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Dividend Stocks: What They Are, How They Work, How to Invest

21 minutes
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Cristian Cochintu
Cristian Cochintu
12 December 2023

By knowing how dividends work, you can benefit from the wealth-creating capabilities of dividends. Here's what you need to know about dividend-paying stocks and some of the best-yielding shares to watch. 

In a world fixated on cryptocurrency and AI, buying dividend stocks—those of companies who have made years, if not decades, of steady payouts—may seem old-fashioned. But it is also extremely effective: since 1930, 40% of all stock market returns have been from dividends, hardly something to scoff at. In flat or down markets in particular, an income stream becomes very valuable indeed.

Dividends aren’t hard to find: Roughly 4 in 5 stocks in the S&P 500 pay a dividend, typically once a quarter. But here’s the trouble: Not all dividend stocks are created equal. For instance, a good dividend cannot make up for an underperforming stock. Similarly, a high dividend yield could be a trap that covers up erratic payouts, poor performance, or minimal growth prospects.

Building a portfolio of individual dividend stocks takes time and effort, but for many investors, it's worth it. Here’s a quick guide to help you start dividend investing.

How to Start Dividend Investing – Quick Guide 

  • Find a high dividend-paying stock. You can screen for stocks that pay dividends on many financial sites, as well as on our platform that provides access to +5.000 stocks. We've also included a list of high-dividend stocks below. 
  • Evaluate the stock. To look under the hood of a high-dividend stock, start by comparing the dividend yields among its peers. We’ve also detailed how to evaluate the best dividend stocks below. 
  • Decide how much stock you want to buy. You need diversification if you’re buying individual stocks, so you’ll need to determine what percent of your portfolio goes into each stock. 
  • Take your position – create an account with us to start dividend investing.  

 

For more info about the best dividend stocks, you can discover everything you need to know in this guide. 

What are dividend stocks and how do they work? 

Dividend stocks are companies that pay out a portion of their earnings to a class of shareholders on a regular basis as a reward for their investment. These companies usually are well established, with stable earnings and a long track record of distributing some of those earnings back to shareholders. The distributions are known as dividends and may be paid out in the form of cash or as additional stock Most dividends are paid out on a quarterly basis, but some are paid out monthly, annually, or even once in the form of a special dividend. While dividend stocks are known for the regularity of their dividend payments, in difficult economic times those dividends may be cut to preserve cash. 

A high-value dividend declaration can indicate that the company is doing well and has generated good profits. But it can also indicate that the company does not have suitable projects to generate better returns in the future. Therefore, it is utilizing its cash to pay shareholders instead of reinvesting it into growth.

A company with a long history of dividend payments that declares a reduction of the dividend amount, or its elimination, may signal to investors that the company is in trouble. However, a reduction in dividend amounts or a decision against a dividend payment may not necessarily translate into bad news for a company. The company's management may have a plan for investing the money such as a high-return project that has the potential to magnify returns for shareholders in the long run.

How Do Dividends Affect a Stock's Share Price?

Dividend payments impact share price and the price may rise on the announcement approximately by the amount of the dividend declared and then decline by a similar amount at the opening session of the ex-dividend date.

For example, a company that is trading at $60 per share declares a $2 dividend on the announcement date. As the news becomes public, the share price may increase by $2 and hit $62.

If the stock trades at $63 one business day before the ex-dividend date. On the ex-dividend date, it's adjusted by $2 and begins trading at $61 at the start of the trading session on the ex-dividend date, because anyone buying on the ex-dividend date will not receive the dividend.

This is not guaranteed but often the price adjusts by the dividend on the ex-dividend date.

Which Stocks Pay Dividends?

Stocks that commonly pay dividends are more established companies that don’t need to reinvest all of their profits. For example, more than 84% of companies in the USA 500 currently pay dividends.  

The following industry sectors maintain a regular record of dividend payments:  

  • Basic materials
  • Oil and gas
  • Banks and financial
  • Healthcare and pharmaceuticals
  • Utilities

Companies structured as master limited partnerships (MLPs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) require specified distributions to shareholders. Funds may also issue regular dividend payments as stated in their investment objectives.

