3 Companies That Raised Dividends In 2012
One of the ways individual investors can accumulate wealth is through dividend investing. For decades, many investors, (including some of the richest in world) have been using this dividend-focused strategy by purchasing shares in a variety of household blue chips. By choosing high-quality companies that have consistently grown their distribution payments for years and reinvesting those dividends, portfolios can grow immensely over time.

Following a dividend growth strategy, retail investors are able to secure a steady stream of rising payouts that can help get them through their golden years. That's important, considering life spans continue to increase and the average person will spend almost as much time in retirement as he or she spent working.

However, not every stock that throws off a high dividend will lead to long-term wealth. The key for investors is making sure those dividends continue to rise in both good and bad markets.

SEE: The Power Of Dividend Growth

Stylish Chic
Focusing on discount designer apparel and home decor, retailer Target has paid a dividend every quarter since going public in 1967; those payouts are getting a boost, as well, this year. The firm has found success in the economic downturn by offering a larger selection of food and giving shoppers a 5% discount when they pay with Target-branded credit. Target recently announced in June that it would up its dividend by 20% with the next payout. Investors can now expect $1.44 per share per year from the retailer.

Despite a flat job market and shaky consumer confidence, Target has been able to drive traffic across its 1763 stores and recently announced back in May that its first-quarter profit rose 1.2% to $697 million. Those kinds of continued gains have prompted the company to buy back stock, as well as commit to its shareholders that it wants to boost its dividend considerably more in the years ahead. Target currently yields 2.4%.

SEE: The 4 R's Of Investing In Retail

Big Dividends in Dump-Trucks
Caterpillar's famous yellow trucks are an icon. Equally as iconic has been the company's long-term dividend policy and growth. The Peoria, Illinois heavy machinery manufacturer has paid a cash dividend every year since the company was formed in 1925 and recently upped its payout with the most money since the financial crisis hit in fall 2008. CAT will now be paying investors an extra six cents to put the quarterly cash dividend at 52 cents a share, up from 46 cents. That's a nice 6-cent boost per quarter.

This payout returns Caterpillar to the forefront of large dividend increases. Before the financial downturn, the company had hiked its payout by 16.7%. The firm managed to increase its dividend during the recession, and the recent bump represents a return to its high distribution growth days. Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said that the "13% increase in our dividend represents our continued commitment to providing value to stockholders." Look for more dividend increases down the road from the firm. Shares of CAT currently yield 2.5%.

More Than Just Condiments
We tend not to think about those little packets of ketchup that we put on a cheeseburger, but those condiments are big bucks for shareholders in Heinz. The global purveyor of pickles, mustard and other food products could be considered a portfolio staple. By focusing its 57 varieties on emerging markets, the company has continued to grow not only its bottom line, but its dividend payments as well.

Heinz recently approved a 7.3% increase in its annualized common stock dividend. This marks the firm's ninth consecutive year of dividend growth. Shareholders will now see an annualized common stock dividend of $2.06, an increase of 14 cents over last year. Like with CAT, Heinz CEO William R. Johnson said, "The 7.3% increase reflects the Company's solid performance and strong cash flow, continued confidence in our proven long-term growth strategy and most importantly, our commitment to enhancing shareholder value."

The Bottom Line
One of the surefire ways for investors to grow their wealth is by investing in strong dividend payers with a history of increasing those payouts. There are plenty of firms that meet this criteria, but the trio of retailer Target, heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar and consumer staple Heinz, have all upped their payouts strongly over the last year. For investors, these increases highlight the trios' long-term dedication to rewarding portfolios.





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