Hunting for the best dividend stocks for retirement is not easy, you can find 20 of them in this Conservative Retirees dividend portfolio. Record low interest rates, a mature bull market, unprecedented central bank stimulus measures, and a shaky global economy are just some of the factors complicating the search for safe retirement income.

However, the best dividend stocks for high income possess characteristics that insulate them from many of these risks. These high-quality dividend stocks have healthy payout ratios, maintain conservative balance sheets, generate reliable cash flows, sell recession-resistant products, and have track records of consistently rewarding shareholders with dividend increases.

Many of these companies are also members of the Dividend Aristocrats list, which contains stocks in the S&P 500 that have increased their dividends consecutively for at least 25 years. Dividend increases are a sign of financial health and management's confidence in the underlying business. The list of dividend aristocrats has historically outperformed the S&P 500 Index over time with less volatility as well. 

Let's take a look at some of these high-quality dividend stocks for safe retirement income.

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PAYX

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1. Paychex (PAYX) - Get Paychex, Inc. Report

Paychex has been in business for about 45 years and established a reputation for delivering safe dividend income growth. The company is a major provider of software and services that help over half a million small and medium-sized businesses process their payrolls, manage their retirement plans, and outsource their human resources functions.

The company's services are all essential needs that businesses must pay every year, resulting in a large base of recurring revenue for Paychex. As a result, the company throws off consistent free cash flow and has raised its dividend at an annualized growth rate of 11.5% over the last decade. Despite the company's payout ratio near 80%, dividend growth will likely continue at a mid-single digit rate as it keeps pace with earnings growth.

Paychex stock offers a dividend yield of 3.2% and trades at a forward earnings multiple of 25.5. 

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EMR

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2. Emerson Electric (EMR) - Get Emerson Electric Co. Report

Emerson Electric's roots can be traced back to the late 19th century, making it one of the oldest dividend growth stores around. Today, the company is a diversified manufacturer of a variety of industrial products such as valves, compressors, and server enclosures. The company has demonstrated a knack for identifying high margin niches that it can dominate with its broad product portfolio and reputation for quality.

Challenging macro conditions in energy and industrial markets are weighing on the company's near-term results. In response, management is divesting some of the company's non-strategic assets to focus on its most profitable businesses. As this transition is completed later this year, we expect Emerson to be better positioned for long-term dividend growth. The company's dividend has increased by more than 30% over the last five years, and we expect dividend growth to continue given Emerson's healthy earnings payout ratio of 63%.

The company's shares have a dividend yield of 3.9%, which is significantly higher than its five-year average yield of 3.3%. Shares also trade at 16.2-times forward earnings.

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JNJ

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3. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report

Johnson & Johnson is one of the biggest healthcare businesses in the world with over $70 billion in revenue. The stock is a favorite holding for retirement income because its sources of cash flow are well diversified and stable. Just over half of Johnson & Johnson's profits are from sales of branded pharmaceuticals, but it also generates a lot of profit from sales of medical devices and consumer products such as baby care.

Management has also focused the business on markets it can perform best in, which has resulted in the company attaining a number one or number two market share position for roughly 70% of its revenue. As a result, the company has been able to deliver high-single digit dividend growth over the last decade. We expect strong dividend growth to continue since the company has more cash than debt on hand, generates excellent free cash flow, and has a healthy payout ratio near 60%.

JNJ's stock has a safe dividend yield of 2.9% and trades at 16.2-times forward earnings.

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MCD

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4. McDonald's (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation (MCD) Report

McDonald's is one of the best blue chip dividend stocks in the market and a safe dividend stock for retirement income. The company has an iconic brand and owns some of the most valuable real estate in the world. McDonald's is also able to earn high returns on capital and generate remarkably consistent free cash flow because it receives lucrative fee revenue from franchising agreements it has for approximately 80% of its restaurants.

McDonald's has boosted its dividend for over 25 straight years and most recently raised its payout by nearly 5% in 2015. While the company's earnings payout ratio is just over 70% today, we think the dividend will continue growing at a mid-single digit rate to match future earnings growth. Importantly, McDonald's stock has very low price volatility with a beta of 0.47 and held up remarkable well during the last recession, making it a very reliable stock for retirement.

Shares of McDonald's offer a dividend yield of 3.0% and have a forward earnings multiple of 21.7.

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CINF

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5. Cincinnati Financial (CINF) - Get Cincinnati Financial Corporation Report

Cincinnati Financial has operating roots dating back more than 65 years and has grown to become one of the 25 biggest property casualty insurance companies in the country. These types of businesses make money by selling insurance policies and investing premiums received into equities and fixed income securities to generate income before claims need to be paid out.

Cincinnati Financial has proven to be one of the most successful insurers when it comes to managing risk, especially considering the amount of catastrophe events it has survived through since it went into business in 1950. The company also maintains a healthy balance sheet that can help it get through any unexpected times. 

Dividend growth has remained in the low- to mid-single digits in recent years, including a 4% increase in January earlier this year. We expect similar growth to continue given the maturity of the property casualty insurance market.

