Every income investor needs a healthy dose of dividend stocks.
Why bother? Why not just concentrate on bonds or CDs or whatever?
Because all the different income-producing assets available to income investors have characteristics that make them suited to one market and not another. You need all of these types of assets if you’re going to generate maximum income with minimum risk as the market twists and turns.
For example: bonds are great when interest rates are falling. Buy early in that kind of market and you can just sit back and collect that initial high yield as well as the capital gains that are generated as the bonds appreciate in price with each drop in interest rates.
CDs, on the other hand, are a great way to lock in a yield with almost absolute safety when you’d like to avoid the risk of having to reinvest in an uncertain market or when interest rates are crashing.
Dividend stocks have one very special characteristic that sets them apart from bonds and CDs: companies raise dividends over time. Some companies raise them significantly from one quarter or year to the next. That makes a dividend-paying stock one of the best sources of income when interest rates start to rise.
Bonds will get killed in that environment because bond prices will fall so that yields on existing bonds keep pace with rising interest rates.
But because interest rates usually go up during periods when the economy is cooking, there’s a very good chance that the company you own will be seeing rising profits. And that it will raise its dividend payout to share some of that with shareholders.
With a dividend stock you’ve got a chance that the yield you’re collecting will keep up with rising market interest rates.
But wouldn’t ya know it?
Just when dividend investing is getting to be more important—becoming in my opinion the key stock market strategy for the current market environment—it’s also getting to be more difficult to execute with shifting tax rates and special dividends distorting the reported yield on many stocks.
I think there’s really only one real choice—investors have to pull up their socks and work even harder at their dividend investing strategy. That’s why with my January 11, 2013 post (http://jubakam.com/2013/01/a-new-improved-dividend-income-portfolio-and-three-dividend-picks/ depending on which of my sites you read) I revamped the format of the Dividend Income portfolio http://jubakam.com/portfolios/ that I’ve been running since October 2009. The changes aren’t to the basic strategy. That’s worked well, I think, and I’ll give you some numbers later on so you can judge for yourself. No, the changes are designed to do two things: First, to let you and me track the performance of the portfolio more comprehensively and more easily compare it to the performance turned in by other strategies, and second, to generate a bigger and more frequent roster of dividend picks so that readers, especially readers who suddenly have a need to put more money to work in a dividend strategy, have more dividend choices to work with.
Why is dividend investing so important in this environment? I’ve laid out the reasons elsewhere but let me recapitulate here. Volatility will create repeated opportunities to capture yields of 5%–the “new normal” and “paranormal” target rate of return–or more as stock prices fall in the latest panic. By using that 5% dividend yield as a target for buys (and sells) dividend investors will avoid the worst of buying high (yields won’t justify the buy) and selling low (yields will argue that this is a time to buy.) And unlike bond payouts, which are fixed by coupon, stock dividends can rise with time, giving investors some protection against inflation.
The challenge in dividend investing during this period is using dividend yield as a guide to buying and selling without becoming totally and exclusively focused on yield. What continues to matter most is total return. A 5% yield can get wiped out very easily by a relatively small drop in share price.
Going forward, I will continue to report on the cash thrown off by the portfolio—since I recognize that many investors are looking for ways to increase their current cash incomes. But I’m also going to report the total return on the portfolio—so you can compare this performance to other alternatives—and I’m going to assume that an investor will reinvest the cash from these dividend stocks back into other dividend stocks. That will give the portfolio—and investors who follow it—the advantage of compounding over time, one of the biggest strengths in any dividend income strategy.
What are some of the numbers on this portfolio? $29,477 in dividends received from October 2009 through December 31, 2013. On the original $100,000 investment in October 2009 that comes to a 29.5% payout on that initial investment over a period of 39 months. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 8.27%.
And since we care about total return, how about capital gains or losses from the portfolio? The total equity price value of the portfolio came to $119,958 on December 31, 2012. That’s a gain of $19,958 over 39 months on that initial $100,000 investment or a compound annual growth rate of 5.76%.
The total return on the portfolio for that period comes to $49,435 or a compound annual growth rate of 13.2%.
How does that compare to the total return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index for that 39-month period? In that period $100,000 invested in the S&P 500 would have grown to $141,468 with price appreciation and dividends included.) That’s a total compounded annual rate of return of 11.26%.
That’s an annual 2 percentage point advantage to my Dividend Income portfolio. That’s significant, I’d argue, in the context of a low risk strategy.
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