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."

These S&P 1500 companies have paid and increased their dividend for at least 25 years. Because the S&P 1500 comprises small-, medium-, and large-cap stocks, you can get dividends from fast-growing mighty mites and king-sized major leaguers alike.

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


Trailing Yield

5-Year Dividend

Growth Rate

1. Integrys Energy Group (NYSE: TEG) 5.1% 4.1%
2. Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) 4.8% 0.9%
3. Questar (NYSE: STR) 3.3% 3.4%

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 finding companies capable of paying rising dividends for a quarter-century or more.

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