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.
By Carla Pasternak
NEW YORK ( StreetAuthority) -- As income investors, we can get caught up in yields almost to a fault. But there is something else you should be studying that could make just as big a difference to your long-term returns: dividend growth.
That's because dividend growth can make even lower-yielding stocks into big income producers over time. Take a look below at the income streams from a stock yielding 7% but not growing dividends, versus a 5% yielder that hikes payments an average of 10% a year in seven years. If you held 1,000 shares trading at a $10 share price, then here is the income stream each would produce during one year:In just five years, that 5% yield would actually be worth more than the 7% yield. And just two years later, your income stream would grow to be 27% more than the stock yielding 7%. Keep in mind, this doesn't take into account rising share prices. If both yields stayed the same, then the share price of the 5% yielder would have to grow to $17.72 -- a 77% gain. Buying stocks that increase dividends allows you to take advantage of one of the most powerful tools in the investors' arsenal -- the wealth-building effect of compounding. And consistent dividend growth is like jet fuel for the compounding engine.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV