Updated on June 2nd, 2021 by Bob Ciura
Spreadsheet data updated daily
The Dividend Aristocrats are a select group of 65 S&P 500 stocks with 25+ years of consecutive dividend increases.
They are the ‘best of the best’ dividend growth stocks. The Dividend Aristocrats have a long history of outperforming the market.
The requirements to be a Dividend Aristocrat are:
- Be in the S&P 500
- Have 25+ consecutive years of dividend increases
- Meet certain minimum size & liquidity requirements
There are currently 65 Dividend Aristocrats. You can download an Excel spreadsheet of all 65 (with metrics that matter such as dividend yields and price-to-earnings ratios) by clicking the link below:
Note: On January 22nd, 2021, International Business Machines (IBM), NextEra Energy (NEE), and West Pharmaceutical Services (WST) were added to the Dividend Aristocrats Index. Carrier Global (CARR), Otis Worldwide (OTIS), and Raytheon Technologies (RTX) were all removed, leaving the total count at 65.
Source: S&P News Releases
You can see detailed analysis on all 65 further below in this article, in our Dividend Aristocrats In Focus series. Analysis includes valuation, growth, and competitive advantage(s).
Table of Contents
- How To Use The Dividend Aristocrats List To Find Dividend Investment Ideas
- Performance of the Dividend Aristocrats
- Sector Overview
- The 7 Best Dividend Aristocrats Today
#7: Cardinal Health (CAH)
#6: Atmos Energy (ATO)
#5: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM)
#4: AbbVie Inc. (ABBV)
#3: Lowe’s Companies (LOW)
#2: Becton, Dickinson, & Company (BDX)
#1: AT&T Inc. (T)
- Dividend Aristocrats Analysis (The Dividend Aristocrats In Focus Series)
- Historical Dividend Aristocrats List (1989 – 2020)
- Final Thoughts
You can also watch the following video for more information on the Dividend Aristocrats and see a table of the Dividend Aristocrats below.
How to Use The Dividend Aristocrats List To Find Dividend Investment Ideas
The downloadable Dividend Aristocrats Excel Spreadsheet List above contains the following for each stock in the index:
- Price-to-earnings ratio
- Dividend yield
- Market capitalization
All Dividend Aristocrats are high quality businesses based on their long dividend histories. A company cannot pay rising dividends for 25+ years without having a strong and durable competitive advantage.
But not all Dividend Aristocrats make equally good investments today. That’s where the spreadsheet in this article comes into play. You can use the Dividend Aristocrats spreadsheet to quickly find quality dividend investment ideas.
The list of all 65 Dividend Aristocrats is valuable because it gives you a concise list of all S&P 500 stocks with 25+ consecutive years of dividend increases (that also meet certain minimum size and liquidity requirements).
These are businesses that have both the desire and ability to pay shareholders rising dividends year-after-year. This is a rare combination.
Together, these two criteria are powerful – but they are not enough. Value must be considered as well.
The spreadsheet above allows you to sort by forward price-to-earnings ratio so you can quickly find undervalued, high quality dividend stocks.
Here’s how to use the Dividend Aristocrats list to quickly find high quality dividend growth stocks potentially trading at a discount:
- Download the list
- Sort by ‘Forward PE Ratio’, smallest to largest
- Research the top stocks further
Here’s how to do this quickly in the spreadsheet
Step 1: Download the list, and open it.
Step 2: Apply a filter function to each column in the spreadsheet.
Step 3: Click on the small gray down arrow next to ‘Forward P/E Ratio’, and then click on ‘Descending’.
Step 4: Review the highest ranked Dividend Aristocrats before investing. You can see detailed analysis on every Dividend Aristocrat further below in this article.
That’s it; you can follow the same procedure to sort by any other metric in the spreadsheet.
This article examines the characteristics and performance of the Dividend Aristocrats in detail. A table of contents for easy navigation is below.
Performance Through May 2021
In May 2021, the Dividend Aristocrats, as measured by the Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL), registered a positive total return of 2.5%. It outperformed the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) for the month.
