An income investor's best friend
Yield is tough to find nowadays. Investors saving for retirement can't count on fixed income to provide much of a cash flow, and that makes the never-ending hunt for the best dividend stocks all the more urgent. Clearly, there is no objective list of the "best" dividend stocks in the market, but that doesn't mean there aren't straightforward metrics pointing investors in the right direction. Surely a great dividend stock must be consistent, and there's no better sign of consistency than a company that's been paying dividends for the last 100 years. Through thick and thin and peace and war, the following 10 stocks have done just that.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM)
The year is 1882. Thomas Edison's lightbulb is three years old, Chester Arthur is president, and what is now known as XOM begins its absurdly long streak of shelling out dividends. Investors can be justifiably concerned that low oil and natural gas prices will keep pressure on XOM shares, but the company's immense size and asset base make Exxon Mobil the perfect investment for the preservation of capital and a slow but steady income. The firm's elite dividend tradition is all the more legendary when you consider its recent habit of increasing its dividend yearly, too. That's been an annual ritual since 1983.
Coca-Cola Co. (KO)
The world's largest beverage company has also been paying a dividend since the 19th century -- 1893, to be exact. Before the invention of the airplane, Coca-Cola had begun paying dividends for investors, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon. Like Exxon, Coca-Cola has also been regularly upping the size of its payments -- in fact, Coke's history of dividend increases is even more impressive than Exxon's. The Atlanta-based soda giant has been boosting its dividend annually since the Kennedy administration; you'd have to go all the way back to 1962 to find a year Coca-Cola didn't increase its payout.
Consolidated Edison (ED)
There are only a handful of rock-solid dividend stocks in the world. But among the proud few, it doesn't get much more reliable than Consolidated Edison. Conservative investors just looking for a steady stream of income -- without the higher risks associated with the potential for greater capital appreciation -- need look no further than ConEd. The electric and gas utility company will exist as long as its primary market, New York City, does. The Big Apple has been feeding ED stock owners the cash flow needed for regular dividends since 1885, when the company first started paying out.
3M Co. (MMM)
Diversified industrial conglomerate 3M can't match ConEd or Coca-Cola's streak of uninterrupted dividends -- it's only been dishing out consistent dividends for 100 years, having paid its first one in 1916. If you're wondering how 3M has been able to churn out cash payments for shareholders religiously since the middle of World War I, the answer has a lot to do with the company's innovation-focused philosophy. 3M allots employees 15 percent of their work week to create and research things entirely unrelated to their job. It also aims to regularly generate 30 percent of its revenue from products created in the last four years, making the company adaptive and unique.
Procter & Gamble Co. (PG)
Procter & Gamble products are virtually unavoidable; the consumer goods giant has dozens of billion-dollar brands ranging from grooming and personal care products to health care and beauty-focused products. Its unrivaled brand portfolio is a who's-who of household names: Charmin, Downy, Febreze, Crest, Gillette and Head & Shoulders are just a few of its wildly recognizable brand names. P&G's knack for creating brand awareness has earned it prominent shelf space in retailers throughout the globe, and is the driving force behind its 125-year dividend streak. And, like most elite dividend stocks, PG has consistently raised its dividend payments for decades -- since 1957, to be exact.
Stanley Black & Decker (SWK)
Tool and machinery powerhouse Stanley Black & Decker is quietly one of the most consistent dividend stocks on Wall Street, and it's not afraid to let its investors know. Its investor relations website boasts that SWK has paid annual dividends for longer than any other industrial company on the New York Stock Exchange. When you've paid dividends since 1877, that's not hard to believe. SWK has also been upping its dividend every year for almost five decades, and remarkably still has a very low payout ratio, signaling the company could dramatically raise its dividend tomorrow and still have plenty of profit left to be held or reinvested.
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