With the market almost doubling since the lows of March 2009, the easy money has been made. As stocks have extended their gains, the markets have become a little choppy. The best tonic for a market that looks stretched is value stocks that pay dividends. While you wait for catalysts to pan out, you can sit on these stocks and get paid.

The initial criteria I used for my screen were:

  1. Return on assets of 1% or more (to eliminate inefficient financials).
  2. Dividend yield of 3% or higher.
  3. Debt to equity ratio of 50% or less. We don't want high-risk debt-laden companies with dividends likely to be cut or disappear.
  4. Five-year dividend growth rates in the 70th percentile. You want companies that have shown a track record of increasing their payouts.
  5. Dividends to free cash flow of around 50% or less. This one I check for manually after the initial screening.

There were 62 stocks that came up based on the first four criteria. Here are five that passed the final test and are worth a closer look, based on safety of the dividend and long term catalysts.

Harleysville Group (Nasdaq: HGIC) is a well-run property and casualty insurance company that cares about its shareholders. Last year, the company used its cash hoard and strong balance sheet to pay a special dividend on top of its regular quarterly payments. Instead of making a bad investment with the money, Harleysville rewarded investors with an end-of-year bonus that more than doubled the year's payout to shareholders. With concerns looming regarding our municipalities, keep in mind that a large portion of Harleysville float is invested in municipal bonds (43% of the portfolio). The yield is 4.4%, and the payout ratio is around 57%. The company has paid a dividend every quarter since it went public in 1986 and has raised its dividend payment in all 24 years.

Cal-Maine Foods (Nasdaq: CALM) is the largest producer and marketer of shell eggs in the United States. In terms of domestic consumption, the company has an 18% market share. Shell egg prices tend to be volatile, and the company's profitability is dependent upon feed costs. But the company is managed well financially, with return on equity more than 19%, return on investment topping 13%, and return on assets near 11%. The dividend yield is 3.6% and is less than 50% of the company's free cash flow.

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) is the largest semiconductor chip maker in the world. The company is the dominant force in the industry and is fresh off the best year in its history. But Intel is playing catch-up in the field of mobile computing, and its Atom processors are being designed into several tablets that are expected to launch this year. The dividend is 3.7%, and as of the end of 2010, the company had more than $20 billion in cash and short-term investments. Intel has the resources to gain market share and/or give investors a bigger dividend payout. The dividends are a paltry 31% of free cash flow. The dividend has a large safety net.

Vodafone Group (NYSE: VOD) is a provider of mobile communications all over the world, including emerging markets. Did you know the company owns 45% of Verizon Wireless among its many wireless assets? Vodafone is a fantastic alternative to owning Verizon because Vodafone is in a position to sell its stake in Verizon Wireless for a nice premium. If not, then Vodafone shareholders can wait for a possible dividend out of Verizon Wireless once it pays off debt due at the end of the year. Aside from the catalysts, you get to collect a dividend that yields almost 5% at today's prices.

Terra Nitrogen (NYSE: TNH) is a leading maker of fertilizer and nitrogen products. We all have to eat, and food prices have been rising. The company's products help food producers better their yields. You can cash in on rising food prices by owning Terra Nitrogen. The dividend yield is about 5% and is only 40% of free cash flow.

These companies are not just solid values with fundamental catalysts; they are also well run financially. That is a comforting thought, especially if you are living on those dividend checks.