- NOBL generated positive total returns of 2.5% in May 2021
- SPY generated positive total returns of 0.66% in May 2021
Short-term performance is mostly noise. Performance should be measured over a minimum of 3 years, and preferably longer periods of time.
The Dividend Aristocrats Index has outperformed the broader market index over the last decade, with a 14.5% total annual return for the Dividend Aristocrats versus 14.4% for the S&P 500 Index. And, the Dividend Aristocrats have exhibited slightly lower volatility than the broader market.
Source: S&P Fact Sheet
Higher total returns with lower volatility is the ‘holy grail’ of investing. It is worth exploring the characteristics of the Dividend Aristocrats in detail to determine why they have performed so well.
Note that a good portion of the outperformance relative to the S&P 500 comes during recessions (2000 – 2002, 2008). Dividend Aristocrats have historically seen smaller drawdowns during recessions versus the S&P 500. This makes holding through recessions that much easier. Case-in-point: In 2008 the Dividend Aristocrats Index declined 22%. That same year, the S&P 500 declined 38%.
Great businesses with strong competitive advantages tend to be able to generate stronger cash flows during recessions. This allows them to gain market share while weaker businesses fight to stay alive.
Related: The video below shows the Great Recession performance of every Dividend Aristocrat (excluding the new Aristocrats for 2019 and 2020).
The Dividend Aristocrats Index has beaten the market over the last decade (and over the last 28 years)…
I believe dividend paying stocks outperform non-dividend paying stocks for three reasons:
- A company that pays dividends is likely to be generating earnings or cash flows so that it can pay dividends to shareholders. This excludes ‘pre-earnings’ start-ups and failing businesses. In short, it excludes the riskiest stocks.
- A business that pays consistent dividends must be more selective with the growth projects it takes on because a portion of its cash flows are being paid out as dividends. Scrutinizing over capital allocation decisions likely adds to shareholder value.
- Stocks that pay dividends are willing to reward shareholders with cash payments. This is a sign that management is shareholder-friendly.
In our view, Dividend Aristocrats have historically outperformed the market and other dividend paying stocks because they are, on average, higher-quality businesses.
A high-quality business should outperform a mediocre business over a long period of time, all other things being equal.
A sector breakdown of the Dividend Aristocrats index is shown below:
The top 2 sectors by weight in the Dividend Aristocrats are Industrials and Consumer Staples. The Dividend Aristocrats Index is tilted toward Consumer Staples and Industrials relative to the S&P 500. These 2 sectors make up over 40% of the Dividend Aristocrats Index, but less than 20% of the S&P 500.
The Dividend Aristocrats Index is also significantly underweight the Information Technology sector, with a 3% allocation compared with over 20% allocation within the S&P 500.
The Dividend Aristocrat Index is filled with stable ‘old economy’ blue chip consumer products businesses and manufacturers; the 3M’s (MMM), Coca-Cola’s (KO), and Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) of the investing world. These ‘boring’ businesses aren’t likely to generate 20%+ earnings-per-share growth, but they also are very unlikely to see large earnings drawdowns as well.
The 7 Best Dividend Aristocrats Today
The following section ranks our top 7 Dividend Aristocrats to buy today, based on expected annual returns through 2026. These 7 stocks represent attractive long-term buys for dividend growth investors.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 7.5%
Cardinal Health is one of the “Big 3” drug distribution companies along with McKesson (MKC) and AmerisourceBergen (ABC). Cardinal Health serves over 24,000 United States pharmacies and more than 85% of the country’s hospitals.
On May 6th, 2021 Cardinal Health released financial results for the fiscal third quarter. Revenue of $39.3 billion rose slightly from $39.2 billion in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings-per-share of $1.53 declined 5.6% year-over-year.
Cardinal Health operates in two segments: Pharmaceutical and Medical. The Pharmaceutical segment makes up the lion’s share of revenues (~90%), but the Medical segment remains important due to its higher margins and growth potential.
