Tuesday, July 29, 2008

* The Perfect Dividend Stock

In an utopian world, the perfect dividend stock would be one that is both high-yield and provide a high dividend growth rate. Its share price would appreciate ratable with its increasing dividend. All of this would be driven by increasing earnings and cash flow. Ok, so much for my fantasies, the perfect dividend stock just may be a balanced compromise. Consider the following:

High Yield/Low Dividend Growth: When investors first consider dividend investing, High Yield is where they usually go first. I guess it is human nature to want it now and want a lot of it. Unfortunately, high yield stocks often carry higher than average risk - there is usually a reason that the stock yield is higher than average. It could be because the company is in a limited growth industry, is in a volatile industry, experienced recent financial problems and its share price has fallen, or shareholders perceive future financial problems. I have set aside a small portion of my portfolio to invest in these types of stocks. Examples of these stocks would include:
Low Yield/High Dividend Growth: After being burned on an over-allocation of high yield stocks, would be dividend investors normally start reading-up on the subject. The first thing that they learn is that Dividend Growth is more important than Dividend Yield. While Dividend Yield will stroke you today, Dividend Growth is much more important to long-term wealth creation. Companies in this category tend to be well established, dominate in their market and in industries less affected by cyclical geopolitical factors. However, it is important to note that these stocks carry a different kind of risk. Since your long-term return is dependent on the companies increasing their dividends over many years in the future, there is a real risk of something occurring that would prevent them from executing their strategy. Examples of these stocks would include:
Moderate Yield/Moderate Dividend Growth: This is a category that is not often discussed since most dividend investors focus on the other two categories above. I would classify stocks in this category with yields from 3.5% to 8.0% and a dividend growth rate between 5% and 15%. For some this defines the perfect dividend stock - good current payment with good future opportunity for growth. These companies' stories are varied. For some, they would normally reside in one of the other two categories, but hit a bump in the road. For others they normally reside here due to their growth and risk profile. Examples of these stocks would include:
As with all investments, risk can never be eliminated. However, to minimize risk I employ an asset allocation model. In addition, I limit my investments in each of the above categories.

The dividend growth rates quoted above are the average annual rates from 1998-2007.

Full Disclosure: At the time of this writing I was long in FR, ED, AFL, CNI, GE and USB.

(Photo: sanja gjenero)

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