There’s a good reason dividend investing has become so popular with the personal finance community. In short: because it works! After all, the right portfolio of diversified dividend stock picks can help you collect income right now, and for years to come.
Plus, any reinvested dividends will go on to pay their own dividends as your capital compounds over time. It’s one of the main reason for why your net worth can snowball at ever-accelerating speeds, as dividends beget more dividends. Not bad, right?
But the question remains, particularly for newer investors, how do you find the best dividend stock picks?
So in this blog post, I’m going to share some of my favorite tips for finding high-quality dividend ideas, using free data from Morningstar.com. Sound good?
Great. Then let’s get started.
Why Morningstar Makes Dividend Investment Research Easy:
Before we dive into the particulars of investment research, we need a quality source of dividend data. While each investor has their own workflows and tools, one of my favorites is Morningstar.com.
As you’ll see in a second, Morningstar has a ton of great data available free. And the best part is, they also have historical dividend data.
This is important when you’re investing for the long-term, because you’ll want to be able to evaluate the track record of dividend payers. And Morningstar let’s you see this information for the last decade.
Let me show you where to find it, as well as how I use it.
Tips for Analyzing Historical Dividend Trends:
When you buy a dividend stock, you usually have the expectation it will continue paying (and hopefully growing!) its dividend distributions. This gives you a steady stream of income to live off, or reinvest. But how can you be sure the dividend won’t be cut?
One approach to answering this question is by looking at trends in operating results. Of course history doesn’t always repeat itself, but it’s a good starting point. And if you can find a healthy dividend track record it very well may portend more positives for the future. So how can this be done?
The first step, as you might have guessed, is to head over to Morningstar.com and type in your stock ticker or interest. Then, you’ll want to click on the “key ratios” tab.
From here, you’ll be confronted with data going back 10 years (where applicable). And you can use this information to try and evaluate the track record of the company in question.
In particular, I’m looking for stocks with steadily growing revenue, earnings per share, and book value per share. This kind of predictable growth, year-after-year, can really give you peace of mind when you’re pulling the trigger on buying a dividend stock.
Instead of volatile and cyclical businesses with erratic payout schedules, this focus on consistency can help increase your chances of finding a good dividend growth stock. But you can’t stop there.
That’s because we still need to look at dividend payout history! Once again though, Morningstar makes this easy.
On the key stats page, notice in the example above there are rows for both dividends per share, and payout ratios. These numbers are the next piece of the puzzle that’s important to fill-in.
In particular, you probably want to see a company that has a history of increasing the dividend each year. Or at least, you’ll want to pass on companies that have cut or reduced their dividends.
The other key metric to keep a close eye on is payout ratio. This measures the percent of net income that is paid out in dividends. The idea here is that you can understand how it of a burden the dividend is for the company in questions.
Typically, I like to focus on companies that are growing their dividend each year, but maintain a payout ratio below 60%. This allows some margin of safety. Because on the other hand, if the payout ratio is too high, it’s a good bet the company will eventually have trouble growing or maintaining their dividend.
Finally, and along the same lines, take a quick look at the current yield. One mistake newer dividend investors tend to make is chasing stocks with huge current dividends. Instead, I prefer to focus on stocks with a 2-3% current yield combined with a solid track record of growth. Over time, at least in my experience, these types of companies can work out better over the long run.
Now, I realize this is a lot of information. And there are some limits in that this type of analysis isn’t forward-looking. But the main point to keep in mind is that fundamental trends in historical operating results can help you analyze potential dividend stocks to buy and get a good feel for their track record (or lack thereof!)
Plus to make this easier for you, I’ve created a checklist of my investing rules, to help make sure I’m never acting on a whim. To be honest, I don’t stick to it 100% of the time, but it’s a useful guide that you might find helpful if you’re trying to follow along with this idea at home.
On the other hand, if you want to be a little less hands-on with your investing, there are a couple of other places you can look for exposure to high-quality dividend paying stocks. In particular, you can browse the dividend aristocrats list to see companies that have paid dividends for years on end.
And if individual stocks aren’t your thing, there are also some great dividend ETFs that make it easy and affordable to get dividend exposure in your portfolio. That said, I do believe the fundamental data provided by Morningstar are an easy way to get started analyzing operating trends and identifying dividend opportunities.
If you want to learn more about how I use fundamental and technical trends to find stock market investing and trading ideas, come visit www.IntelligenTtrendFollower.com!