Source: Investor Presentation
In the fiscal third quarter, Pharmaceutical revenue was flat year-over-year, while segment profit declined 4%. Medical segment revenue increased 3% while profits declined 2% from the same quarter last year.
The company narrowed its full-year forecast, now expecting adjusted EPS in a range of $5.90 to $6.05, compared with previous guidance of $5.85 to $6.10. In addition, the company announced a $0.4908 quarterly dividend, marking a 1.0% increase and its 34th consecutive year of dividend increases.
Based on expected EPS of $5.98 for 2021, shares of Cardinal Health trade for a P/E ratio of 9.3, which is slightly below our fair value P/E of 10. In addition, we expect 3% annual EPS growth plus the 3.5% dividend yield, leading to total annual returns of 7.5% over the next five years.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 7.8%
Atmos Energy can trace its beginnings all the way back to 1906 when it was formed in Texas. Since that time, it has grown both organically and through mergers to a market cap above $13 billion. The company distributes and stores natural gas in eight states, and serves over 3 million customers.
Source: Investor Presentation
Atmos reported second quarter earnings on May 5th. Revenue increased 35% year-over-year to $1.35 billion, while consolidated operating income increased 15% year-over-year. Growth came from favorable rate outcomes and customer growth in the distribution segment.
Atmos’ earnings-per-share has risen steadily in the past decade as the company continues to grow both organically and through acquisitions. We are forecasting a five-year annual EPS growth rate of 7% moving forward. The company can achieve this growth through continued improvements in gross margin, reductions in operating costs as a percentage of revenue, and top line growth via acquisitions as well as customer growth.
Shares currently trade for a P/E of 19.7, which is slightly above our fair value estimate of 19. While valuation is a negative catalyst, we expect the company to grow EPS by 7% per year, and the stock also has a 2.5% dividend yield. Total returns are estimated to reach 7.8% per year over the next five years.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 8.0%
Archer Daniels Midland is an agriculture products giant. Its businesses include the processing of cereal grains and oilseeds, and agricultural storage and transportation.
ADM reported its fiscal first-quarter results on April 27th. Adjusted earnings-per-share more than doubled compared to the same quarter last year, as revenue increased 26% to $18.89 billion. ADM has benefited from being classified as an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic.
ADM expects strong growth in segment operating profit and another record year for EPS in 2021. Management expects a significant year-over-year increase in earnings across all three of its businesses in 2021.
ADM has positive long-term growth potential, due to rising global populations and increasing demand for food. Separately, the company will be a beneficiary of new eating trends such as alternative proteins, which have resulted in strong growth in ADM’s nutrition segment over the past several years.
Source: Investor Presentation
Agriculture is a challenging and cyclical industry, making ADM’s history of long-term growth even more impressive. This is due to the company’s competitive advantages, primarily its scale. The company has 321 food and feed processing locations, and 449 crop procurement facilities. ADM also has a strong balance sheet with an A credit rating, which provides it with financial flexibility during recessions.
ADM has increased its dividend for over 40 consecutive years. The stock yields 2.2% right now. In addition, we expect approximately 6% annual earnings-per-share growth over the next five years, while the stock is currently trading just above our fair value estimate. All together, we expect total returns of 8% per year for ADM stock.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 9.1%
AbbVie is a pharmaceutical company spun off by Abbott Laboratories (ABT) in 2013. Its most important product is Humira, which is now facing biosimilar competition in Europe, which has had a noticeable impact on the company. Humira will lose patent protection in the U.S. in 2023. Even so, AbbVie remains a giant in the healthcare sector, with a large and diversified product portfolio.
Source: Investor Presentation
In the 2021 first quarter, AbbVie generated revenue of $13 billion, up 51% from the same quarter last year. Earnings-per-share grew 22% year-over-year. Reflecting its improved prospects, AbbVie also raised full-year guidance upon announcing its first-quarter results. AbbVie now expects adjusted earnings-per-share in a range of $12.37 to $12.57 for 2021. At the midpoint of guidance, AbbVie’s adjusted EPS is expected to rise 18% for this year, making 2021 another year of strong growth for AbbVie.
