S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats: Who's Out, Who's In

The dependable dividend growers of the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats dumped a Dow Jones stock and added an industrial supplier.

dividend aristocrat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats index looks only a little different as we head into the new year. 

Widely regarded as some of the best dividend stocks for dependable dividend growth, the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats is an index of S&P 500 companies that have raised their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years.

That's kind of a big deal if you are a long-term equity income investor. Regular dividend hikes not only increase the yield on an investor's original cost basis over time, often quite dramatically; they also help investors sleep better at night.

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After all, any company that manages to raise its dividend year after year – through recession, war, market crashes and more – is demonstrating both its financial resilience and its commitment to returning cash to shareholders.

S&P Dow Jones Indices, which rebalances the index quarterly, announced the latest changes in late January. As expected, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) was dropped from the Aristocrats after the pharmacy chain slashed its dividend by almost half earlier this year.

Walgreens had increased its dividend every year for nearly half a century before the cut. Analysts, who regularly give WBA one of the lowest rankings of all 30 Dow Jones stocks, applauded the decision to take cash earmarked for shareholders and invest it back into the business. 

WBA's dividend cut doesn't affect its membership in the 2024 Dogs of the Dow, which is a stock-picking strategy.

Fastenal a Dividend Aristocrat

The Dividend Aristocrats membership list stays at 67 stocks, however, as Fastenal (FAST) was added to the index in early January. The industrial supplier has raised its dividend for 25 consecutive years, making it available for inclusion in the index. 

Most recently, Fastenal declared a quarterly cash dividend of 39 cents per share to be paid on February 29 to shareholders of record as of February 1. The company generated more than $1 billion in levered free cash flow in fiscal 2023, and that was after paying out more than a billion dollars in dividends. 

Fastenal stock sports a dividend yield of 2.3%, which is fairly generous for an Aristocrat. The exchange-traded fund that tracks the index, the ProShares S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats ETF (NOBL), has a dividend yield of 2.1%. 

Other changes to the Dividend Aristocrats over the past year include the removal of VF Corp. (VFC) and the addition of Kenvue (KVUE), which was spun off from fellow Aristocrat Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). 

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Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.