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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Dan Burrows, Contributing Writer
| September 19, 2017
Stocks with long track records of annual dividend increases offer investors a sense of comfort. Shareholders can all but count on their income going on – and going up – year after year. With a little creativity, income investors can extend this sense of security to a month-by-month basis, as well.
Many dividend-paying stocks disburse their payments every three months. But if all your dividend stocks pay on the same schedule, say in March, June, September and December, then your income stream would dry up during the months in between. That’s tough, in particular, for retirees who might rely on a steady flow of cash to meet monthly expenses. Fortunately, pay dates for some of the most dependable dividend stocks on the market are scattered all over the calendar.
After researching the payment schedules of the Dividend Aristocrats, 50 companies in Standard & Poor's 500-stock index that have hiked their dividends annually for at least 25 consecutive years, we put together a portfolio of 12 reliable dividend stocks that ensures investors will receive dividend checks every month of the year.
Data is as of Sept. 13, 2017, unless otherwise indicated. Click on symbol links in each slide for current share prices and more.
(Due to variations in some company payment schedules, this portfolio offers four quarterly dividend payments during 10 months of the year, three payments in March and five in April. The list of 50 Dividend Aristocrats is maintained by S&P Dow Jones Indices.)
Share price: $79.86
Latest quarterly dividend: 51 cents
Dividend yield: 2.6%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 43
Also pays in: April, June, September
The world's largest retailer is determined to keep up with Amazon.com and it's starting to show progress. Walmart went on the offensive in 2016 when it acquired up-and-coming online retailers such as Jet.com, ShoeBuy.com and Moosejaw.com. The investments are already paying dividends, so to speak.
For its second quarter ended in July, Walmart's U.S. online sales jumped 60%, thanks to help from its new properties. The company paid out $3.1 billion in dividends through the first six months of the year.
Share price: $36.65
Latest quarterly dividend: 49 cents
Dividend yield: 5.4%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 32
Also pays in: May, August, November
It's hard to beat telecommunications stocks when it comes to delivering dividends. As with utility companies, customers pay for service every month. That means the company has a steady stream of cash to pass on to shareholders. That basic formula has allowed AT&T to raise its dividend every year for more than three decades. It routinely has one of the highest dividend yields among the 417 companies in the S&P 500 that pay dividends.
Share price: $79.77
Latest quarterly dividend: 77 cents
Dividend yield: 3.9%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 34
Also pays in: June, September, December
ExxonMobil has a complicated lineage. It was formed by the 1998 mega-merger of Exxon and Mobil. Both companies were descendants of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, which was broken up in the early 20th century. Today, it can claim the title of being the single largest company among all 50 Dividend Aristocrats. And it has never disappointed shareholders' desire for dividends. Throughout its convoluted history -- and despite the low oil prices of the last few years -- it has paid a dividend since 1882. It's no wonder that Exxon ranks as the greatest stock of all time, based on the extraordinary amount of wealth it created for its shareholders over the years.
Share price: $81.93
Latest quarterly dividend: 46 cents
Dividend yield: 2.2%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 39
Also pays in: January, July, October
As the world's largest standalone company making medical devices, Medtronic sells a huge portfolio of health-related gadgets. Go to any medical care provider and you're likely to encounter some of its products, which include everything from insulin pumps for diabetics to stents used by cardiac surgeons.
The company is also focused on returning a regular and healthy dose of cash to shareholders. Medtronic has lifted its dividend annually since 1978.
Share price: $93.55
Latest quarterly dividend: 68.96 cents
Dividend yield: 3%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 60
Also pays in: February, August, November
Through thick and thin, Procter & Gamble has made its dividend a priority. This classic defensive stock has paid one since 1891 regardless of economic recession or war. And it has raised its dividend annually for 60 years in a row. The key is its focus on things consumers buy whether the economy is up or down. With major brands such as Crest toothpaste, Charmin toilet paper and Luvs diapers, this consumer products giant makes things people can't do without.
