5 Dividend Stocks to Retire On
09/16/2011 8:00 am EST
The current downturn in global markets has created a rare opportunity to buy stocks that will pay high income for boomers’ retirements.
If you can look past the pain of your losses and the fear that, three years after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, the global financial system is about to melt down again, the current market rout is an opportunity.
It’s an especially important opportunity for investors who are within ten years or so of retirement, and who have been planning to use income from their portfolios to fund part of that retirement.
I don’t expect anyone to get giddy at this opportunity. It definitely falls into the “when life deals you lemons, make lemonade” category.
But if you can manage a long-term view that gets your thinking beyond the next quarter or two or three, you’ll realize that one of the biggest challenges facing anyone thinking about retirement is where to find decent yields—and that this sell-off has created some commendable yields in some very good stocks.
It will be a lot easier to put enough money aside to produce the retirement income you need if it’s invested in something yielding 6% than if it’s invested in something yielding 2%.
Here’s the Math
If you want to generate $2,500 a month in income from a portfolio—that’s $30,000 a year—from ten-year Treasurys yielding 2% a year, you need a portfolio of $1.5 million.
But if you invested in something paying 6%, then you need a portfolio of just $500,000. That’s $1 million that you don’t have to save, that you can invest in growth stocks, that you can use for college tuition or that you can spend on a house in Tuscany or wherever. Get the idea?
That’s not the only reason to use this crunch as an opportunity to buy higher future yields. I’m also concerned with the likelihood that all the retiring boomers will start looking for income at about the same time.
That could create the kind of intense competition for higher yields that bids those yields lower. Part of the reason to buy now is my worry that these higher yields will be extremely rare when everybody and his Aunt Tillie suddenly want to buy them.
I’m going to end this column with a list of five dividend-paying stocks that provide that kind of yield now—thanks to this not-so-wonderful sell-off.
This list is necessarily going to be different from my Dividend Income portfolio. That portfolio looks for income now—or at least income over the next 12 months or so. This list is looking to buy yield now for income in five to ten years.
But I’m going to begin with some general principles and caveats that should guide you in putting together your own portfolio of this kind.
4 Rules of Income Investing
- Don’t reach for current yield, but ignore the risk to that yield in the future.
- While you’re doing your due diligence on company-specific risk, don’t forget the larger macroeconomic risks, such as inflation.
- Don’t forget the basic rules of portfolio diversification when building this high-yield future portfolio.
- The dollar isn’t likely to be a stable store of value over the time period I’m talking about.
It doesn’t do any good to buy a 6% dividend now if the company later cuts the dividend, and the higher yield isn’t around when you need it for retirement in five to ten years.
I think retirement is likely to be extremely challenging for boomers. We’re looking at high odds for rising inflation in developed economies. (Yes, it is possible, I suppose, that governments in developed economies will balance their budgets instead of just printing money. But I’m not counting on it.)
Inflation will erode the value of your income stream. That’s why I’m advising you to look for income from dividend-paying stocks, rather than fixed-income bonds. Dividends can go up over time, while a bond’s payout is fixed at the time it is issued.
Ideally, you’d like to earn a high yield from a company that is likely to raise dividends over time, so you can keep ahead of inflation.
Don’t overload with picks from one sector—even though financials offer an especially tempting target right now. Don’t concentrate on a single country, economic zone, or currency. Diversification is especially valuable in building a portfolio that’s supposed to pay off in five or ten years.
You’ll make mistakes, of course. But you should try to make sure that one mistake doesn’t take down your entire portfolio.
That’s the polite way of saying that persistent US budget deficits, inflationary monetary policies, and slow economic growth will steadily erode the value of the US dollar.
The best way to fight this that I can see—given that gold doesn’t pay any dividends—is to put your income-producing investments into the stronger currencies in the world.
As the recent devaluation of the Swiss franc through a peg to the euro shows, there aren’t any guarantees that today’s strong currency will be tomorrow’s strong currency. But we can increase the chances of getting it right by looking at currencies from commodity economies, or countries where the central banks have been very reluctant to depreciate, or where the national government has a history of running a fiscally responsible ship.
