NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock selection is more critical than ever, as Europe's elections probably won't help solve the continent's debt problems while the U.S. economy may already be slowing.As disciplined investment managers, we take a fundamental and technical approach to selecting securities. Here are our initial screening criteria, which we refine further with proprietary analysis. On its own, however, it offers important information on three critical variables for stock selection: cash flow, revenue and valuation. ¿ Dividend over 2.5% ¿ Has increased dividend in past 3 years ¿ Beta below 1 (versus S&P 500) ¿ Revenue growth for past 3 years (2007 and 2008 eliminated almost all companies based on this criteria) ¿ Gross and or operating margin growth for past 3 years ¿ Price-to-book-value ratio below that of peer group ¿ Price-to-cash-flow below that of peer group When I was young, my mother taught me to look three times before crossing the street: left, right, left. I believe this sage advice (I'm still here today) can be applied to selecting securities as well. First, look to your left: the cash-flow you will receive. For that, nothing beats dividend-paying stocks. Study after study clearly demonstrates that dividend-paying stocks have less volatility and better long-term total returns than non-dividend-paying stocks. Moreover, companies that have a history of increasing their dividends tend to be the stronger performers in that group. The chart below makes this painfully (for some) obvious.