This is the time of year, and the time of my life, when it pays to talk about dividend stocks .
Capital gains are great, but dividends will bring you income without destroying your principal. The key is to hold these shares for the long term and let your effective yield rise with them.
While conventional wisdom holds that you reach for yield, my strategy has been to look first for capital gains, then to management teams that are committed to a payout and finally let time do its magic. You may buy a $50 stock with a 2% dividend, but if that dividend then doubles over the course of several years, and the stock price doubles as well, the effective yield on that $50 investment becomes 4%.
There are risks here. If management is lying to itself about the company's prospects, it may all collapse, as happened with General Electric (NYSE: GE ). If your investments are on the lagging side of the economy you may wind up holding a capital loss, as with Macy's (NYSE: M ) or Kraft Heinz (NYSE: KHC ). You must pay attention.
But here are three dividend stocks that are in my portfolio now, that have been for some time and which are doing very well for me.
Microsoft (MSFT)Source: Shutterstock
I avoided Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) shares while Steve Ballmer was CEO. He was a great salesman, but he wasn't a technology visionary.
But after writing several stories about his successor, Satya Nadella, I was impressed enough to take a chance. I'm very glad I did. Nadella has doubled my money, and Microsoft today is the most valuable company in the world, with a market cap on Feb. 21 of $822 billion.
Nadella's Microsoft has steered clear of the twin rocks of power and fame. The company is no longer under Justice Department scrutiny over its Windows or Office "monopoly." The Google unit of Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG , NASDAQ: GOOGL ) provides plenty of competition, thanks to Android, Chrome and the G Suite of apps.
Microsoft Azure doesn't even have the leading share in cloud. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) does. But Azure is a more profitable cloud, a platform on which enterprise applications can be built, and through which they can serve a global audience. Instead of eating its ecosystem, as Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL ) was accused of doing, Microsoft is building an ecosystem of increasingly wealthy partners like Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE ).
The MS in MSNBC still stands for Microsoft, but that news network all belongs to Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) now. Nadella's Microsoft avoids the media spotlight, it talks softly but carries the big technology stick. Its current dividend of 46 cents per share, up from 28 cents per share five years ago, carries a yield of just 1.6% at current prices, but if you bought when I did, when the stock was priced at around $50 per share, that yield is closer to 3.6%. Such is the magic of time.
Charles Schwab (SCHW)Source: Mike Mozart via Flickr (Modified)
Charles Schwab (NASDAQ: SCHW ) is my banker and my broker.
I used to call Schwab my bookie. If I had a hot tip on a stock, I'd tell friends I was calling "Charlie" to put a few bucks on its nose.
Schwab began as what was called a "discount broker." It didn't tout stocks. It took orders, processed them online and accounted for its clients' "bets." But it has ridden that trend to a market cap of $62.7 billion, against $75.4 billion for Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ).
The dividend yield on Schwab's current dividend of 17 cents per share comes to just 1.44%, but the dividend was just 6 cents five years ago, and the shares have doubled in value. That's how you make money. I have magnified the impact of that dividend by taking it in stock rather than cash, so the dividend's value to me has increased along with the stock price.
Schwab has expanded its reach slowly and steadily as technology has improved, so that my daughter now gets a managed portfolio of mutual funds, my wife has a bank card that repays its ATM fees and I can get an instant update on my portfolio whenever I want.
Charles Schwab himself is 81 and no longer works at his eponymous company. He doesn't even appear in its commercials, as he once did. But by sticking to his knitting since founding the company in 1971 he has amassed a personal fortune estimated at $8.5 billion. In the words of a now long-lost competitor, Smith Barney, he did it the old-fashioned way. He earned it.
JPMorgan Chase (JPM)Source: via Wikimedia
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) is the largest bank in the U.S. by deposits, with over $2.62 billion . It combines New York City's two greatest fortunes, the 19th-century investment banking house of J.P. Morgan and the 20th-century commercial banking house of David Rockefeller.
Its current dividend yields 3%, comparable to a 30-year U.S. bond, but the stock's value has doubled over the last five years and so has the dividend, so investors with patience have been rewarded.
While Jamie Dimon now sits on the Morgan throne, and the throne of the U.S. banking establishment, I give some credit for Morgan's current success to the Obama Administration, which forced the bank to bulk itself in, rein itself in and submit to regular "stress tests" a decade ago, so that it now has adequate financial strength to handle a future crisis, something few foreign banks can say with confidence.
For any aging investor, safety and security need to be your watchwords, alongside dividend yield. This is what JPMorgan now offers. It should not be the first stock you buy but, if you have a nest egg to protect, it deserves to be in your portfolio.
I don't hold any stock blindly. I will be listening carefully to whoever succeeds Dimon as Morgan CEO, as I will be listening to future managers at Microsoft and Schwab. A radical change in any company, or in the economy, can force a rethink in this old man's portfolio. Don't fall in love with your stocks.
But as I sail toward retirement, I'm comfortable with the investment hand I have, and these are some of my hole cards.
Dana Blankenhorn http://www.danablankenhorn .com is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family , available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn . As of this writing, he owned shares in MSFT, SCHW and JPM.
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