Share price: $132.45
Latest quarterly dividend: 84 cents
Dividend yield: 2.5%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 54
Also pays in: March, September, December
This health-care giant's sprawling operations range from pharmaceuticals to medical devices to well-known consumer brands such as Band-Aids and Listerine. That diversity has served it well over its long life. Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 and has been a public company since 1944. Health care is another traditionally defensive sector, and that's helped J&J raise its dividend every year for more than half a century.
Share price: $129.42
Latest quarterly dividend: 37 cents
Dividend yield: 1.1%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 25
Also pays in: January, April, October
Like Exxon or Chevron, Ecolab is a long-time staple of the oil and gas industry delivering regular and rising dividends. But as a provider of water treatment and other industrial-scale maintenance services for energy companies, Ecolab needs to keep its eye on the price of oil. Kiplinger forecasts oil prices to remain relatively stable, ending 2017 at between $40 and $45 per barrel. Shares have more than doubled over the past five years, which easily outpaces the broader market. According to Ecolab, this is its 25th consecutive year of dividend growth and its 80th consecutive year of cash payouts to shareholders.
Share price: $52
Latest quarterly dividend: 26.5 cents
Dividend yield: 2%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 46
Also pays in: February, May, November
Abbott is a slimmed down company from just a few years ago. The health-care firm spun off its pharmaceutical business into a separate publicly traded company, AbbVie, in 2013. (In the Abbott tradition, AbbVie is also a dependable dividend payer.)
The reason for the spin-off was so that it could concentrate on branded generic drugs, medical devices, nutrition and diagnostic products. As such, it boasts a wide portfolio of brands. For consumers, the most familiar products are probably Similac and Pedialyte for infants. Similar to J&J, the company's diversification across the health-care industry has helped it to become a dividend stalwart. The company paid its first dividend in 1924 and has hiked its payouts every year for almost half a century.
Share price: $114.18
Latest quarterly dividend: $1.08
Dividend yield: 3.8%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 31
Also pays in: March, June, December
Investors in oil and gas companies like Chevron know that the energy industry's generous dividends come with a risk. These companies fortunes ride along with the price of crude oil. That's why it's good news that Kiplinger expects the price per barrel to remain relatively stable, settling between $40 and $45 by the end of 2017. Regardless of the future price of crude, investors can find comfort in Chevron's commitment to its dividend in both up times and down. The energy giant has lifted its payout every year for more than three decades.
Share price: $143
Latest quarterly dividend: 78 cents
Dividend yield: 2.1%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 53
Also pays in: January, April, July
Illinois Tool Works is an industrial equipment powerhouse. Its products include construction products, car parts, restaurant equipment and more. As such, it can be sensitive to economic cycles. That's been a good thing throughout the current economic expansion. Over the last five year the stock has beaten the S&P 500 by almost 70 percentage points. Founded in 1912, Illinois Tool Works has hiked its dividend every year since 1964.
Share price: $77.86
Latest quarterly dividend: 41 cents
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 54
Also pays in: February, May, August
Lowe's is only the nation's second largest home improvement chain, but it beats bigger rival Home Depot when it comes to raising dividends. The company has increased its dividend annually for more than half a century. Home Depot's streak of annual dividend increases goes back to just 2009. Lowe's has benefitted from the long recovery in the housing market, but now the specter of higher interest rates is making some investors nervous. Whatever happens, they can take heart in the fact that management has always made the dividend one of its top priorities.
Share price: $46.50
Dividend yield: 3.2%
Consecutive years of dividend hikes: 55
Also pays in: April, July, October
The U.S. market for carbonated beverages has been in a long, slow decline for more than 10 years, according to market research, and Coca-Cola has had to get creative in order to adapt. Soda is still the company's most visible product, but it has added a wide array of bottled water, fruit juices, teas and energy drinks to its arsenal. It also doesn't hurt that Coke is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. With a dividend that goes back to 1920 -- and 55 straight years of increases -- Coca-Cola has long been a reliable source of income.