AbbVie’s major risk is loss of exclusivity for Humira. Fortunately, the company’s massive research and development platform is a competitive advantage. Research and development expense totaled $6.5 billion in 2020. AbbVie has multiple growth opportunities to replace Humira, particularly in the therapeutic areas of immunology, hematology, and neuroscience.
Based on expected 2021 earnings-per-share of $12.47, AbbVie trades for a price-to-earnings ratio of 9.1. Our fair value estimate for AbbVie is a price-to-earnings ratio (P/E) of 10. We view AbbVie as slightly undervalued, which means an expanding P/E multiple could boost shareholder returns over the next five years. In addition, we expect annual earnings growth of 3.0%, while the stock has a 4.6% dividend yield. We expect total annual returns of 9.1% per year over the next five years.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 10.9%
Lowe’s Companies is the second-largest home improvement retailer in the US (after Home Depot). Lowe’s operates more than 2,200 home improvement and hardware stores in the U.S. and Canada.
Lowe’s reported first quarter results on May 19th. Quarterly revenue of $24.4 billion increased 24% from the same quarter last year. Comparable sales (which measures sales at stores open at least one year) increased 26%. Earnings-per-share on an adjusted basis, increased 81% year-over-year.
We forecast 7% annual EPS growth over the next five years. Lowe’s has a long runway of growth up ahead.
Source: Investor Presentation
Another key to Lowe’s success has been its booming e-commerce platform. This is a key differentiator between successful retailers like Lowe’s and the many retailers that are reporting losses or going out of business. Lowe’s is benefiting right alongside the e-commerce boom.
Lowe’s enjoys competitive advantages from scale and brand power as it operates in a duopoly with Home Depot. Neither of the two are expanding their store count significantly, and neither is interested in a price war. Both should remain highly profitable, as the home improvement market in the US is large enough for two companies to succeed.
Based on expected EPS of $11.01 for the current fiscal year, Lowe’s stock trades for a P/E ratio of 17.4. Our fair value estimate is a P/E of 20. The combination of valuation changes, expected EPS growth and dividends lead to total expected returns of 10.9% per year through 2026.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 10.9%
Becton, Dickinson & Co., or BD,is a global leader in the medical supply industry. The company was founded in 1897 and has over 70,000 employees across 190+ countries. The company generates around $17 billion in annual revenue, with approximately 43% of revenues coming from outside the U.S.
BDX has been very active on the acquisition front in recent years, and is now comprised of three segments.
Medical Division products include needles for drug delivery systems, and surgical blades. The Life Sciences division provides products for the collection and transportation of diagnostic specimens. The Intervention segment includes several of the products produced by what used to be Bard.
Source: Investor Presentation
On 5/8/2021, BDX released earnings results for the fiscal second quarter. Revenue increased 15% while adjusted EPS increased 25% year-over-year. Medical segment revenue increased 4.7% for the quarter, while Life Science revenue increased 38%. Interventional was flat at just over $1 billion.
The U.S. grew 1.9%, while international markets were up 25.7%. Within its international operations, developed nations revenue increased 10.4% while emerging markets revenue increased 24%.
BDX has increased earnings-per-share by 7.8% per year over the past 10 years, and has grown earnings in 8 out of the last 10 years. We feel that BDX can grow earnings at a rate of 10% per year through fiscal 2026 due to a combination of mid-single-digit organic sales growth, revenue gains due to the Bard acquisition, and future share repurchases.
With a P/E of 18.6 compared with our fair value estimate of 18.4, we see the stock as slightly overvalued. Still, the combination of 10% expected EPS growth and the 1.4% dividend yield lead to total expected returns of 10.9% per year over the next five years.
- 5-year Expected Annual Returns: 11.9%
AT&T is the largest communications company in the world, operating in three distinct business units: AT&T Communications (providing mobile, broadband and video to 100 million U.S. consumers and 3 million businesses); WarnerMedia (including Turner, HBO, Warner Bros. and the Xandr advertising platform); and AT&T Latin America (offering pay-TV and wireless service to 11 countries).
