With the S&P 500 seemingly hitting all-time highs every couple of weeks, it can prove challenging to dig up "thrift shop stocks" -- in other words, ones that offer tremendous value for money.
Sure, there is always value in every market; but, with the S&P 500 sitting pretty on a price-to-earnings, or P/E, ratio of more than 20, finding good value companies is tough.
One answer could be to focus on companies that offer decent value and great quality -- especially if you've got dreams of heading down to Florida this side of 66.
A well-known company that offers relative value is Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). It trades on a forward P/E of 17, while the S&P 500 currently has a P/E of just more than 20, and the Dow has a P/E of 17.
On the face of it, there seems to be little in the way of value for Johnson & Johnson versus the wider indices, especially when compared to the Dow on the same P/E.
However, Johnson & Johnson has a vast amount of quality, meaning it could, in fact, deserve a significant premium to the market -- a premium that's currently not being displayed, but could be in future.
Indeed, Johnson & Johnson has a tremendous track record, with the last five years seeing very high levels of profitability. Despite the U.S. economy going through a challenging period, Johnson & Johnson has been able to deliver return on equity of at least 16.2% during the last five years, being as high as 30% back in 2008.
These numbers are highly impressive, and are even more so when their consistency is taken into account, with return on equity occupying a relatively narrow range during the period.
This highlights the quality of Johnson & Johnson: It is able to deliver high levels of profitability during tough economic times, and maintain a level of consistency that compares favorably with pharmaceutical sector peers such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck & Co. Furthermore, such consistency could be a great thing for a retirement portfolio, because it indicates that Johnson & Johnson has a large degree of longevity, which is crucial when investing for the long haul.
Keeping debt levels low
In addition, Johnson & Johnson remains a quality company right through to the way it's financed. It carries only a small amount of debt, with the debt to equity ratio standing at just 24.9% at the end of its most recent financial year (December 30 2012).
Not only does this again highlight the long-term strength of the business -- indicating that there's a relatively good chance of it still being around upon your retirement -- it also enhances the strength of its profitability. In other words, a high degree of financial leverage is not being used to generate higher returns for equity holders. Those high numbers for return on equity are real.
With the wider U.S. indices tracking ever higher, and good value stocks tough to come by, Johnson & Johnson looks to be a potent mix of value and quality that could book you on that plane to Florida a little earlier than you'd expect.
Fool contributor Peter Stephens has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. 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.