Tupperware Brands (NYSE:TUP), which has topped the S&P by 132 points since October 2005, atop a current 1.9% 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-member CAPS community:



CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Aflac (NYSE:AFL)



Quality Systems (NASDAQ:QSII)



Southern Copper (NYSE:PCU)






Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW)



Source: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's), Yahoo! Finance, and CAPS as of Oct. 29.

Any one of these quality companies would add some dividend pizzazz to your portfolio, but let's take a closer look at how Motley Fool Inside Value pick Intel stacks up.

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 places that I immediately tune into when kicking the tires of a dividend payer -- dividend history, financial statements, and business stability.

Unlike many other tech giants, Intel has a reasonably long history of paying dividends, though it wasn't until more recently that the company got serious about making dividends an important part of shareholder returns. After paying out $0.08 per share in 2003 -- which amounted to less than a 1% yield based on the year-end stock price -- Intel went on to increase its payout 600% to bring it to today's $0.56-per-share payout.

While that doesn't give us a lot of history to rely on, it does show the veracity of Intel's new commitment to dividends. However, we can get a lot more comfort about Intel's dividend by turning to the company's financials.

Although Intel does carry more than $2 billion in debt, it's also sitting on a massive stockpile of cash -- nearly $13 billion at the end of last quarter. And it doesn't look as if that cash will be needed anytime soon for operations. Historically, the company has produced far more cash than it needs to fund capital expenditures, leaving plenty for dividends and share buybacks.

We could fret about Intel's business, since semiconductors are a notoriously cyclical business, but the strength of Intel's brand has shone through during the past two recessions, allowing the company to stay solidly profitable and continue to churn out huge piles of cash.

What the bulls say
Intel may not have managed to score the top-rung, five-star CAPS rating, but the stock does have solid support from the community with more than 6,400 outperform ratings against just 561 underperforms.

CAPS member GonzoDeluxe gave Intel's stock a thumbs-up earlier this month and highlighted the cyclicality of the business as a positive driver:

A basic cyclical play that still has legs to go awhile. Consumers and Asian growth are driving current sales, but eventually corporations will have to go through a hardware upgrade cycle before their servers start crashing due to electronic failures. And then there's Windows 7, plus the fact that AMD is no longer performance competitive at any level of the market. Look for market share gains plus incremental growth at least through April/May 2010. If we manage to avoid a double dip recession in 1H 2010, it'll just keep going at least until the fed starts raising interest rates.

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:

Aflac and Quality Systems are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. H.J. Heinz and Tupperware Brands are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer owns shares of Intel, but does not own shares of any of the other 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. The Fool's disclosure policy pays its dividends in reliability.