AT&T is a mega-cap stock with a market capitalization above $200 billion.
On April 22nd, 2021 AT&T reported Q1 2021 results for the period ending March 31st, 2021. For the quarter the company generated $43.9 billion in revenue, up 2.7% from $42.8 billion in Q1 2020, as higher mobility and WarnerMedia revenue more than offset declines in domestic video, business wireline and Latin America.
Source: Investor Presentation
Reported net income equaled $7.5 billion or $1.04 per share. On an adjusted basis, earnings–per–share equaled $0.86 compared to $0.84 in the year-ago quarter. AT&T ended the quarter with a net debt–to–EBITDA ratio of 3.1x. AT&T also updated its full year 2021 outlook, continuing to expect 1% revenue growth, adjusted earnings–per–share to be stable with 2020 and a dividend payout ratio in the high–50% range.
AT&T is a colossal business, but it is not a fast grower. From 2007 through 2019 AT&T grew earnings-per-share by 2.2% per year. AT&T is optimistic about generating future growth as the company seeks to slim down.
On February 25th, AT&T announced it will spin off multiple assets into a separate company called New DIRECTV that will own and operate the DirecTV satellite TV business, as well as AT&T TV and U-verse video. AT&T will own 70% of the company, and will sell 30% ownership to TPG for approximately nearly $8 billion, which will be used to pay down debt.
Then, AT&T announced a mega-merger with Discovery (DISCA) in which TimeWarner will merge with Discovery, and AT&T will receive $43 billion in a combination of cash, securities and retention of debt. AT&T shareholders receive stock representing 71% of the new company, with Discovery shareholders owning 29%.
These deals will allow AT&T to become more efficient and refocus itself on its core telecommunications services. The funds raised will provide AT&T additional financial resources to invest in growth, and also to pay down debt to improve the balance sheet.
5G is a significant growth catalyst. AT&T continues to expand 5G to more cities around the country. AT&T now provides access to 5G to parts of 355 U.S. markets, covering more than 120 million people.
Shares of AT&T trade for a price-to-earnings ratio just under 10.0, which below our fair value P/E of 11. The stock also has an attractive dividend yield of 7%. Combined with 3% expected annual earnings-per-share growth, we expect total annual returns of 11.9% per year over the next five years.
The Dividend Aristocrats In Focus Analysis Series
You can see analysis on every single Dividend Aristocrat below. Each is sorted by GICS sectors and listed in alphabetical order by name. The newest Sure Analysis Research Database report for each security is included as well, with its date in brackets.
- Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) | [5/9/21]
- Amcor (AMCR) | [3/17/21]
- Brown-Forman (BF-B) | [3/17/21]
- Colgate-Palmolive (CL) | [5/8/21]
- Clorox (CLX) | [5/15/21]
- Coca-Cola (KO) | [5/23/21]
- Hormel Foods (HRL) | [5/30/21]
- Kimberly-Clark (KMB) | [4/26/21]
- McCormick & Company (MKC) | [3/30/21]
- PepsiCo (PEP) | [4/18/21]
- Procter & Gamble (PG) [4/20/21]
- Sysco Corporation (SYY) [2/4/21]
- Walmart (WMT) | [2/24/21]
- Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) | [3/31/21]
- A.O. Smith (AOS) | [5/5/21]
- Cintas (CTAS) | [3/21/21]
- Dover (DOV) | [4/21/21]
- Emerson Electric (EMR) | [5/9/21]
- Expeditors International (EXPD) | [3/28/21]
- Illinois Tool Works (ITW) | [5/6/21]
- 3M (MMM) | [4/27/21]
- Pentair (PNR) | [4/30/21]
- Roper Technologies (ROP) | [5/4/21]
- Stanley Black & Decker (SWK) | [4/28/21]
- W.W. Grainger (GWW) | [5/5/21]
- General Dynamics (GD) | [5/4/21]
- Caterpillar (CAT) | [5/4/21]