The company's stock trades at 21.8 times forward earnings estimates and has a dividend yield of 3.0%.

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CMI

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6. Cummins (CMI) - Get Cummins Inc. Report

Cummins manufactures high-tech engines that are used in heavy-duty vehicles across truck, construction, and industrial markets. The company also owns a number of distributors that provide aftermarket support to its dealers and also sells power generation systems and engine components. 

Through substantial research and development investments, Cummins has developed a valuable portfolio of intellectual property that has helped its engines meet stringent environment standards and improve fuel efficiency for customers. Equally important, the business benefits from long-term customer relationships and a massive dealer network that provides unrivaled customer support.

Management has rewarded shareholders with remarkable dividend growth over the last decade. The company's dividend compounded by about 28% per year over the last 10 years and was most recently raised by 24% in late 2015. With a payout ratio below 50% and more cash than debt on its balance sheet, we expect Cummins to continue being an excellent dividend stock to own for retirement.

Shares of Cummins currently have a dividend yield of 3.9%, which is significantly higher than the stock's five-year average dividend yield of 2.1%. CMI's stock also trades at a forward earnings multiple of just 12.5. While the stock is much more volatile than the rest of the company's on this list, expectations for the company are currently low and its dividend remains very safe.

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WMT

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7. Wal-Mart (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report

Wal-Mart is a great dividend stock for retirement income because it sells mostly recession-resistant products and has dominant cost advantages. The company serves over 260 million customers each week, which provides it with substantial bargaining power with suppliers. These cost advantages allow it to be the low-cost provider of many essential consumer items such as groceries, which accounted for over half of the company's total sales last year.

Despite the company's relatively low earnings payout ratio near 40%, Wal-Mart has slowed its dividend growth to a low-single digit rate in recent years. The business has had a hard time growing profits more recently due to increased competition from e-commerce players, rising labor costs, and a generally sluggish economy. However, the dividend payment is extremely safe and has potential to return to a mid-single-digit growth rate as the company gets moving again.

The comapny's stock has a dividend yield of 3.0% and trades at 16.1 times forward earnings estimates.

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GPC

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8. Genuine Parts Company (GPC) - Get Genuine Parts Company (GPC) Report

Genuine Parts is a member of the dividend kings list, which contains an exclusive set of companies that have managed to raise their dividends for at least 50 consecutive years. Not surprisingly, this is a business with numerous competitive advantages and some of the most reliable income growth that retirees can find. The company has increased its dividend by about 7% per year over the last 10 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Genuine Parts is one of the largest distributors of automotive and industrial replacement parts and also distributes office products and electronic materials. However, the automotive market drives just over half of the company's sales, and industrial markets account for another 31% of revenue. 

This is a high-quality dividend stock for retirement because most of its products are non-discretionary in nature. Cars and industrial machinery need to be fixed when they break regardless of how the economy is doing, and Genuine Parts is the most convenient supplier because it has one of the largest distribution networks in the industry. The company also carries hundreds of thousands of different products and has built up a reputation for quality, resulting in long-lasting customer relationships.

The company's shares trade for 19.5-times forward earnings and have a dividend yield of 2.8%. 

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PG

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9. Procter & Gamble (PG) - Get Procter & Gamble Company Report

Procter & Gamble is a very popular dividend stock for retirement income because its products are practically always in demand regardless of economic conditions. The company has a large portfolio of consumer brands including Pampers, Oral-B, Tide, and Downy. 

To maintain its strong business, the company invests over $8 billion in advertising and more than $2 billion in research and development expenditures each year. This helps the company stay on top of evolving consumer preferences and has been a key factor in allowing the business to grow its dividend for more than 50 consecutive years.

Procter & Gamble's dividend has compounded by 9.7% per year over the last decade, and we expect low- to mid-single digit dividend growth going forward. The company is in the middle of a major transformation that will reduce its number of brands to refocus itself in the most profitable categories, but we expect it to emerge stronger on the other side.

Procter & Gamble's stock has a dividend yield of 3.3% and trades for 22.4 times forward earnings.

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FLO

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10. Flowers Foods (FLO) - Get Flowers Foods, Inc. Report

Flowers Foods is nearly 100 years old and has boosted its dividend payout for 13 straight years. Such consistency requires a stable and profitable business model, and Flowers Foods is no exception. The company is one of the biggest bakeries in America and sells a variety of breads, buns, snack cakes, and rolls under brands such as Nature's Own, Tastykake, and Wonder. 

Strong consumer preferences, long-standing relationships with key retailers, and a cost-efficient network of bakeries have helped Flowers Foods raise its dividend by about 18% per year over the last 10 years. With an earnings payout ratio near 60% and steady demand for its baked goods, the company should continue rewarding retired dividend investors with income growth for many years to come.

Shares of Flowers Foods trade for 17.2-times forward earnings and have a dividend yield of 3.4%, which is meaningfully higher than its five-year average dividend yield of 2.6%.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author was long PAYX, EMR, JNJ, MCD, CINF, CMI, GPC, and PG and had no position in WMT and FLO.