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3 Big Dividend Plays to Make in September

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( InvestorPlace) -- August was agonizing, to say the least. The volatility-laden indices have scared the heck out of investors, and now everyone is asking the same question: "What am I supposed to buy now?"

Well, one option is to follow Warren Buffett into banking stocks. Buffett -- via Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) -- just plunked down $5 billion for a stake in Bank of America (BAC), which immediately forced investors to start looking at the industry.

I have respect for Buffett, but you shouldn't follow in his exact footsteps on this one. Buffett got a special preferred-stock deal on Bank of America that other investors can't get, boasting a great 6% dividend. You're better off picking other stocks than BofA -- but keeping the Oracle of Omaha's focus on plump dividend yields.

The best stocks with the strongest dividends right now are tobacco companies. While some people will take issue with investing in tobacco companies, you can't argue with the cash they are pouring out to investors.

Also see: Top 10 Dividend Stocks for September

Here are stocks you should buy this month:

Altria Group (MO - Get Report) is the largest tobacco company in the United States, controlling about half of America's tobacco market. The company's most popular brand -- Marlboro -- has been the world's best-selling cigarette for almost four decades. Altria also is in the cigar and smokeless tobacco business, and it has interests in wine via its subsidiary Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a fast-growing, top-10 premium wine producer. The company also has a 27% stake in the South African brewer SABMiller.

What led me to Altria was the 5.8% dividend and the steady rise in earnings -- this quarter's revenue knocked out consensus estimates of $4.4 billion. Net revenue for the cigarettes segment increased 2.1% year-over-year to $5.7 billion. Altria has outperformed the S&P 500 every year since 2000 and was ranked No. 1 in the 2010 Barron's 500, an annual list of the top-performing companies in the country. And the dividend is rock-solid. The company has increased its dividend 44 times in the past 42 years. This makes it a compelling buy right now.

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