Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

If you asked people to pick a beer to stand as a symbol of America, a lot of them would pick Budweiser. But Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) has grown far beyond the shores of the U.S., as a merger combined with international expansion has helped build the brewer into a global empire. But in a dog-eat-dog industry, can Anheuser-Busch stay on top? Let's revisit how Anheuser-Busch InBev does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Anheuser-Busch InBev.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?

Size Market cap > $10 billion $137 billion Pass
Consistency Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years 4 years Pass
  Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years 3 years Fail
Stock stability Beta < 0.9 0.58 Pass
  Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20% (53.9%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 18 18.37 Fail
Dividends Current yield > 2% 1.8% Fail
  5-year dividend growth > 10% 11.2% Pass
  Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years 2 years Fail
  Payout ratio < 75% 55.4% Pass
  Total score   5 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Anheuser-Busch InBev last year, the company has dropped a point. But shareholders probably don't mind, as the stock has risen about 60% in the past year.

Anheuser-Busch and its Budweiser and Bud Light brands still dominate the U.S. market. Despite rising interest in craft beers from Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM) and Craft Brew Alliance, Anheuser-Busch claims domestic market share of more than 49%. It has also made steps to expand its reach internationally, having recently bought the entirety of Grupo Modelo. That will boost its presence in Mexico, although it will have to sell the U.S. Grupo Modelo rights to Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ) to meet antitrust requirements.

But one area where Anheuser-Busch needs to make a better showing is in Asia. Neither it nor rival Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP) has made much of a play there, where Diageo (NYSE: DEO) has a commanding presence, with about a 30% share of the alcohol market and more than a fifth of its Asian revenue coming from beer sales.

Interestingly, Anheuser-Busch is fighting a battle to use the word "Bud" as a trademark in Europe. Competitor Budvar argues it has superior rights to the word, and if it wins, then Anheuser-Busch could owe damages and have to find new ways to promote its beer.

For retirees and other conservative investors, quick dividend growth has been extremely encouraging, although the stock's valuation is a bit on the high side. For those seeking a solid consumer stock for their retirement portfolios, Anheuser-Busch is worth considering on a share-price pullback.

Keep searching
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.

If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.

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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.