Investing in high-growth dividend stocks is a great way to build lasting wealth regardless of fluctuations in the market. In fact, over time dividend-paying stocks have historically outperformed other investments. Therefore, one of the best ways to capture market-beating returns is to invest in industry-leading companies with sustainable payouts. To help you get started, I've outlined three top dividend stocks for December. One of the most important traits that these companies share is their ability to grow future cash flow.
A turnaround story with a rich history of shareholder returns
Many investors have overlooked Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) lately as the consumer products giant attempts to recover from over extending itself in emerging markets. However, the company's recent decision to sell 90 to 100 of its brands is a smart move that could push the stock higher in the quarters ahead. It's important to note that P&G will keep its top performing brands or the ones that currently account for about 90% of its total revenue. Moreover, shedding underperforming brands will enable Procter & Gamble to invest the bulk of its resources in those businesses, which promise the highest return.
While investors wait for P&G's turnaround to fully take hold, they can take comfort in the stock's history of superior shareholder returns. Not only has P&G paid a dividend for the past 124 years straight, but it has also increased that dividend for 58 consecutive years at a compounded rate of more than 9% a year.
The company currently boasts a dividend yield of 3%, which is significantly better than the S&P 500's yield of 1.9%. Not to mention, the conglomerate increased its dividend 7% to $2.45 per share in fiscal 2014, and returned a whopping $6.9 billion in dividend payments to shareholders during that period. Throw in P&G's $6 billion fiscal 2014 share buyback program and it brings us to a total return of $12.9 billion in cash to shareholders.
Procter & Gamble's management is committed to creating shareholder value, despite operational headwinds. With the company's turnaround plan now in play, I believe this is a stock worth owning.
A high-flyer with room to run
Soda and snack giant PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) is another dividend stock that should be on your radar this month. The stock is currently trading around its 52-week high. This may cause some investors to disregard it as being too expensive. However, given Pepsi's track record of rewarding shareholders I believe it is a worthwhile long-term bet for investors. Moreover, despite the stock's recent highs, Pepsi's price to earnings growth ratio, or PEG, is currently 2.97, which is inline with the industry average -- thus suggesting the stock is fairly valued at these levels.
The king of pop is set to return $8.7 billion to its shareholders in 2014 through higher dividends and share buybacks. Management recently increased Pepsi's dividend by as much as 15% to $2.62 annually, up from its prior payout of $2.27 per share. On top of this, Pepsi should have no problem continuing to grow its dividend for many years to come thanks to the strong cash flow generated by its Frito-Lay business. As the world's largest snack food business by market share, Pepsi currently boasts 22 brands that each pull in annual sales north of $1 billion.
The company is also dramatically cutting costs, which should help boost operating margins down the road. In fact, Pepsi is now on track to deliver $1 billion in productivity savings this year. Together, these things make PepsiCo one of my top dividend stock picks for 2015.
A global leader with promising dividend growth
Unlike the other two stocks mentioned above, General Mills (NYSE:GIS) is only up 6% in the past year. Nevertheless, there are plenty of compelling reasons for income investors to own the stock here. For starters, General Mills possesses market-leading brands including Pillsbury, Campbell Soup, and Cheerios. This coupled with the company's massive global distribution network help General Mills generate tens of billions of dollars in sales each year.
With products in over 100 markets around the world, General Mills pulls in enough cash to support its dividend payouts while also investing in research and development. The company has paid a dividend for 115 years without fail. Earlier this year, management hiked its quarterly dividend 8% to $0.41 per share-the 11th consecutive year in which the company has increased its payout. "We expect dividends to grow with earnings over time, and we see this dividend growth as a key component of our long-term shareholder return model," said Ken Powell, General Mills chairman and CEO.
The stock currently has a dividend yield north of 3%. Not only is this significantly better than the S&P 500, but it is also markedly above the food products industry yield of 2.20%. Additionally, over the next five years, General Mills should achieve dividend growth of between 7% and 8%, according to Morningstar.
The important takeaway for investors is that all three of these companies are demonstrating their commitment to shareholders through reliable and superior dividend growth. That's why you don't want to make the mistake of overlooking these promising dividend stocks.
Tamara Rutter has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. 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.