Rgr Gun
Image: Sturm Ruger.

Retirees have turned to dividend stocks in an effort to boost their income and find greater price stability. Yet just because a dividend stock pays a high yield doesn't mean it always fits the bill. In particular, some companies that appear to have solid yields have actually cut their payouts recently, and that could signal a long-term challenge that might otherwise escape your notice. With that in mind, let's take a look at three dividend stocks that retirees might not want to jump into without knowing more.

Sturm Ruger is looking down the barrel at lower dividends
Gunmaker Sturm Ruger (NYSE:RGR) has combined solid growth with lucrative dividends for years, with its most recent quarterly payout of $0.36 per share equating to a yield of 2.5%. Yet before you jump into the gun stock, you should understand two key points about Sturm Ruger's business.

First, Sturm Ruger is one in a growing number of companies that have linked their dividends to their earnings, with the gunmaker seeking to pay out about 40% of its net income. That results in varying payouts from quarter to quarter, and over the past two years, Sturm Ruger has had dividends as high as $0.65 per share and as low as $0.14 as a result. Looking at year-over-year dividend figures, Sturm Ruger paid out 20% less this quarter than it did in the same quarter in 2014, continuing a trend that has continued since 2013.

More important, Sturm Ruger warned in its most recent report that its future revenue could continue to remain under pressure for some time. With the industry having enjoyed record sales for years, sustaining that pace has proven difficult, and dividend investors need to consider that in assessing Sturm Ruger's future.

Rayonier has chopped down its payout
Real estate investment trusts are a lucrative source of income, and many retirees have turned to REITs for their attractive payouts. Rayonier (NYSE:RYN) focuses on timber and forest products, and its 4.4% yield looks strong in an industry that seems perpetually poised for growth. Yet that dividend has fallen sharply in the past year, with the company paying just half its quarterly payout from early 2014.

Ryn Forest
Image: Rayonier.

Much of that dividend cut is justified, as Rayonier spun off its performance-fibers division in mid-2014. Yet late last year, the company cut its dividend from $0.30 per share to $0.25 per share, with CEO David Nunes saying at the time that "reducing our dividend will provide the necessary balance between our near-term financial goals and long-term shareholder interests." With Rayonier having reported a net loss in the second quarter and with demand for forest products from China on the decline, the future could continue to be challenging for Rayonier.

CVR Energy hasn't seen as much green
For a long time, CVR Energy's (NYSE:CVI) mix of businesses seemed like an invulnerable combination. With its interests in energy-products refiner CVR Refining (NYSE:CVRR) and nitrogen-fertilizer producer CVR Partners (NYSE:UAN), CVR Energy boasted exposure in two areas with strong growth potential, along with a 5% dividend yield. However, CVR Energy reduced its regular quarterly dividend earlier this year, cutting from $0.75 per share throughout much of 2014 to $0.50 per share.

Cvi Refinery

Image: CVR Energy.

In some ways, CVR Energy's decline seems unwarranted. Dividend levels from CVR Refining and CVR Partners have stayed relatively stable, although both pay variable dividends depending on their financial conditions. The big question, though, is whether the relatively wide spread between crude oil prices and prices of refined products like gasoline will narrow in the future. If it does, then CVR Refining's contribution to CVR Energy's bottom line could dry up, and that in turn could bring down the total amount of income available for CVR Energy to distribute to its shareholders.

When you're retired, you need income, but you can't afford unnecessary risks. Not all dividend stocks are alike, and if you're smart about avoiding ones that could cause problems down the road, you'll go a long way toward preserving your portfolio from future financial catastrophes.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.