Almost a year ago, the real-money Inflation-Protected Income Growth portfolio was launched with the objective of building an income stream that looked capable of growing at least in line with inflation. Thus far it has delivered far more than that. After yet another substantial gain since last week's update, the portfolio's total return since inception sits at a mind-boggling 29.6%.  

That return is well ahead of my wildest expectations when I started the portfolio, though in total, it falls between the gains in the S&P 500 and the total return of an index investment, including dividends. Unfortunately, the rise in the market and in the stocks in the iPIG portfolio means that some picks are approaching the point where they should be sold based on valuation.

So close -- and yet so far
For instance, J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM) nearly touched $110 last week, putting it close to the $120 sell target established for the jams and jelly maker based on valuation. Unfortunately, in the past week, Smucker reported disappointing earnings and forward-looking guidance, knocking its shares down a bit. Even before that bad earnings news, Smucker was trading in that nebulous "hold" range where buying more didn't make sense but selling wouldn't generate enough cash.

Conversely, United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) reached its previous $100 sell target after reporting decent earnings for the most recently completed quarter. The combination of the importance of this quarter's holiday season for shippers like United Parcel Service and the decent numbers the company put up earned it something like a stay of execution. Still, if UPS' stock hits $120 before this current quarter is reported, the company would be a candidate for sale.

In addition to those close calls, one company in the iPIG portfolio will be sold in the near future: Nevada electric generator NV Energy (UNKNOWN:NVE.DL). NV Energy is on track to get bought out for $23.75 per share in the first quarter of 2014 -- an acquisition that is forcing a sale by the iPIG portfolio. Indeed, with the stock recently trading above that acquisition price, there are only two reasons why the iPIG portfolio hasn't sold its shares: NV Energy's dividend and the fact that waiting until January makes the gain a long-term one.

Those dividends still keep on coming
Fortunately, in addition to those surprisingly strong gains, the stocks in the iPIG portfolio have continued to pay -- and often increase -- their dividends. Those payments (and their growth) remain central to the iPIG portfolio's philosophy and plans, and this past week provided a great reminder of how that principle works in practice.

Last Monday, Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN) paid its owners, including the iPIG portfolio, $0.30 per share in dividends. That dividend was $0.02 per share higher than the dividend Texas Instruments paid the previous quarter and $0.09 per share above the one it paid in the same quarter last year. That's a dividend increase of more than 42% year over year.

While dividend increases at that rate are likely not sustainable for a company of Texas Instruments' size, cash payments like that -- and whatever growth they're able to muster -- still matter a great deal. If the market starts to slow down -- or even reverse -- then those dividends will take on even more importance. After all, dividends are paid based on a company's ability to generate cash, not based on whatever the market's whim of the day decides is an appropriate price for its stock.

Still, there's no point in arguing against the gains that the iPIG portfolio has seen since its launch, as it's those gains that have truly allowed the portfolio to outperform my wildest expectations. Put together the gains with the income, and you get a portfolio that looked like this as of Friday, Nov. 22, 2013:

Company Name

Purchase Date

Total Investment (Including Commissions)

as of Nov. 22, 2013

Yield as of
Nov. 22, 2013

United Technologies (NYSE:UTX)

Dec. 10, 2012




Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE:TEVA)

Dec. 12, 2012




J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM)

Dec. 13, 2012




Genuine Parts (NYSE:GPC)

Dec. 21, 2012




Mine Safety Appliances (NYSE:MSA)

Dec. 21, 2012




Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)

Dec. 26, 2012





Dec. 28, 2012





Dec. 31, 2012




United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS)

Jan. 2, 2013




Walgreen (NASDAQ:WBA)

Jan. 4, 2013




Texas Instruments (NASDAQ:TXN)

Jan. 7, 2013




Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP)

Jan. 22, 2013





Jan. 22, 2013




McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)

Jan. 24, 2013




Becton, Dickinson (NYSE:BDX)

Jan. 31, 2013




Aflac (NYSE:AFL)

Feb. 5, 2013




Air Products & Chemicals (NYSE:APD)

Feb. 11, 2013




Raytheon (NYSE:RTN)

Feb. 22, 2013




Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR)

April 3, 2013




Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)

May 30, 2013




Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI)

June 21, 2013








Total Portfolio




Data from the iPIG portfolio brokerage account, as of Nov. 22, 2013.

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