NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When you're evaluating a dividend-paying stock, your primary focus has to be the viability and sustainability of the dividend itself. Not rain nor sleet nor dark of night should stand a chance of keeping that courier from delivering a payment to your account every year.
It's also wise to seek out yields that are trending toward the higher end of historical ranges.
Another important factor in dividend investing is the ex-dividend date . Investors need to buy a stock before this date in order to qualify for the dividend in any given period; investors who buy a stock on or after its ex-dividend date will not receive the dividend income. If, for example, a company pays out 20 cents a share every quarter, then, all other things being equal, the shares will likely open about 20 cents lower on the ex-dividend date.