Stocks have tanked lately, but you already know that.

Why they've tanked is important. And while there are many reasons (most random and unexplainable), a big one is fear that European fallout will slow economic growth here in the U.S.

And there's good reason to think it will. With consumer spending hindered by debt, housing construction still in the dumps, and businesses sitting patiently on their cash, forecasts of economic growth have relied on a surge in exports. With the dollar strengthening to multiyear highs, that's now questionable at best.

So if economic growth does stall, what do you do with your money? You could do worse than doubling down on dividends. The idea is that if the capital appreciation side of stocks spins its wheels, dividends can still carry you along with reasonable returns.

The good news is that the recent crash has turned some traditional dividend stocks into veritable cash cows. Here are five:


Current Yield

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)




Verizon (NYSE: VZ)



Altria (NYSE: MO)



Southern Company (NYSE: SO)



Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY)



Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Let's say a few words about these companies.

AT&T and Verizon both churn out some of the highest dividends you can find today. They're both also looked down upon because everyone knows future earnings growth will be meager at best. The landline business died years ago, the wireless business is mostly saturated, and what growth AT&T derives from the iPhone gets coldcocked by subsidies to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL).

Then again, no one in their right mind should think a stock yielding 7% deserves to produce much earnings growth. Understand that what you're paying for with these stocks is the dividend and nothing else; come to terms with the fact that dividends may not grow at all in the coming years. But realize the yield is so high that investors who sit around patiently reinvesting their dividends will beat the pants off most other investors as the years tick by. It's a beautiful thing.

Altria's story hasn't changed in decades: Cigarettes are social dynamite, the threat of class action lawsuits hovers overhead, and new taxes threaten the customer base. What also hasn't changed are investors who ignore social loathing and realize the litigation threat is largely overblown being rewarded with piles upon piles of money. It has never paid to bet against Big Tobacco, and there's little reason to assume that will change. A 7% dividend on this stock while 10-year Treasuries yield 3.1% is seriously attractive.

Pretty straightforward with Southern Company: It's a well-run power company serving more than 4 million customers. They turn their lights on, you get a 5.7% dividend -- and that's a dividend that hasn't been cut in the past 23 years. Simple. Stable. Lucrative. If economic growth stalls, utilities like Southern Company will provide some of the best returns around.

Eli Lilly's story is similar to AT&T and Verizon. The company is easy to disregard because earnings growth is a bit of a question mark. Yet shares crank out a 6.1% dividend, and the payout ratio on that dividend is only 51%, so odds of a dividend cut in the near future seem pretty slim. Earnings can languish while the dividend keeps chugging along. Eli Lilly toiled for years developing new drugs: Sit back and enjoy its hard work.

Let's keep this going
What are your favorite dividend stocks at today's prices? Fire away in the comments section below. And for more on dividend investing, be sure to check out: