Being able to retire rich, or at least comfortable, is the goal of almost any investor. However, that's much easier said than done. In a recent Wells Fargo survey, respondents between the ages of 50 and 59 said that they had, on average, about $29,000 saved up. With pensions pretty much gone, and Social Security targeted for cuts in the future, it's hard to count on anyone but yourself. But $29,000 isn't going to cut it for most people, so you have to get involved in the stock market to grow that nest egg. Getting in the game is the easy part; choosing the right stocks is the hard part.
Making prudent decisions
Generally speaking, I look for four traits in a retirement stock:
- Valuation: Investors of all ages want to make sure they're not overpaying for a stock, but this matters even more in retirement. Retirees don't have the long time horizon that younger investors have, so it's essential to make sure you don't overpay in the short term.
- Dividends: Most retirees need a combination of both growth and income, as they'll be depending more and more on their portfolios to help with everyday expenses. Companies that pay dividends not only offer immediate income, but they've also proved to outperform non-paying dividend companies over long periods of time.
- Growth: Investors love dividends, but everyone wants to see their stocks rise over time. Growth can be as big a part of your portfolio as a steady dividend. It's important to note that you don't need a high-flying stock that's going to shoot to the moon; a company that can grow and outperform the market is hard enough to find, so steady growth is highly covetable.
- Low volatility: Retirees want to invest in great growth stocks just as much as anyone else does, but they also want to be able to rest well knowing that their portfolio won't be taking them on a roller-coaster ride. Most retirees would rather own a sturdy company that lets them sleep at night than a company that whips up and down with the gyrations of the market.
So how does General Electric stack up?
To check out the valuation of General Electric
General Electric's dividend is 2.61%. This is tremendous; not only does GE pay a dividend, but it also pays more than the average company in the S&P 500.
Next, we want to ensure that GE's stock has the ability to rise over the next five, 10, or 20 years. A company that's growing its net income has the best possible chance to see its share price rise over time. Of course, we can't predict the future, but we can look back to get an idea of how the company has performed in the past to try to ensure future earnings growth. Over the past five years, GE has shrunk its net income by 7.0%. Unfortunately, GE has run into its own share of problems, and the financial collapse of 2008 certainly couldn't have helped, either. So the company has been unable to grow earnings, which doesn't exactly mean that it won't in the future, but this is certainly not the greatest of signs.
One of the best measures of volatility is called beta, which measures the impact that the movement of the stock market will have on a particular stock. For instance, a beta of 1.0 signifies that GE will move in tandem with the market, a beta of 2.0 means that the stock will move up twice as much as the general market, and so on. In this particular case, GE has a beta of 1.42, which is pretty high. Generally speaking, I like to see a beta below 1.2 for retirees.
Let's look at the competition
We've taken a look at GE, and maybe you think it's passed all the tests, or maybe you just don't feel comfortable with the results. Either way, it's beneficial to see how a company stacks up in its industry, because it's just as important to understand a company's competitors as it is to understand that particular company. Here are GE's stats when compared with three of its closest competitors.
5-Year Compound Annual Net Income Growth
Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
Each company has traits to like and traits that leave something to be desired. Either way, it's good to look at the industry picture and not just GE in isolation.
Of course, I can't decide for you whether this is the best stock for retirement, but it has passed one of the four tests, which is a bit disappointing. Depending on which traits are most important for you, you'd be wise to look further into this stock for your portfolio.
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Jordan DiPietro owns shares of General Electric. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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.