In this crazy world, it's hard to find things you can count on. Death and taxes, sure. Jobs, marriages, even your favorite breakfast cereal? Not so much. But there's another, more positive element you usually can rely on: Dividends.

Awesome track records
True, many well-regarded companies have recently done the unthinkable, reducing or eliminating their dividends. Even General Electric, incredibly enough, had to scale back its payout several months ago.

Still, many well-known companies have faithfully paid dividends for many years:

  • ExxonMobil has been paying dividends since 1908, and increasing them annually since 1984.
  • Procter & Gamble has an unbroken dividend-paying streak that goes back to 1890 (yes, 119 years), and it's been hiking its dividend each year since 1957.
  • Abbott Labs recently reported its 344rd consecutive quarterly dividend. That's more than 85 years of payouts.
  • Walgreen has been paying dividends annually since 1934, and raising them annually since 1976.
  • Caterpillar has paid a dividend since its early days in 1925.
  • General Mills has a dividend-paying history dating back to 1899.
  • McDonald's, a relatively younger company, has been paying dividends annually since 1976.

Through thick and thin
World War I couldn't derail General Mills' dividend. The Spanish Flu didn't stop Procter & Gamble's payouts. The stock market crash of 1929 couldn't shake Caterpillar. And ExxonMobil kept on paying dividends right through the geopolitical turmoil of World War II. These are stocks you wouldn't have wanted to miss out on.

Even after our latest stock market implosion, gobs of companies kept paying their dividends. Many even raised them.

The world and the stock market can both be volatile. But many companies will remain very likely -- though admittedly not guaranteed -- to keep paying dividends to shareholders, no matter what the world throws at them.

Dividend contenders
Here are several strong dividend payers I found via a simple screen for companies that recently offered a dividend yield of at least 2.5%. I'm including their five-year dividend growth rate for additional context:


Recent Yield

5-Year Dividend
Growth Rate

Boeing (NYSE: BA)



Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY)



Intel (Nasdaq: INTC)



Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)



Nokia (NYSE: NOK)



Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)



Verizon (NYSE: VZ)



United Parcel Service



Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

You'd need to research these possibilities further, of course, but they make a good starting place. Once you add more solid dividend payers to your mix, sit back and (along with your descendants) enjoy the coming century!

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This article was originally published Oct. 2, 2009. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and General Electric. Intel, Nokia, and Pfizer are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and United Parcel Service are Income Investor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel and Johnson & Johnson. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.