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." But Standard & Poor's has also created another similar index that it calls the High Yield Dividend Aristocrats.

According to Standard & Poor's, "The S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats index is designed to measure the performance of the 60 highest dividend yielding S&P Composite 1500 constituents which have followed a managed dividends policy of consistently increasing dividends every year for at least 25 years."

Let's examine the top 25 high-yield dividend aristocrats ranked by yield. For context, I've also included their five-year annualized dividend growth rate.

Company

Trailing Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth Rate

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL)

6.5%

64.7%

National Retail Properties (NYSE: NNN)

6.1%

3%

Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI)

6.1%

3.3%

Mercury General (NYSE: MCY)

5.6%

7.3%

Vectren (NYSE: VVC)

5.3%

2.9%

HCP Inc (NYSE: HCP)

5.1%

2%

Cincinnati Financial (Nasdaq: CINF)

5%

6.6%

Universal Corp (NYSE: UVV)

4.9%

2.3%

Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED)

4.8%

0.9%

Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG)

4.7%

11.1%

Black Hills Corp (NYSE: BKH)

4.7%

2.5%

Atmos Energy (NYSE: ATO)

4.2%

1.6%

Kimberly Clark (NYSE: KMB)

4.2%

8.1%

WGL Holdings (NYSE: WGL)

4.1%

2.6%

Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY)

4%

4.2%

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE: NWN)

3.8%

5%

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT)

3.7%

9.7%

RPM International (NYSE: RPM)

3.7%

6.2%

Clorox (NYSE: CLX)

3.5%

13.4%

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

3.4%

10.9%

Diebold (NYSE: DBD)

3.4%

6%

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)

3.4%

26.8%

Genuine Parts (NYSE: GPC)

3.2%

5.7%

Sonoco Products (NYSE: SON)

3.1%

4.1%

Questar (NYSE: STR)

3.1%

3.8%

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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Jim Royal, Ph.D., owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and McDonald's. Clorox, J&J, Kimberly Clark, Piedmont, and Sonoco are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on J&J, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. The Fool owns shares of J&J. Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of Abbott and J&J. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. 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.