By the time you hit retirement, you'll want to focus on the important things in life: pursuing your passions, getting involved in your community, and spending time with loved ones. While constructing the perfect retirement portfolio might be fun for some, it's not how everyone wants to spend their golden years.
That's why focusing on solid, dividend-paying companies that have sustainable competitive advantages is so important. With these companies, you can buy shares, reinvest those dividends if you don't need them, and only check back in every six to 12 months -- leaving you plenty of time for the important things in life.
Recently, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to share a dividend stock they think is perfect for retirees to buy today. Below, find out why Altria (NYSE:MO), Disney (NYSE:DIS), and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) made the cut.
Brian Stoffel (Disney): When I set out to find the perfect dividend stock for retirees, I focused intensely on sustainable competitive advantages. In a world where technology is disrupting just about every industry imaginable, I wanted to find a company that retirees could buy and forget about for years, if they had to.
In Disney, I believe I've found that company. Disney's sustainable competitive advantage is its war chest of popular characters.
Beyond the obvious choices of Mickey Mouse and company, Disney owns the rights to all Pixar Films characters, Lucasfilm's Star Wars, Marvel's impressive cast including Iron Man and Spiderman, ABC studios, and cable's most popular channel: ESPN. That's a ridiculous amount of characters to own, and I don't see those characters waning in popularity one bit over the next decade.
Disney is able to monetize those characters in many ways, but none is more important than money from its television stations and theme parks -- both of which are hitting the ball out of the park.
Equally important, Disney is a very safe dividend stock. Though the yield isn't the highest -- at just 1.2% -- the company has only used 23% of its free cash flow to pay the dividend over the past 12 months. That's a very low percentage. When Disney feels like it is running out of investment opportunities in the future, the dividend could be increased by a large margin without affecting the business at all.
Bob Ciura (Altria): Tobacco giant Altria, maker of the Marlboro cigarette brand, is a top dividend stock for retirees to buy. It offers a juicy 4.1% dividend yield, which is about double the S&P 500 Index's yield. Altria is also among the premier dividend growth stocks. The company has increased its dividend 48 times in the past 45 years -- including an 8% dividend increase last August. This type of growth means retirees' income is well-protected against inflation.
Altria can maintain such a strong dividend track record because it maintains effective financial management. Even in the face of declining smoking trends, Altria has kept growth intact. Philip Morris USA, Altria's flagship cigarette division, suffered a 3% decline in volumes through the first nine months of its fiscal 2014 year. But this is right in-line with management's expectations, which call for 3%-4% volume declines per year going forward. Still, Altria believes it can generate high single-digit earnings growth through a combination of price increases, cost cuts, and share buybacks.
Altria grew adjusted earnings, which strip out litigation expenses and other one-time items, by 5% in the last three quarters. Price hikes aided this growth; the average price per pack of Marlboro was $5.98 last quarter, up $0.12 per pack year over year.
Share repurchases also boosted profits. Altria repurchased approximately 6.4 million shares of its common stock last quarter for about $275 million, and management announced a fresh $1 billion share buyback program last quarter.
As long as Altria can keep increasing earnings at mid-to-high single digit rates, it should be able to continue raising its dividend each year by similar amounts.
Joe Tenebruso (Verizon): Retirees often seek three things in a dividend stock: safety, a solid yield, and a value price. Verizon Communications offers all three.
Preservation of capital is of the utmost importance to many retired investors, and Verizon's subscription-based, utility-like business generates stable cash flow that helps to insulate its stock from wild price swings.
The telecom titan is also excellent at passing on those cash flows to investors in the form of steadily rising dividend payouts. In fact, Verizon's 4.7% dividend yield is one of the highest out of all the stocks I follow, particularly among low-risk large-cap companies.
And, importantly, as Verizon's cash flow grows along with the trend toward increased connectivity and data usage, I expect Verizon to continue to raise its dividend above the rate of inflation for many years to come, thereby protecting and growing its shareholders' purchasing power over that time.
In addition to an impressive yield, investors currently have the opportunity to buy Verizon at an attractive price. After declining by more than 10% from its 52 week high -- mostly due to overblown fears about the recent aggressive discounting tactics from struggling competitors -- Verizon's stock has reached value territory. At less than 13 times analysts' earnings estimates for 2015, shares of this dominant business can be had for a nice discount to the S&P 500, which currently trades at around 16 times forward estimates.
When fears about the competition abate, Fools who invest in Verizon today could enjoy strong share price appreciation in addition to the hefty dividends they receive from this telecom titan.