Not all companies pay dividends, some choose to reinvest profits back into the business. This is why investors who are interested in dividend payments must deliberately choose companies that offer them. If an investor did not want to trade individual stocks, they could decide to invest in a dividend-paying exchange-traded fund (ETF) that holds dividend stocks.

The fund will then pay out dividends to you on a regular basis, which you can take as income or reinvest. Dividend funds offer the benefit of instant diversification — if one stock held by the fund cuts or suspends its dividend, you can still rely on income from the others. 

What is dividend investing and how it works?

Dividend investing is a method of buying stocks of companies that make regular cash payouts to shareholders as a reward for owning their stock. Dividend investing is an alternative style to growth and value investing, which is the practice of either holding onto fast growing companies or holding onto cheap companies in the hopes of achieving long-term share price growth.

Stocks that pay dividends can provide a stable and growing income stream. Investors typically prefer to invest in companies that offer dividends that increase year after year, which helps outpace inflation.

Two key advantages of investing in dividend stocks include generating a passive income and dividend reinvestment.

Passive Income

Companies that pay dividends typically issue them quarterly, creating a reliable stream of passive income that investors can spend how they please. Dividends also have the added advantage of offsetting share price depreciation.

Dividend Reinvestment

Investors can reinvest dividends they receive back into the company to acquire more shares. This is called a dividend reinvestment plan (DRIP). Participating in a DRIP allows the investor to take advantage of compounding returns—a proven strategy to build long-term wealth.

 

Example of Dividend Investing

Suppose you invest in a company that pays a 3% dividend per share. If you own one share of the company, and the shares are worth $100, you will receive $3 in dividends. However, if you owned 200 shares, you would receive $600 in dividends. The calculation is as follows:

  • ($100 share price * 200 shares) = $20,000 * 3% or 0.03 = $600

It's important to note that when a dividend rate is quoted, it's typically an annual dividend rate, meaning your payout would be divided by four if it was paid out quarterly. So, in our example above, your dividend payment would be $150 per quarter ($600 ÷ 4), assuming the same share price and the number of shares.

Strategies for Dividend Investing

Good dividend investors tend to focus on either a high dividend yield approach or a high dividend growth rate strategy. Both serve distinct roles in a portfolio.

  • With the high dividend yield approach, the focus is on slowly growing companies that have high cash flow. This allows them to fund large dividend payments, and it could provide you with an immediate income.
  • Using the high dividend growth rate, your focus is on buying stock in companies that pay low dividends but are growing quickly. 

Different investors may prefer one approach over the other. It all depends on whether your goal is immediate and stable income or whether you prefer long-term growth and profit. 

Dividends when trading

Dividends are not paid when trading, but holders still benefit from them. This is because trading is carried out using derivative products, which take their price from the underlying market. Derivative products do not require traders to own the underlying asset to open a position, which means that a trader will not gain any shareholder rights, such as voting abilities or dividends.

Even though you don't own the underlying assets when trading CFDs, when you trade CFDs on a stock or index you may receive a dividend adjustment, which is either added to or deducted from your trading account, depending on your position. If you are long (buying) a CFD on a stock that pays dividends, you may receive a dividend payment. If you are short (selling) a CFD on a stock, you may be charged a dividend adjustment, which will be deducted from your account. 

To start investing in shares, you can create a CAPEX Invest account today. If you want to trade shares instead, you can create a CAPEX trade account. Alternatively, you can practise and improve your skills using a CAPEX demo.

 

Best Yielding Dividends Stocks of July 2024 

Below, we look at some of the best dividend stocks in the USA, UK, and EU. Note that these stocks have not been chosen as the largest dividend providers alone, but rather based on various factors including market cap, future growth prospects, and latest results. 

Best US Dividend Stocks of July 2024  

CAPEX.com has compiled a list of the top 5 dividend-paying companies in the U.S. stock market based on third-party analysts' coverage. These companies have consistently increased their dividend payouts for at least a decade, possess attractive yields, and have shown strong earnings growth over time.

Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN)

  • Dividend Yield 2.8%
  • 5-Year Avg. Annualized Dividend Growth 14.9%

Texas Instruments, formerly well-known for its calculators, today makes most of its money from semiconductor production. It is the biggest producer of analog chips in the world. TXN received an "A" rating from analysts for its financial stability. It has had rapid earnings growth, which is anticipated by analysts to keep up with 10% annual EPS growth over the following five years. Over the past five years, the company has consistently increased its dividend payout, averaging annual gains of 14.9%.

US Dividend Stocks Texas Instruments

Even though the stock has fallen from its 52-week high, it has still outperformed the S&P 500 by 7.4% annually for the past ten years. For comparison, during the past ten years, the S&P 500 has returned an average of 12.2% per year.

Kimberly-Clark

  • Dividend Yield 3.42%
  • Consecutive years with increased dividends: 50

Kimberly-Clark, a well-diversified global consumer products company that operates in 175 countries, is another top dividend-paying stock with an exceptional track record when it comes to returning cash to shareholders, regardless of economic conditions. As such, KMB is a good option to consider for investors looking to shield themselves from further bear market volatility thanks to its continuous efforts to return capital to shareholders, mainly through dividend payouts.  

US Dividend Stocks Kimberly Clark

The company has raised its annual dividend for 50 consecutive years, earning the prestigious status of ‘Dividend King’. The ‘Dividend Kings’ are a group of just 48 stocks that have increased their annual dividend payout for at least 50 years in a row. In addition to boosting dividends, Kimberly-Clark has also returned capital to stockholders by using share buybacks. 

Kimco Realty

  • Dividend yield: 4.9%
  • Two-year estimated dividend growth rate: 13.7%

Founded in 1958, Kimco Realty (KIM) is North America's largest publicly traded owner and operator of open-air, grocery-anchored shopping centers with roughly 530 U.S. properties providing 91 million square feet of gross leasable space.

US Dividend Stocks Kimco

Kimco's stock could become more popular with investors in the future because of a decision it took last year to undergo a reorganization to create a new holding company, enabling it to acquire properties tax-deferred from interested sellers.

Johnson & Johnson

  • Dividend yield: 3%
  • Years paying dividends: 62

Johnson & Johnson provides healthcare products across its Consumer, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Devices segments. Last year, the company raised its quarterly dividend by 6.6%, marking the 60th consecutive dividend increase, which is encouraging. JNJ stock currently has a dividend yield of about 3%.  

US Dividend Stocks JnJ

The consistent dividend growth and upbeat 2023 guidance provided by the management help instill confidence in the stock. The company’s free cash flow also indicates room for further growth soon. Furthermore, JNJ stock declined to a new 52-week low recently, making it an attractive buying opportunity for investors seeking some of the most stable dividend stocks.

Philip Morris International

  • Dividend Yield: 5.04%
  • Consecutive years paying dividends: 50

The cigarette-and-tobacco manufacturing company has proven over time that it can sustain a slowing economy and still provide investors with higher dividend payouts. In fact, Philip Morris has increased its annual dividend for 15 years in a row, and shares currently yield 5.04%, more than triple the implied yield for the S&P 500 index, which is 1.67%.

US Dividend Stocks Phillipe Morris

With the dividend payout ratio set to come in above 85% for the current fiscal year, Philip Morris appears in place to build on its impressive streak of annual dividend growth, demonstrating the strength and resilience of its business.

Best UK Dividend Stocks for July 2024

We list some of the UK’s best dividend stocks with high dividend yields recommended by industry experts.  

M&G – estimated dividend yield of 9.8%

Savings and investment provider M&G Group Limited says it has made a “solid start” towards its target of generating operating capital of £2.5 billion by the end of 2024. The company says it has launched a “transformation” program to unlock growth and deliver £200 million of cost savings. It has also returned almost £1 billion to shareholders through dividend payments and share buyback schemes.

UK Dividend Stocks MnG

At the full-year results in March, operating capital generation came in at £821 million (down from £1.1 billion last year), while adjusted operating profit before tax was reduced to £529 million (from £721 million in 2021) due to £172 million in non-cash items. The shareholder Solvency II coverage ratio remained solid at 199%, albeit down from 218% due to the share buyback.