- Abbott Laboratories (ABT) | [4/20/21]
- AbbVie (ABBV) | [5/3/21]
- Becton, Dickinson & Company (BDX) | [5/10/21]
- Cardinal Health (CAH) | [5/8/21]
- Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) | [4/21/21]
- Medtronic (MDT) | [5/27/21]
- West Pharmaceutical Services | [5/19/21]
- Genuine Parts Company (GPC) | [3/5/21]
- Leggett & Platt (LEG) | [5/4/21]
- Lowe’s Companies (LOW) | [5/19/21]
- McDonald’s (MCD) | [5/1/21]
- Target (TGT) | [3/7/21]
- V.F. Corporation (VFC) | [5/21/21]
- Aflac (AFL) | [5/2/21]
- Cincinnati Financial (CINF) | [5/22/21]
- Franklin Resources (BEN) | [5/7/21]
- S&P Global (SPGI) | [5/19/21]
- T. Rowe Price Group (TROW) | [5/2/21]
- Chubb (CB) | [5/3/21]
- People’s United Financial (PBCT) | [4/26/21]
- Air Products and Chemicals (APD) | [5/19/21]
- Albemarle (ALB) | [5/9/21]
- Ecolab (ECL) | [4/29/21]
- PPG Industries (PPG) | [4/17/21]
- Sherwin-Williams (SHW) | [4/28/21]
- Nucor (NUE) | [5/8/21]
- Linde (LIN) | [5/15/21]
- Essex Property Trust (ESS) | [5/8/21]
- Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT) | [5/19/21]
- Realty Income (O) | [5/11/21]
Looking for no-fee DRIP Dividend Aristocrats? Click here to read an article examining all 15 no-fee DRIP Dividend Aristocrats in detail.
Historical Dividend Aristocrats List
(1989 – 2020)
The image below shows the history of the Dividend Aristocrats Index from 1989 through 2020:
Note: CL, GPC, and NUE were all removed and re-added to the Dividend Aristocrats Index through the historical period analyzed above. We are unsure as to why. Companies created via a spin-off (like AbbVie) can be Dividend Aristocrats with less than 25 years of rising dividends if the parent company was a Dividend Aristocrat.
This information was compiled from the following sources:
- 1989 – 1991: Dividend Growth Investor
- 1992 – 2015: NOBL Index Historical Constituents
- 2016: Sure Dividend update
- 2017 – 2021: Data from S&P press releases
Other Dividend Lists & Final Thoughts
The Dividend Aristocrats list is not the only way to quickly screen for stocks that regularly pay rising dividends.
- The Dividend Achievers List is comprised of more than 250 stocks with 10+ years of consecutive dividend increases.
- The Dividend Kings List is even more exclusive than the Dividend Aristocrats. It is comprised of 31 stocks with 50+ years of consecutive dividend increases.
- The Sure Dividend Blue Chip Stocks List: stocks that qualify as Dividend Achievers, Dividend Aristocrats, and/or Dividend Kings
- The High Dividend Stocks List: stocks that appeal to investors interested in the highest yields of 5% or more.
- The Monthly Dividend Stocks List: stocks that pay dividends every month, for 12 payments per year.
- The Large Cap Stocks List: stocks with market caps above $10 billion.
- The Dividend Champions List: stocks that have increased their dividends for 25+ consecutive years but do not qualify as Dividend Aristocrats.
- The Dividend Contenders List: 10-24 consecutive years of dividend increases.
- The Dividend Challengers List: 5-9 consecutive years of dividend increases.
There is nothing magical about the Dividend Aristocrats. They are ‘just’ a collection of high quality shareholder friendly stocks that have strong competitive advantages.
Purchasing these types of stocks at fair or better prices and holding for the long-run will likely result in favorable long-term performance.
You have a choice in what type of business you buy into. You can buy into the mediocre, or the excellent.
Often, excellent businesses are not more expensive (based on their price-to-earnings ratio) than mediocre businesses.
“When we own portions of outstanding businesses with outstanding managements, our favorite holding period is forever.”