When thinking of dividend stocks, we tend to think of large, boring companies like Wal-Mart or United Parcel Service. These stalwarts will most likely be around in 10 years, still paying you that quarterly dividend, but they will probably never be huge winners. For instance, in this decade, both Wal-Mart and UPS aren't among the top 10 or even the top 100 dividend stocks of the past decade, as measured by total return to shareholders.

If we want to find the best stocks for the next 10 years, it helps to know who performed best for the last 10 years.

The 10 best dividend stocks of the 2000s
The decade's best dividend payers had to:

  • Pay dividends every year from 2000 to 2010
  • Have a market cap higher than $100 million
  • Trade on a major U.S. exchange
  • Not be an American depositary receipt

The top 10 are:


Total Return*

Market Cap (in millions)

Southern Copper (NYSE: SCCO) 3,553.4% $39,720.5
BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust (NYSE: BPT) 2,845% $2,335.8
Walter Energy (NYSE: WLT) 2,798.2% $5,243.4
Holly (NYSE: HOC) 2,299% $1,836.8
Raven Industries (Nasdaq: RAVN) 2,096.7% $810.8
Ventas (NYSE: VTR) 1,938.4% $8,516.2
World Fuel Services (NYSE: INT) 1,927.6% $2,056.5
Royal Gold (Nasdaq: RGLD) 1,784.7% $2,909.2
Cal-Maine Foods (Nasdaq: CALM) 1,688.5% $740.9
Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE: AEM) 1,578.8% $13,654.4

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
*Total return from Nov. 10, 2000 - Nov. 10, 2010.

No. 11, with a return of 1,504.9%, was Bank of the Ozarks -- a bank with a name too awesome not to mention!

Seriously, though
It's always stated, but never taken seriously: Past results don't indicate future performance. While there are some interesting companies in this list, these will most likely not be the top 10 dividend stocks in 2020, and they're not vetted recommendations.

However, here are a few ideas for companies that could make the coming decade's top 10 list:

1. My colleague Jim Royal believes McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) are dividend plays for a lifetime. He thinks the companies' shareholder-friendliness, rapid dividend increases, defensible business models, and catalysts for value creation will enable them to be winners for years to come. Read his arguments in favor of McDonald's and Microsoft.

2. Another Foolish colleague of mine, Jordan DiPietro, highlighted Automatic Data Processing (Nasdaq: ADP) earlier this year as "The Best Dividend Stock. Period." He likes its great, simple business model, its high growth rate, and its 35-year history of annual dividend increases.

3. One of my personal favorites is Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Similar to Buffett's See's Candies, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is a chocolatier that produces mountains of free cash flow. It then uses this cash to pay a sizeable dividend of 4.2%. For a closer look at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, check out this article.

Who do you think will be in the top 10 for 2020? If you'd like to read about some more dividend opportunities, we've put together a five-page free report: 13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today. Just click here to take a look.

Automatic Data Processing is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool owns shares of Cal-Maine Foods and Microsoft.

Dan Dzombak recommends you read The Best Investment Advice You Will Ever Get If You Have Under $100k. His musings and articles he finds interesting can be found on his Twitter: @DanDzombak. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.