Imperial Brands – estimated dividend yield of 7.2%

While tobacco might seem like a market in decline, Imperial is still managing to grow market share in many of its markets and pricing there remains robust. Imperial brands is also busy investing in its next-generation vaping products.

UK Dividend Stocks Imperial Brands

The costly withdrawal from Russia is expected to reflect in the first-half figures. However, revenues in the second half of the year are expected to be stronger. In addition to the strong dividend yield, so far, the company has also paid out £523 million of its £1 billion share buyback program over the period.

British American Tobacco – estimated dividend yield of 7.7%

As an income seeker’s dividend stock, it is highly desirable as the company throws of plenty of cash, with a cash rate conversion – the rate at which it converts profits to cash – of more than 90%. BATS said that cash conversion rates were at 98%, while revenues from its new vaping categories is approaching £3 billion this year – making progress towards the company’s target of £5 billion by 2025. Profitability from its vaping products is now expected a year earlier, in 2024.

UK Dividend Stocks british american tobbaco

The British American Tobacco shares have fallen after the company paused its share buyback scheme to focus on deleveraging its balance sheet. While this is disappointing for investors, the dip might offer a decent entry point for dividend investors.

Rio Tinto - estimated dividend yield of 8%

Mining giant Rio Tinto's shares currently yield 8%, however, the company has made the decision to cut dividend payments to 60% of earnings from the previous ratio of 79% last year. The dividend for 2022 was halved. Rio is acting more cautiously than some of its peers by doing so in the face of falling metal prices and economic uncertainty. The company says this will enable it to pay solid dividend payments going forward.

UK Dividend Stocks RioTinto

The miner generally throws off a lot of cash, posting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization of $26.3 billion and delivering $9 billion in free cash flow in its recent results, although this was down by 9%.

Phoenix Group - estimated dividend yield of 8.9%

Phoenix Group boasts a generous dividend yield of 8.9% and increased the final dividend by 5% at the recent results. The life insurer is a strong cash generator and last year entirely self-funded its acquisition of Sun Life of Canada UK.

UK Dividend Stocks Phoenix group

At the recent results, the company posted cash generation of £1.5 billion and £1.2 billion in incremental new business long-term cash generation (£1.2 billion last year) - £934m from its retirement solutions business and £299m from our capital-light fee-based businesses. The life insurer has a 2023 cash generation target range of £1.3 billion to £1.4 billion and a three-year 2023-25 target of £4.1 billion.

Best European Dividend Stocks for July 2024

European dividend stocks have for a long time yielded more on average than their U.S. counterparts. According to S&P Dow Jones Indices, the European Dividend Aristocrats' index had an indicated dividend yield of 2.9% – a decent clip higher than the U.S. Aristocrats' 2.5%.

Total Energies SE

  • Dividend yield: 6.1%
  • Consecutive years with increased dividends: 38

Total Energies SE (TTE) is one of the big 5 Oil & Gas majors in the world. The company was founded in 1924 and is an honorable member of the European Dividend Aristocrat Noble 30 index. The company has a dividend growth history of 38 consecutive years, and it currently yields 6.11% (0.66 cents per quarter).

EU Dividend Stocks Total Energies

In May of this year from Total SA into TotalEnergies to illustrate their ambitions to transform into a green energy business. Time will tell us whether these green ambitions will be beneficial for dividend growth investors, as they will probably need a lot of capital investments which might put pressure on their free cash flow.

BASF 

  • Dividend yield: 5.4% 
  • Consecutive years with increased dividends: 10

BASF (BAS) is one of the largest chemical producers in the world and it’s currently domiciled in Ludwigshafen, Germany. The company has a very rich history and 70 years ago it was once part of IG Farben, an infamous company. Other companies that were spun off from that entity are Bayer, Agfa, and Hoechst (which is currently part of Sanofi).

