) -- As a dividend investor, it's critical to strike a delicate balance. After all, you want to find dividend payers whose payouts are big enough to be meaningful to your returns but not big enough to be at risk of a dividend cut. You want to invest for income, but not chase yield.
Those are hard objectives to achieve without the benefit of hindsight. But a handful of firms is doing just that. They're the dividend winners.
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To fall into the group, a stock has to meet a couple of criteria. First, it's got to pay a growing dividend that's beat inflation over the last few years. Second, its share price has to have managed to keep its head above water over that same time period. While those criteria are pretty loose, only a handful of stocks made the cut.
I've said before that we're in a toxic environment for investors. Interest rates are smashed as close to zero as they can get, while the
keeps their foot floored on the inflation accelerator pedal. With so many investors willing to take a penalty to jump into the safety of "risk free" assets such as Treasuries, these dividend winners offer a much more attractive alternative.
They don't just beat Treasuries right now -- dividend payers also historically beat all other stocks as well.
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Over the last 36 years,
have outperformed the rest of the S&P 500 by 2.5% annually, and they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% every year, all while paying out cash to their shareholders, according to data compiled by Ned Davis Research. The numbers are even more compelling when looking at companies that consistently increase their payouts.
That's why we pay close attention to the firms that are shoveling more corporate cash to shareholders. With that, here's a look at
five dividend winners worth owning right now