Because this last principle is so important, I am tempted to call this the “strong currency dividend income portfolio.”
NEXT: On to the Picks|pagebreak|
And Now, the Picks
Now, on to the picks (in alphabetical order). The last time I visited this topic, on August 8, I gave you only two stocks—and one of those, Svenska Handelsbanken, was very thinly traded in US markets (although not in Stockholm).
This go-round I’m going to give you five (including the original two), and three of them have good liquidity in US markets.
CPFL Energia (CPL, CPFE3.BZ in São Paulo)
Brazil’s largest private utility, with 13% of the national market. About 75% of operating income comes from regulated electricity sales, with the company’s business concentrated in the economically strong São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul states.
It’s difficult at this point to say what the course of the Brazilian real will be over the next ten years. The administration of President Dilma Rousseff shows signs of slipping back from recent progress on controlling budgets and inflation, but I still think Brazil’s course is set toward credit-rating upgrades and a solid currency.
I wouldn’t overweight Brazilian stocks in a long-term income portfolio now. But this one, with a yield of 6.5%, seems a reasonable risk.
Keppel Land (KPPLF, KPLD.SP in Singapore)
The property arm of Singapore’s Keppel Group. The company’s portfolio of Singapore properties includes office towers, resorts, hotels, residential properties, retail centers, and industrial buildings.
After the Swiss National Bank pegged the Swiss franc to the euro, there was a brief market flirtation with the Singapore dollar as an alternative, before traders decided that the Singapore currency wasn’t liquid enough to handle their huge bets. But the assessment of the strength of the currency was correct.
The shares now trade near a 52-week low, and yield 6.1%.
Statoil (STO, STL.NO in Oslo)
This stock gives you double protection against inflation and a sinking dollar. The company’s product—oil—is priced in dollars, and goes up in price when the dollar falls.
And Norway’s krone is backed by one of the world’s most fiscally cautious governments and central banks. The shares currently yield 5.1%.
Svenska Handelsbanken (SVNLF, SHBA.SS in Stockholm)
Sweden’s second-largest bank is one of the most conservatively run, with a history of extremely low loan losses. The bank’s Tier 1 capital ratio is 15%. The shares currently yield 6.1%.
Sweden’s krona is likely to stay one of the world’s stronger currencies: The central bank is on record saying that it doesn’t see the need to depress the currency—even if Swedish exporters complain about losing customers because of the exchange rate.
Westpac Banking (WBK, WBC.AU in Sydney)
This stock has taken a hit recently on fears that Australia’s commodity economy might slow with any pullback in China. That’s why you can get shares of Australia’s second-largest bank by market cap at a 7.8% yield.
A 4.4% pullback in the Australian dollar earlier this week has taken some of the short-term currency risk out of buying the shares—and the commodity link argues that the Australian dollar will be one of the world’s stronger currencies over the next ten years. The bank had a Tier 1 capital ratio of 9.5% in March.
Why Not More Than Five?
Many of the stocks that combine high yields with stock currencies trade only in their home markets (and very infrequently in the United States).
There’s Bradken, for example. This Australian manufacturer of mining supplies pays a 7.7% dividend, but the shares trade only in Sydney (under the symbol BKN.AU).
And some of the stocks that look like they’d be natural for this portfolio aren’t necessarily likely to keep their dividend payments at current levels for a ten-year period.
Enerplus (ERF), for instance, is an attractive Canadian producer of oil and natural gas from shale formations in Western Canada, North Dakota, Montana, and elsewhere. The company, which in 2010 converted from an income trust to a corporate structure, pays an 8.1% dividend yield.
But the cash flow for that dividend comes from the conventional oil and gas assets that the company is selling off to get the capital to invest in its unconventional holdings. What’s the cash flow picture in ten years? I can’t tell you.
So, it is hard to find these opportunities. But I wanted to give you the ones I’d found so far. And I’ll keep looking.
Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares in Statoil and Westpac Banking as of the end of June. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of June, see the fund’s portfolio here.