EU Dividend Stocks BASF

The company has a long dividend history, but it had to cut it by 15% during the great financial recession. The year after they quickly restored it again to resume low single-digit dividend growth. BASF yields 5.14% and that’s why it’s currently the highest-yielding German dividend stock in the entire DAX index. Their dividend / free cash flow payout ratio is 45% which gives it enough room to increase their dividends.

Allianz

  • Dividend yield: 5.4%
  • Consecutive years with increased dividends: 12

Allianz (ALV) is one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world. The company was founded in 1890 and it is headquartered in Munich, the south of Germany.

EU Dividend Stocks Allianz

Allianz yields 4.65% which I consider quite a juicy dividend. Their dividend-to-earnings payout ratio is around 46% based on their latest earnings. Their dividends have been growing for 12 years and during that time it almost tripled. This is an amazing dividend growth track record for such a behemoth of a company.

Sanofi SA

  • Dividend yield: 3.6%
  • Consecutive years with increased dividends: 21

Sanofi SA (EPA) was officially established in 1973 as a subsidiary of Elf (the oil company). However, Sanofi, as we know it today, has really been created in 1994 when it was listed as an independent company on the stock exchange in Paris.

EU Dividend Stocks Sanofi

Fast forward to today and you will notice that Sanofi is the 7th largest Pharmaceutical company in the world by revenue (40.46 Bln). It is able to generate so many sales due to a strong product portfolio in Specialty Care (immunology, rare diseases, rare blood disorders, neurology, and oncology), Vaccines, and General Medicines (diabetes, cardiovascular, and established products).

ASR Nederland B.V.

  • Dividend Yield 5.80%
  • 5 Year Average Dividend Growth 13.76%

SR Nederland B.V. (ASR) is one of the major Dutch insurance companies. The company is a spin-off from Fortis which got nationalized during the great financial recession in 2008. It took until 2016 for the Dutch government to bring back the company to the stock exchange and until 2017 to sell its full stake in ASR.

EU Dividend Stocks ASR

Hence, the company is new as an option to dividend growth investors, even though it has a long history. ASR aims to pay a stable or growing dividend as mentioned in their dividend policy.

Are these the best dividend stocks? 

The stocks above may have high yields, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're the best dividend stocks for any investor. The ideal portfolio varies from person to person, based on individual goals and timelines for those goals. Besides, many investors are better off buying index funds rather than individual stocks. 

A high dividend yield can also indicate many things, and not all of them are good. As stated previously, falling stock prices can increase dividend yields, and some companies go into debt by overspending on their dividend. The over-spenders may eventually be forced to cut their dividends if they become unsustainably expensive. 

If you're looking for dividend stocks with a low risk of cutting their dividends, check out the dividend aristocrats — a group of S&P 500 stocks that have increased their dividends every year for at least 25 years. 

Remember, dividends are nice, but they aren’t the only factor to consider when buying a stock. Ideally, a dividend stock is financially strong and growing—continued stability and growth signals that the company’s dividend is sustainable over the long term and likely to be increased regularly. 

Experienced third-party financial analysts selected the stocks above, but they may not be right for your portfolio. Before you purchase any of these stocks, do plenty of research to ensure they align with your financial goals and risk tolerance. 

How to evaluate dividend stocks 

An investor can use different methods to learn more about a company's dividend and compare it to similar companies. 

Dividend Yield 

This ratio measures the annual value of dividends received relative to a security's per share market value. Investors calculate the dividend yield by dividing the annual dividend per share by the current stock price. For example, if company XZY issues a dividend of $10 annually with a current share price of $100, it has a dividend yield of 10% ($10 / $100 = 10%). Those seeking high-yielding stocks can start their search by screening for issues with a divided yield above a certain percentage. Bear in mind that there are many other factors besides dividend yield that investors should consider before investing in a stock. 

Dividend Payout Ratio 

The DPR measures how much of a company's earnings are paid out to shareholders. Investors calculate the ratio by dividing total dividends by net income. For instance, if company XZY reported a net income of $50,000 and paid $15,000 in annual dividends, it would have a DRP of 30% ($15,000 / $50,000 = 30%). This means the company pays out 30% of its earnings to shareholders. Generally, a company that pays out less than 50% of its net earnings in dividends is considered stable and has the potential for sustainable long-term earnings growth.

