Updated December 29th, 2017
Everyone knows the age old tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions. There is evidence to suggest that this tradition has existed for over 4,000 years.
Making a resolution that will change and better your life is easy. Following through with the resolution is the hard part. Only 8% of people successfully carry out their New Year’s resolutions – not a great success rate.
Why is it so hard for us to make changes in our lives?
The difficulty lies in the execution.
You can greatly increase the odds of following through on your resolutions by making them specific and measurable. These are the first 2 points in the SMART Goal framework.
This article will discuss how and why to make dividend growth investing your New Year’s resolution. Namely, it will focus on three things:
- Why Dividend Growth Investing?
- How to Quantify Your New Year’s Resolution
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing Dividend Growth Investing
Why Dividend Growth Investing?
We spend much of the holiday season purchasing gifts that depreciate in value over time. What if we purchased assets for our families and ourselves that increased in value over time instead?
Investors are much better off purchasing shares in high-quality dividend-paying companies, and waiting for these companies to grow in value. This is particularly true when investors have a long time horizon.
“The single greatest edge an investor can have is a long-term orientation.”
– Seth Klarman
Here I will provide five pieces of quantitative evidence to support dividend growth investing.
Reason One: The Outperformance of the Dividend Aristocrats Index
The Dividend Aristocrats are a group of elite companies that are favorable for dividend growth investing. You can see all 51 Dividend Aristocrats here. To be included in the Dividend Aristocrats Index, a company must have the following characteristics:
- Be in the S&P 500
- Have 25+ consecutive years of dividend increases
- Meet certain minimum size & liquidity requirements
In order to raise annual dividend payments 25 consecutive times, one would expect the underlying business to be successful. Over the long run, this would be reflected in the stock prices and total returns.
This is indeed the case.
Over the past ten years, the Dividend Aristocrats Index has had an annualized total return of 11.6%, beating the S&P 500’s 8.3% by 3.3 percentage points a year.
Reason Two: The Outperformance of Dividend Growth Stocks Versus “No Growth” Dividend Stocks
Dividend increases are indicative of underlying business success. Management would not raise dividend payments to shareholders if the business was not experiencing growth in revenues, profit, and (most importantly) earnings per share.
As a result, one would expect that businesses that consistently raise their dividends to outperform businesses that don’t.
The data proves that this is indeed the case.
Source: Nuveen Asset Management
Over the long run (1972-2015) dividend growers have outperformed the three other categories (no-growth dividend payers, non-dividend paying stocks, and dividend cutters) while demonstrating less volatility.
This combination of higher return and lower volatility would lead to a much better risk-adjusted return (as measured by the Sharpe ratio).
Reason Three: Dividend Stocks Versus Non Dividend Stocks
The following table presents the performance of stocks that pay no dividends (“non-payers”) against the five quintiles of dividend paying stocks.
Over the very long term, each and every quintile of dividend-paying stocks have outperformed non-payers.
Further, the performance within the quintiles appears to be related to the yield of the stocks. The two best performing quintiles are also the two highest yielding (quintiles 4 & 5).
Reason Four: Long-Term Historical Correlations
One method of determining new investment strategies is to consider long-term correlations. Examining which financial metrics move in tandem with stock prices can help to identify new sources of analysis.
The following table presents the long-term (2000-2015) correlations of various financial prices with total returns (dividends + capital gains) for a sample of blue-chip Canadian companies.
Source: Publicly Available Financial Statements
Dividends exhibit the highest correlation (on average) with stock prices.
This means that dividend increases are the best predictor of total returns (at least in this sample).
Reason Five: Lower Probability of Reducing Dividends
As investors, some of the worst news we can hear is that of a dividend cut.
In an earlier Sure Dividend study, it was discovered that companies with 25+ years of consecutive dividend increases (namely, the Dividend Aristocrats) had a significantly lower rate of cutting dividends than companies with shorter (10-24 year) histories of increasing dividends.
Source: Sure Dividend Study
By investing in companies with longer histories of increasing dividends, it appears we can reduce the risk of experiencing a dividend cut.
This provides added safety for dividend growth investors.
Quantifying Your New Year’s Resolution
Deciding to focus on dividend growth investing in 2018 is a commendable New Year’s resolution. However, it is important to refine this goal further.
Having an actionable New Year’s resolution is a key component of actually completing it. Below, I’ve included good and bad examples of a dividend growth New Year’s resolution.
The Good Example: “Each month in 2018, I will dedicate $1000 for the purchase of a dividend growth stock.”
The Bad Example: “In 2018, I will invest in some dividend growth stocks if I have free cash.”
By quantifying your New Year’s resolution, it is much easier to measure your performance.
With the good example above, you either did achieve your goal (by purchasing $1k/month of dividend growth stocks) or you did not. The success measure is binary (yes/no), which helps simplify your investing.
Implementing Dividend Growth Investing: A Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1: As discussed in the previous section, the first step in implementing your dividend growth investing New Year’s resolution is to commit to saving a certain amount every month. If you are no longer in the accumulation phase of life, you could commit to moving a certain percentage of your portfolio to dividend growth stocks every month.
Step 2: Once the value is established, the next step is to find a reliable discount brokerage to transfer your monthly savings to. Online discount brokerages make it very easy to buy and sell stocks – including dividend growth stocks. There is no one ‘right’ answer for an online brokerage. Factors to consider include stability (how long has the brokerage been around?) and transaction costs (the lower the better).
Step 3: With a monthly savings plan and discount brokerage account in place you are set to begin your dividend growth portfolio. The next step is actually selecting what stocks to invest in.
At Sure Dividend, we recommend investing in the best dividend growth stock available every month. Sure Dividend uses The 8 Rules of Dividend Investing to systematically rank dividend growth stocks. The Top 10 are analyzed in detail in the Sure Dividend Newsletter every month.
Alternatively, you can minimize the time spent in searching for high quality dividend growth stocks by investing in undervalued Dividend Aristocrats or Dividend Kings. Both lists include stocks with long histories of rising dividends. The Dividend Aristocrats List includes 51 companies with 25+ years of consecutive rising dividends. The Dividend Kings List is even more exclusive, and includes a short list of stocks with a remarkable 50+ years of consecutive rising dividends.
Step 4: Step 4 takes the least amount of time, but is the most difficult. Once you invest in great dividend growth stocks trading at fair or better prices, it is time to… do nothing (in most cases). Sitting back and letting your wealth compound sounds easy, but the volatility of the market combined with constant financial news makes it difficult to invest for the long-run. Still, it is critically important to your long-term financial well-being to not churn your account with excessive trades. In the case of buying and selling in your investment account, less is more.
Dividend growth is nothing new. In fact, it has been written about since at least 1934, when Security Analysis (a famous book on investing) was originally published.
“The prime purpose of a business corporation is to pay dividends regularly and, presumably, to increase the rate as time goes on.”
– Benjamin Graham in Security Analysis
Dividend growth investing will get 2018 started on the right foot and reward investors for years to come. This post has presented evidence and outlined strategies to implement dividend growth investing in the year to come.