Source: via Flickr.

Dividend stocks are the cornerstone of many well-run retirement portfolios – that's a fact. The reason is dividend stocks act as a beacon to investors, inviting them to take a deeper look into a company whose business model is so sound it can pay out a percentage of its annual profits on a regular basis to its investors.

Even more so, dividends can provide a downside hedge in volatile and bear markets. Investors in dividend stocks tend to be more long-term oriented, which usually means far less day-trading and less volatility to begin with.

Lastly, dividends can be reinvested giving the buyer a chance to really compound their gains over the long run. These payouts can mean the difference between simply retiring, and retiring the way you've always dreamed.

With that in mind, let's have a look at three cheap dividend stocks you can consider buying right now.

No. 1: Ford (NYSE:F)
This isn't your daddy's Ford anymore! Now-former CEO Alan Mulally and current CEO Mark Fields have done a remarkable job since 2007 of redefining the Ford brand and introducing vehicle designs and technology into the cabin that excites drivers. Best of all, Ford has done so with competitive pricing to its peers.

Ford's proprietary EcoBoost technology has been a game-changer for the company, allowing it to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles without having to sacrifice power when the driver needs it most. Having expanded its EcoBoost engine to its F-Series pickups should allow the F-Series to remain America's best-selling vehicle for many more years.

2015 Ford F-150. Source: Ford.

The company has also made strong inroads in overseas markets, especially Europe and China. In Europe, Ford's commercial market share is the highest it's been since 1998 and the business is slowly improving despite a sluggish European economy. In China, Ford's plan to introduce 15 new models between now and 2015 has consumers excited, and could have the company lined up to snag more market share in the world's largest auto market.

With Ford's quarterly dividend of $0.125 per share at its highest point in 13 years – this works out to a 3.1% yield – and the company valued at less than 10 times forward earnings, I'd have to strongly suggest you take a closer look at Ford for your retirement portfolio.

No. 2: Aflac (NYSE:AFL)
There's nothing to quack about when it comes to insurance, one of the most oft overlooked dividend juggernauts. Arguably standing at the top of this industry is supplemental income insurance provider Aflac.

Source: Aflac.

Aflac, like most insurers, is susceptible to Acts of God and other disasters that it simply can't foresee. As an insurer its job is to take care of its policyholders when the time comes. For its investors, Aflac's job is to collect enough premium payments to cover its annual claims, and to invest the money it brings in with those premium payments into relatively safe fixed and variable rate securities.

Two things in particular lead me to believe Aflac is perfectly suited for any income-seeking investors' portfolio. First, insurers have every reason to boost their prices following a catastrophe in order to boost their cash reserves again. However, they can also raise premiums in years where there are fewer claims with the justification that building up their reserves in years where there aren't major unforeseen events is just smart practice considering the insurance sector isn't about "if," but "when."

Secondly, Aflac benefits from higher interest rates since it tends to invest its money in safer securities like CDs and bonds. With the Federal Reserve ending its economic stimulus known as QE3 recently it's expected that rates will begin rising in 2015. Higher rates will mean a nice boost to Aflac's net investment income.

Aflac is currently riding a 31-year streak of annual dividend increases, is sporting a 2.6% yield, and also has a forward P/E, like Ford, that's below 10. You'd be quackers not to take a closer look at this cheap dividend stock.

No. 3: Noble (OTC:NEBLQ)
It's been a slippery slope this year for oil and gas drillers with the price of West Texas Intermediate plunging close to 40% from its 52-week high to a fresh four-year low. The primary culprit is Saudi Arabia's refusal to reduce its production. Because the Saudis can generate a profit with oil potentially in the high $30s, folks are using this time to pull market share away from U.S. shale producers. A softening in growth from China hasn't helped, either.

Still, it's not as if the global demand for oil is expected to decline over the long run. As emerging markets become more industrialized their oil demand is going to soar. Where are we going to find that oil? I suspect the biggest finds will come offshore in the deep global seas, which is where Noble makes its home as a contract driller.

Source: Noble. 

The reason income investors should consider looking at Noble relates to its multi-year newbuild construction program which is nearing completion. Once these costs are put in the rearview mirror Noble will enjoy higher per-day rates for its rigs and should see an uptick in operational efficiency since oil and gas companies are usually after newer drilling technology. To be clear, Noble won't be the youngest deep-sea drilling fleet in the ocean by any means, but it'll be nowhere near the oldest, either.

Because offshore drilling is such a highly capital intensive business the barrier to entry for other players is pretty high. This is another reason I'd expect Noble to remain healthfully profitable during this industrywide downturn.

Currently paying out a yield nearing 9% and valued at less than eight times forward earnings, cheap dividend stock seekers should have Noble on their radar.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.