Dividend Coverage Ratio

This ratio measures the number of times a company can pay dividends to its shareholders. Investors calculate the dividend coverage ratio by dividing a company's annual earnings per share (EPS) by its annual dividend per share. For example, if company XZY reported $10 million in net income with an annual dividend of $2 million to shareholders, it has a dividend coverage ratio of 5 times. ($10 million / $2 million). Typically, investors view a higher dividend coverage ratio as more favorable. 

The No. 1 consideration in buying a dividend stock is the safety of its dividend. Dividend yields over 4% should be scrutinized; those over 10% tread firmly into risky territory. Among other things, a too-high dividend yield can indicate the payout is unsustainable, or that investors are selling the stock, driving down its share price and increasing the dividend yield as a result. 

Investing in dividends stocks – what you need to know

Dividends are frequently seen as a key component of an investment plan since they offer a consistent source of income or can be reinvested to purchase further shares of a company. A return on an investment calculated only based on capital growth may differ significantly from one calculated also taking dividend returns into account.

Dividends should be a bonus feature added to the primary criteria of choosing a company with solid fundamentals and/or a favorable price trend rather than the only factor to be considered when making an investment. Additionally, it's crucial to avoid choosing firms solely based on dividend yield, as payouts might be decreased or increased.

A well-managed firm would typically seek to pay dividends to show investors its financial stability and investment appeal, although there is a chance that companies may do so from cash reserves rather than from profits.

Investors should be wary of dividend yields that are unusually high, often exceeding 7%. Since the dividend yield is computed as (dividend per share divided by share price) times 100, dividend yields typically rise substantially when a stock price declines. Such declines result in a significant rise in yield without an increase in dividend payout.

Although there is a risk that businesses may choose to pay dividends from cash reserves rather than from profits, a well-managed organization would normally prefer to do so to demonstrate to investors their financial stability and investment attraction.

Dividend yields that are unusually high, frequently reaching 7%, can raise investor concern. Dividend yields often increase significantly when an equity price decreases since they are calculated as (dividend per share divided by share price) multiplied by 100. With no increase in dividend distribution, such losses cause a sizable increase in yield.

To determine this, a ratio is created by dividing net earnings by the dividend. The dividend is at least completely covered by profits when it is over 1, indicating that existing cash reserves are not being used to pay dividends. A ratio below 1 may also be a warning sign because it indicates that the company's profits are insufficient to fund the dividend payment, necessitating the use of cash reserves. A dividend reduction or complete payout cancellation could result from this.

Start investing in dividend stocks and ETFs

  • Create an account. Regardless of your chosen assets and strategy, you need to register and complete the KYC process to verify your identity.  
  • Fund your account with fiat money. Before buying and trading any dividend stock, you need to fund your exchange account with U.S. dollars, Euros, or other currencies.  
  • Select your dividend stocks. Having a thorough understanding of how to invest in dividend-paying stocks will help you to make informed decisions when building your own income portfolio.  
  • Place buy order. Follow the steps required by the trading platform to submit and complete a buy order for one or more dividend stocks and dividend ETFs.  

With CAPEX, you can invest in +5.000 stocks and 133 ETFs. 

Free Resources  

Before you start investing in dividend stocks, you should consider using the educational resources we offer like CAPEX Academy or a demo trading account. CAPEX Academy has lots of free trading and investing courses for you to choose from, and they all tackle a different financial concept or process – like the basics of analyses – to help you to become a better trader or make more-informed investment decisions.  

Our demo account is a suitable place for you to get an intimate understanding of how trading and investing work – as well as what it’s like to trade with leverage – before risking real capital. For this reason, a demo account with us is a great tool for investors who are looking to make a transition to leveraged securities. 

FAQs on Dividend Investing

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Cristian Cochintu
Cristian Cochintu
Financial Writer

Cristian Cochintu writes about trading and investing for CAPEX.com. Cristian has more than 15 years of brokerage, freelance, and in-house experience writing for financial institutions and coaching financial writers.