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By Jeff Reeves
| November 24, 2017
Dividend stock investing is inherently a long-term enterprise. After all, companies only pay their investors dividends once a quarter and dividend yields are calculated on an annualized basis. If you own a stock for only a few months, you're not experiencing the full dividend potential. And if you only own a few weeks, there's a chance you don't get paid a dividend at all.
The real power of dividend stocks comes from the power to deliver consistent returns and growing payouts over the very long term—not several years, but more like several decades. If you pick the right stocks that can maintain and growth their distributions over that kind of time horizon, you will be richly rewarded.
However, there are only a precious few companies that can pull off that kind of long-term performance and still keep their dividend payments coming.
Here are nine companies, including big names you may know and a few you don't, that have managed to pay dividends for a century or longer.
Dividends paid since: 1898
Current yield: 3.7%
General Mills is a perfect example of an established and reliable company that has made more than 100 years of dividend payments possible. GIS is a packaged foods company behind a list of megabrands that includes Cheerios, Betty Crocker and other kitchen pantry mainstays.
A group of loyal customers who keep buying these high-quality products means a reliable cash flow to sustain General Mills and its dividends over the long term. Sure, growth is challenged in 2017 and recent challenges have caused the stock to roll back fairly steadily. However, after a dividend increase in March, General Mills pays roughly twice the per-share dividend that it did 10 years ago, so it's clearly committed to the idea of returning capital to shareholders.
Don't sweat the short-term volatility in GIS. Look to the long-term track record of dividends.
Dividends paid since: 1885
Current yield: 3.1%
One of the oldest electric utilities in America, Consolidated Edison is also one of the oldest dividend payers on Wall Street.
All utility stocks are attractive because they are very entrenched companies with reliable businesses. Steady cash flows come from a virtual monopoly on their customers in a highly regulated industry with steep barriers to new entrants.
ED stock has outperformed this year with 20% returns in 2017 thus far, compared with about 16% gains for the S&P 500.
Dividends paid since: 1887
Current yield: 2.4 percent
Johnson Controls is a lesser-known dividend stock that has deep American roots. Starting as a company that provided "building controls" and HVAC products, Johnson has evolved much over the years to now encompass everything from energy efficiency to refrigeration technology to high-tech components for automobiles.
A waning U.S. auto market after record sales in 2015 and 2016 has weighed on JCI stock, but the dividends have been flowing for more than a century so there's no reason to think this company is in serious long-term trouble. Shares of Johnson Controls stock are flat on the year so far.
Dividends paid since: 1882
Current yield: 3.7%
One of the largest and most established companies on the planet, ExxonMobil is a go-to dividend stock. Investors who know their history should remember that the energy giant finds its roots in the original Standard Oil behemoth build by John D. Rockefeller, and has paid distributions to its shareholders over more than a century despite a plethora of changes in how we drill for oil and how energy is used in the global economy.
Lately, XOM stock has been under pressure thanks to weak oil prices. In calendar 2017, Exxon is actually sitting on a modest loss vs. big gains for other stocks.
However, shares have rebounded nicely since their August lows and it appears that the worst may be over for this dividend darling.
Current yield: 2.5%
Eli Lilly and Co is one of the most respected names in pharmaceuticals, known for big-time drugs over the years that include Prozac and Cialis. But the company refuses to rest on its laurels, researching a current crop of cures for diabetes, cancer and other medical conditions to refill its product pipeline. And the drugs that it can't create in-house it can easily acquire, as evidenced by buyouts such as the recent $6.5 billion deal to buy ImClone Systems.
It has been a choppy year for Lilly, but the stock is more or less tracking the full-year returns of the S&P 500, up about 14% compared with 16% for the broader index.
Dividends paid since: 1877
Current yield: 1.5%
Power tool giant Stanley Black & Decker has grown and evolved over the years, but its dividends have been in place since before Edison perfected his electric light bulb and well before tools even had the potential for electric power.
After Stanley acquired Black & Decker in 2010 and most recently the Craftsman tool brand at the beginning of this year, the company has achieved pretty much a strangle hold on the power tool market. Beyond this legacy tool business, SWK has branched out into sophisticated technologies including electronic security systems and retail loss prevention devices—ensuring plenty of forward-looking revenue streams to fuel future dividends.
SWK stock has done quite well in 2017, too, with roughly 42% gains since Jan. 1.
Dividends paid since: 1891
An unmatched portfolio of household brands that include Duracell batteries, Gillette shaving products and Papers diapers should put Procter & Gamble near the top of any low-risk investor's list of bulletproof stocks. And with over 100 years of dividend payouts, P&G is also a stock to consider for reliable income.
Most attractive to dividend stock investors should be the firm's roughly 60-year streak of annual dividend increases, that shows P&G is committed to bigger payouts over time, too, and not just holding dividends steady.
Shares have underperformed in 2017, but have still delivered a small profit with 5% returns since Jan. 1.
Dividends paid since: 1895
Current yield: 2.2%
Colgate-Palmolive is another mainstay of dividend stock investors. It has an equally popular line of products from Colgate toothpaste to Palmolive detergents and Speed Stick deodorant.
And thanks to the power of this company's brands, it will be insulated from any year-to-year volatility in the U.S. economy. After all, nobody stops cleaning the dishes or brushing their teeth even if there happens to be a modest uptick in unemployment. Reliable revenue means CL stock offers a reliable dividend as a result.
Shares are up about 11% in 2017, slightly under the 16% return for the S&P 500.
Dividends paid since: 1899
Current yield: 1.6%
Originally named Pittsburgh Plate Glass, PPG Industries has branched out from windows over the last century and into a host of industrial materials including auto paint, aerospace coatings and fiberglass. A diverse array of applications for its products ensure that the business has a stable stream of sales to fuel consistent dividend payments to shareholders.
Admittedly, a yield of less than 2% at present isn't particularly appealing. But PPG stock is up nicely with 20% gains this year, so the total return of this dividend stock makes it worth a look.
This article is from Jeff Reeves of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, Reeves did not personally hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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