Dividend-paying companies are an oasis in the desert of underperforming stocks. They offer solid payouts today and the promise of capital gains tomorrow. According to a study by Ibbotson, reinvested dividends made up about 40% of total stock returns from 1926 to 2006. In fact, dividend investing is so appealing that superinvestor Warren Buffett has made it a significant component of his portfolio.

When searching for great dividend stocks, it makes a lot of sense to start with companies that have been playing the dividend game the longest. Standard & Poor's has culled the dividend winners from the also-rans in a list it calls the "Dividend Aristocrats."

Let's examine the top 10 dividend aristocrats by yield. For context, I've also included their five-year annualized dividend growth rate.


Trailing Yield

5-Yr Dividend Growth Rate

1. CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) 7.1%


2. Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI) 6.6%


3. Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) 5.5%


4. Cincinnati Financial (Nasdaq: CINF) 5.2%


5. Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG) 5.1%


6. Integrys Energy Group (NYSE: TEG) 5.1%


7. Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) 4.8%


8. Kimberly Clark (NYSE: KMB) 4%


9. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) 3.4%


10. Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT) 3.3%


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

These aren't formal recommendations -- just ideas for your own further research. Still, they could give you a great start toward find companies capable of paying rising dividends for a quarter-century or more.

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