Many investors think of dividend-paying companies as boring, low-return investment opportunities. Compared to high-flying small cap companies, whose volatility can be pretty exciting, dividend-paying stocks are usually more mature and predictable. Though this may be dull for some, the combination of a consistent dividend with an increasing stock price can offer an earnings potential powerful enough to get excited about.

SEE: 20 Investments To Know

High Dividend Yield?
Understanding how to gauge dividend-paying companies can give us some insight into how dividends can pump up your return. A common perception is that a high dividend yield, indicating the dividend pays a fairly high percentage return on the stock price, is the most important measure; however, a yield that is considerably higher than that of other stocks in an industry may indicate not a good dividend but rather a depressed price (dividend yield = annual dividends per share/price per share). The suffering price, in turn, may signal a dividend cut or, worse, the elimination of the dividend.

The important indication of dividend power is not so much a high dividend yield but high company quality, which you can discover through its history of dividends, which should increase over time. If you are a long-term investor, looking for such companies can be very rewarding.

SEE: Dividend Yield For The Downturn

Dividend Payout Ratio
The dividend payout ratio, the proportion of company earnings allocated to paying dividends, further demonstrates that the source of dividend profitability works in combination with company growth. Therefore, if a company keeps a dividend payout ratio constant, say at 4%, but the company grows, that 4% begins to represent a larger and larger amount. (For instance, 4% of $40, which is $1.60, is higher than 4% of $20, which is 80 cents).

Let's demonstrate with an example:
Let's say you invest $1,000 into Joe's Ice Cream company by buying 10 shares, each at $100 per share. It's a well-managed firm that has a P/E ratio of 10, and a payout ratio of 10%, which amounts to a dividend of $1 per share. That's decent, but nothing to write home about since you receive only a measly 1% of your investment as dividend.

However, because Joe is such a great manager, the company expands steadily, and after several years, the stock price is around $200. The payout ratio, however, has remained constant at 10%, and so has the P/E ratio (at 10); therefore, you are now receiving 10% of $20 in earnings, or $2 per share. As earnings increase, so does the dividend payment, even though the payout ratio remains constant. Since you paid $100 per share, your effective dividend yield is now 2%, up from the original 1%.

Now, fast forward a decade: Joe's Ice Cream Company enjoys great success as more and more North Americans gravitate to hot, sunny climates. The stock price keeps appreciating and now sits at $150 after splitting 2 for 1 three times.

SEE: Understanding Stock Splits

This means your initial $1,000 investment in 10 shares has grown to 80 shares (20, then 40, and now 80 shares) worth a total of $12,000. If the payout ratio remains the same and we continue to assume a constant P/E of 10, you now receive 10% of earnings ($1,200) or $120, which is 12% of your initial investment! So, even though Joe's dividend payout ratio did not change, because he has grown his company, the dividends alone rendered an excellent return - they drastically increased the total return you got, along with the capital appreciation.

For decades, many investors have been using this dividend-focused strategy by buying shares in household names such as Coca-Cola (Nasdaq:COKE), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Kellogg (NYSE:K) and General Electric (NYSE:GE). In the example above, we showed how lucrative a static dividend payout can be; imagine the earning power of a company that grows so much as to increase its payout. In fact, this is what Johnson & Johnson did every year for 38 years between 1966 and 2008. If you had bought the stock in the early 1970s, the dividend yield that you would have earned between then and now on your initial shares would've grown approximately 12% annually. By 2004, your earnings from dividends alone would have given a 48% annual return on your initial shares!

The Bottom Line
Dividends might not be the sexiest investment strategy out there. But over the long run, using time-tested investment strategies with these "boring" companies will achieve returns that are anything but dull.

SEE: Guide to Stock Picking Strategies

Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    This is What Bill Gates's Portfolio Looks Like

    Find out about the stocks Bill Gates has in his portfolio. Learn about the close personal and business relationship Gates has with Warren Buffett.
  2. Stock Analysis

    2 Stocks to Bet on the Future of Space Exploration

    Learn about why investors must wait to invest in Space X, and read about other companies involved in the future of space exploration.
  3. Stock Analysis

    Why Seadrill's Dividend Reinstatement Is Unlikely

    Learn why Seadrill suspended its dividend payments in the latter part of 2014, and how lower crude oil prices could hurt the company's future prospects.
  4. Stock Analysis

    Has Seadrill Become a Risky Investment?

    Investing in big oil stocks has long been a safe haven for investors, but falling oil prices and a suspended dividend payment have made Seadrill seem risky.
  5. Stock Analysis

    If You Had Invested Right After Cisco's IPO

    Discover how Cisco became one of the greatest IPOs in history during the 1990s and how it continues to innovate and move forward today.
  6. Stock Analysis

    If You Had Invested Right After Amgen's IPO

    Discover how $1,000 invested in Amgen during its initial public offering (IPO), without reinvesting dividends, would be worth over $427,000 as of November 2015.
  7. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in ConocoPhillips Stock

    Understand the risks of investing in ConocoPhillips stock. Learn about how there is a risk of a dividend cut due to lower prices for crude oil.
  8. Investing

    6 High Value and High Dividend Stocks

    Are you looking for stocks that offer regular dividends payments and will appreciate? Here are the top stocks that offer the best of both.
  9. Investing

    In Search of the Rate-Proof Portfolio

    After October’s better-than-expected employment report, a December Federal Reserve (Fed) liftoff is looking more likely than it was earlier this fall.
  10. Investing

    Where the Price is Right for Dividends

    There are two broad schools of thought for equity income investing: The first pays the highest dividend yields and the second focuses on healthy yields.
  1. Which mutual funds made money in 2008?

    Out of the 2,800 mutual funds that Morningstar, Inc., the leading provider of independent investment research in North America, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are the dividend reinvestment options for a mutual fund?

    There are two primary choices for how investors can choose to handle dividend distributions made by mutual funds that they ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Do mutual funds pay dividends or interest?

    Depending on the type of investments included in the portfolio, mutual funds may pay dividends, interest, or both. Types ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Should I sell my shares if a company suspends its dividend?

    Since 2008, when the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero and then kept them there indefinitely, dividend-paying ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do hedge funds pay dividends?

    Hedge funds rarely pay dividends to the accredited investors who invest directly in them. Instead, these investors share ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Which mutual funds pay the highest dividends?

    For many people, the reliability of dividend or interest income is one of the primary benefits of investing. Like individuals ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Cyber Monday

    An expression used in online retailing to describe the Monday following U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Cyber Monday is generally ...
  2. Bar Chart

    A style of chart used by some technical analysts, on which, as illustrated below, the top of the vertical line indicates ...
  3. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  4. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  5. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  6. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
Trading Center