BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- So far, 2014 has been a spectacular year for dividend investors. Despite this low-interest-rate environment, companies in the big S&P 500 index are cutting bigger checks than ever before. And they're on pace to hit even higher levels in the year ahead.
Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks
According to S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst Howard Silverblatt, S&P components are on track to pay out more than $41.2 billion in dividend checks in November, a record monthly payout for the big index. That number is up 13.29% from last year's payout total, boosted by record cash holdings by U.S. companies and the need to deliver meaningful returns back to investors.
While there's no question that low rates have created a challenging environment for income investors, it's also true that, relative to other income investments, it's hard to beat the payouts found in the stock market right now. But to find the biggest benefit from dividends, it's not enough to simply buy names with big payouts today. You've got to think about what they'll be paying tomorrow too.
So instead of chasing yield, we'll try to step in front of the next round of stock payout hikes.
For our purposes, that "crystal ball" is composed of a few factors: namely a solid balance sheet, low payout ratio and a history of dividend hikes. While those items don't guarantee dividend announcements in the next month or three, they do dramatically increase the odds that management will hike their cash payouts to shareholders. And they've helped us grab onto dividend hikes with a high success rate in the past.
Without further ado, here's a look at five stocks that could be about to increase their dividend payments in the next quarter.
Must Read: 11 Stocks Warren Buffett Loves in 2014