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)

6.8%

64.3%

Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI)

6.0%

3.2%

National Retail Properties (NYSE: NNN)

5.9%

3.1%

Mercury General (NYSE: MCY)

5.9%

6.1%

HCP (NYSE: HCP)

5.2%

2.5%

Cincinnati Financial (Nasdaq: CINF)

5.2%

5.0%

Vectren (NYSE: VVC)

4.9%

2.7%

Black Hills (NYSE: BKH)

4.6%

2.4%

Universal Corp. (NYSE: UVV)

4.4%

2.3%

Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED)

4.4%

0.9%

Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG)

4.2%

10.8%

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE: KMB)

4.1%

7.8%

Atmos Energy (NYSE: ATO)

4.0%

1.6%

WGL Holdings (NYSE: WGL)

4.0%

2.6%

Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE: NWN)

3.8%

4.9%

Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY)

3.7%

4.0%

RPM International (NYSE: RPM)

3.6%

6.0%

Questar (NYSE: STR)

3.6%

4.6%

Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT)

3.6%

10%

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)

3.4%

10.4%

Diebold (NYSE: DBD)

3.4%

5.6%

Sonoco Products (NYSE: SON)

3.3%

4.0%

Genuine Parts (NYSE: GPC)

3.2%

5.7%

UGI Corp (NYSE: UGI)

3.2%

8.2%

Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)

3.1%

11.5%

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 Procter & Gamble. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Piedmont Natural Gas, Procter & Gamble, and UGI; as well as creating a diagonal call position on J&J. The Motley Fool owns shares of Abbott Laboratories and J&J. 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.