I'm not a big individual stock fan. For most people, mutual funds are a much better way to invest. Its easier to be diverisfied and its also easier to add money systematically.However, I did see something recently which I thought my readers may enjoy. If you were going to invest in stocks, which companies would be good ones to own long-term? At least one sign of a great company is one which is able to consistently increase their dividend payment. If you aren't sure what a dividend is, think of it this way. When you own stock, you own a tiny piece of that company. Your investment rises and falls with the performance of the company. Over time, you would like to think the company will grow, and your money will grow with it. Companies which have established themselves and become profitable will share part of their profits with you as a part owner. Those profit sharing payments are known as dividends and are usually paid once every 3 months. Again, the sign of a great company is one which has raised its dividend payment consistently, even in tough times. Raising the dividend for shareholders is like giving them a pay raise. (CDs don't do THAT!!) Those companies would be great to own long term. What if a company were able to raise its dividend 25 years in a row or more? Here are the ones which have:Abbott Labs (ABT)Bemis (BMS)Century Tel (CTL)Chubb (CB)Coca-Cola (KO)Exxon-Mobil (XOM)Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)Mc Donalds (MCD)3M (MMM)Pitney Bowes (PBI)PPG (PPG)Proctor & Gamble (PG)Walmart (WMT) S&P reports that since 1926, dividends have contributed to about 1/3 of the total return on your investment. Another thing I like about dividends is that when the stock price goes down, the dividend yield goes up. Its a great time to buy more of great companies. That is what Warren Buffett does!For example, lets look at Proctor & Gamble. Shares of PG are currently (2/3/10) at $62.90. Dividends are paid at $1.76/share, which is divided into 4 quarterly payments. You will get a dividend return of 2.8% on any shares purchased at that price.What if you had been fortunate enough to buy in March of 2009, when it was selling for around $44/share? Well, you still would have gotten $1.76 per share, but that works out to about a 4% dividend return. (Better than a CD, and with potential to grow!)Warren Buffett has become extremely wealthy because he buys great companies and holds them, collecting dividends which increase year after year after year.Again, I am not encouraging people to buy individual stocks. There are plenty of financial stocks such as Citigroup and Bank of America which also had wonderful histories of increased dividends, until 2008.Dividends are certainly something to consider though for any investment - including mutual funds and annuities. You can contact me through my website, http://www.helpmy401k.us/. You can also contact me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dvoelker, or Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/deanvoelker. I am currently hosting a weekly financial advice program, "Improving Your Financial Health" on Blog Talk Radio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/401kcoach. Let me know how I may help you!
Steve Lohr is a reporter for The New York Times on technology, business and economics. In 2013, he was a member of the team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting
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