Your dividends depend on two things: a company's yield and its ability to grow those coveted payouts.

Ideally, you'll find the best of both worlds: a stock with a high yield, and payouts that company can sustain and grow. Such stocks will pay out the most cash to shareholders for long periods of time.

When you identify dividend stocks with both factors, the returns can be tremendous. Consider the "top five dividend stocks" over the last five years -- i.e., the five stocks that yielded the most to lucky shareholders who bought five years ago:

Company

5-Year Payout

Total Return

Atlantic Power

55%

102%

Vector Group

51%

108%

Consolidated Communications

50%

94%

Southern Copper

49%

174%

Genco Shipping

46%*

(40%)

     

S&P 500

8%

11%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Includes U.S. companies traded over major exchanges that were valued at more than $300 million at start of period. Excludes trusts and partnerships. *Suspended dividends in 2009.

In just five years, investors earned back half of their initial investment -- just in dividends! And in most cases, their total returns substantially outperformed the market.

So which names will yield investors the most dividends over the next five years? No one can answer that question with certainty. However, we can calculate an implied five-year payout if we use estimated earnings growth as a proxy for dividend growth. To eliminate names with unsustainable payouts, I also filtered out stocks whose payouts exceeded net income.

The winners
All of the top 10 companies were trusts or partnerships -- the highest ranked was American Capital Agency (Nasdaq: AGNC) -- which are generally required to distribute the vast majority of their earnings to shareholders. To make up for the lack of retained capital, they frequently issue new shares. I'm generally bullish on mortgage REITs and have even bought shares of Annaly Capital (NYSE: NLY) (which is ranked number five on the list) for the real-money Dada portfolio I co-manage. But I excluded REITs for the purposes of this study because their frequent capital raises would have made the comparison unfair.

Without further ado, here are the five companies with the highest implied payouts over the next five years:

Company

Dividend Yield

Consensus 5-Year Earnings Growth Estimate

Implied 5-Year Payout

Southern Copper (Nasdaq: SCCO)

6.7%

26%

55%

United Online (Nasdaq: UNTD)

6.2%

12%

44%

Integrys Energy Group (NYSE: TEG)

5.1%

14%

38%

Mercury General (NYSE: MCY)

5.9%

8%

37%

Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG)

4.2%

20%

37%

Sources: Capital IQ and author's calculations.

Southern Copper produces copper (naturally), as well as molybdenum, a metal used as a steel alloy. As the largest owner of copper reserves in the world, the giant is able to leverage its economies of scale to generate high margins and returns on assets. Of course, returns over the next five years are subject to prices it can fetch for these two commodities. But the stock pays a high yield today, and if earnings grow anywhere near as high as the 26% analysts have estimated (an admittedly tall order), the stock should pay out considerable dividends over the coming years.

United Online provides flowers over the Internet, "premier nostalgia content" like media footage from the latter half of the 20th century, and dial-up Internet access. Growth of 12% is less of a challenge than it may sound for a company in these markets because United will be on pace if it can manage to rebound to its peak 2007 earnings per share within three years. On the other hand, that rebound has yet to begin to take effect; sales and operating income continue to struggle.

Integrys (love that name!) is a Midwestern electric and natural gas utility that has paid a dividend for 70 consecutive years. The company has been focused on cost cutting and increasing rates. It plans on spending heavily on plants and equipment over the next few years to increase earnings.

Mercury General writes insurance policies for passenger and commercial autos, homeowners, mechanical breakdown, and fire, among other things. Book value per share grew quickly until hitting the skids in 2008, when its portfolio took a hit. Important markets like California auto and Florida homeowners have remained soft (Mercury is exiting Florida housing), though it did manage to produce underwriting profit in the most recent quarter. If the pricing environment improves, 8% growth should be achievable.

Leggett & Platt makes home furnishings, commercial fixtures and furniture, industrial materials like steel rods and wire, and accessories for auto seats. The recession took a big toll, particularly in home furnishings, though sales began to bounce back last year across all segments. The company boasts a 40-year record of dividend increases, but analysts' 20% growth estimate seems optimistic. Management claims to be shooting for 4%-5% long term growth.

Of course, whether these payouts materialize depends in part on the accuracy of those growth estimates. Before buying any of these stocks for their implied five-year yields, it's important to investigate further to decide whether the growth forecasts are achievable.

If you'd like more help finding superior dividend stocks, you can find out which names The Motley Fool's top analysts love right now. Simply enter your email address in the box below for free, instant access to "13 High-Yielding Stocks to Buy Today."

At the time of publication, Ilan Moscovitz didn't own shares of any companies mentioned. The Fool owns shares of Annaly Capital Management. 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.