Make no mistake: A market correction is coming, probably this year.

In this dangerous investment climate, real estate investment trusts represent a superb diversification tool. REITs put investors in the position of being a de facto commercial landlord, without any of the burdens involved with actually leasing property. The fact is, most wealth in the United States derives from real estate, which is why this asset belongs in your portfolio.

Below, we examine a REIT that leverages not only the booming real estate industry but health care's growing prosperity as well.

REITs are an oft-misunderstood investment class, and you should first know the basics of how they work. An equity REIT's primary goal is maximizing net rental income from owning and operating commercial real estate.

Essentially, the REIT operates as the landlord. REITs own industrial parks, office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping centers, shopping malls, hotels and self-storage facilities. They're easy to buy and sell, and they're easy to own. They employ large staffs to take care of the daily hassles of property ownership.

REITs don't pay federal income tax. To earn its categorization as a REIT, the real estate company agrees to pay out at least 90% of the net accounting income in the form of a shareholder dividend. Only by doing this can a real estate company obtain the coveted label of "REIT" and consequently avoid being taxed at the corporate level. That's why REITs are among the highest-paying dividend stocks you can find.

One of the best REITs to own today is Ventas (VTR) - Get Report , which emphasizes the exploding market for senior care.

With a market cap of $23 billion, Ventas invests in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, senior housing facilities, medical office buildings and other health-care related facilities.

Based in Chicago, Ventas operates in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom. The current dividend yield is a robust 4.83%. This hefty payout appears sustainable, with operating cash flow covering the dividend over the past 12 months by a factor of 1.32 times.

Ventas trades at a trailing 12-month price-to-earnings ratio of 34.7, considerably lower than major rivals Healthcare Trust of America (HTA) - Get Report (95.7), Physicians Realty Trust (DOC) - Get Report (88.8) and only a bit pricier than the industry average (28.7).

VTR's modest premium is worth it. The average analyst expectation is for Ventas' year-over-year earnings growth to reach 4.7% next year and 6.9% over the next five years (on an annualized basis). A major growth tailwind for Ventas is the inexorable aging of the world's population, which boosts demand for its specialized senior care facilities.

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John Persinos is an analyst at Investing Daily. At the time of publication, he owned none of the stocks mentioned.