12/4/2013 11:32:00 AM Let's talk about dividend investing
Perry Grice Financial Advisor
The most visible and most understandable way to judge a stock’s performance is by the rate of growth of its share price. It’s easy to focus only on capital gains, but one often-overlooked aspect of investing is dividends. The potential growth of dividends paid back to shareholders can, over time, be significant. Employing a strategy combining market growth and reinvested dividends may help you reach your financial goals while potentially minimizing the amount of risk in your portfolio. The stability offered by regular dividends can help balance out the generally more volatile nature of investing in stocks. What Is a Dividend? A dividend is a distribution of a corporation’s earnings to its shareholders, typically made on a quarterly basis. Dividends are paid on a per-share basis, so the more shares an investor owns, the greater the dividend he or she will receive.
A company’s dividend payout ratio is the percentage of earnings distributed to shareholders in the form of dividends and is calculated by dividing dividend per share by its earnings per share. The dividend payout ratio offers an indication of how well earnings support the dividend payments. More mature companies tend to have higher dividend payout ratios. Dividends are one indicator of a company’s health. By issuing a dividend, a company is exhibiting its healthy cash flow and signaling that it believes its growth is sustainable. Who Issues Dividends? Many, but certainly not all, companies issue dividends. Companies that are experiencing rapid growth (growth stocks) generally do not pay dividends, instead choosing to plow their earnings back into their operations with the hopes of eventually rewarding investors through capital appreciation. Dividend-issuing stocks typically offer less volatility than do growth stocks, because the dividends they pay are based on the company’s profitability, not market perceptions. In a bear market, this can be especially attractive, as dividend-paying companies may continue to provide a return while other growth-oriented stocks are declining. Dividends also help encourage stability in ownership and lower turnover, as investors are more likely to hold onto the stock during difficult times in order to receive the dividend. Reinvesting Dividends Investors who receive dividends can do one of two things with the proceeds – take a cash payment or use the money to purchase more shares. Reinvesting allows investors to increase their position without providing additional capital, reducing the cost basis of the investment. Reinvesting also unlocks the power of compounding, a helpful way for investors to build wealth.
What to Look For In dividend investing, look for stocks that have a track record of consistently increasing their dividends. These are usually strong, stable companies that have self-imposed discipline to continue to perform well and earn a profit year in and year out. Dividends offer a means of keeping a company’s management in check, helping encourage sound, responsible decision-making. Most companies that issue dividends are very reluctant to either decrease or eliminate their dividends, as that sends a negative message to the investing public which could possibly result in a sell-off of the stock. Maintaining and increasing dividend payments requires consistent earnings growth. Looking at a company’s earnings growth over time can help you determine if it will consistently offer dividends in the future. However, it should be noted that changes in market conditions or a company’s financial condition may impact the company’s ability to continue to pay dividends, and companies may also choose to discontinue dividend payments. Dividend investing may be an especially good strategy for baby boomers to adopt as they near retirement. Finding and investing in stocks that not only offer a solid dividend, but also increase their dividend payments can help provide retirement income without having to sell off assets. And in order to outpace the rate of inflation, it generally makes sense for retirees to include some equities among their holdings. For more information on dividend investing, please contact your financial advisor today. Michael P. “Perry” Grice is a Financial Advisor with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated, Member SIPC and New York Stock Exchange, and can be contacted in the Florence office at 1325 Cherokee Road, or by phone at (843) 665-7599 or toll-free at (866) 850-6995.