Fundamental Analysis For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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Dividends are periodic cash payments some companies make to their shareholders. The dividends are paid out of the company's cash as a way of returning profits to the shareholders. Dividends are a very important piece of your total return on an investment.

Don't ignore dividends. These cash payments, over time, account for about one-third of the total return investors make on the market, according to Standard & Poor's. The remaining two-thirds of total return come from the stock price rising. During difficult times for the stock market, when stock prices fall, the dividends might be the only gains you get.

Dividends are also important ways to help value a company. Companies that pay dividends generally pay them quarterly.

The best way to look up a dividend history is on the company's website. Nearly all companies provide an area of their websites where dividend payment histories can be looked up. The Bing search engine can save you a step finding this corner of companies' websites. From Bing.com enter the name of the company and "dividend history." Many times, you'll be given a link that takes you directly to the company's website that lists all the dividends paid.

You can also navigate to the dividend history by finding the investor relations section of a company's website. Go to GE's website and click on the "investor" link at the top of the page. Next, click on the Stock Information link on the left-hand side. Scroll down and you'll find GE's Dividend History, which lists GE's dividend payments going back for two decades.

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About the book author:

Matt Krantz, a nationally known financial journalist, has been writing for USA Today since 1999. He covers financial markets and Wall Street, concentrating on developments affecting individual investors and their portfolios. Matt also writes a daily online investing column called "Ask Matt," which appears every trading day at USATODAY.com.

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