Investing In Dividends For Dummies
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Receiving dividends is like collecting interest on money in a bank account. It's very nice but not exciting. Betting on the rise and fall of share prices is much more exhilarating, especially when your share prices soar. Placing excitement to the side, however, dividend stocks offer several advantages over non-dividend stocks:

  • Passive income: Dividends provide a steady flow of passive income, which you can choose to spend or reinvest. This attribute makes dividend stocks particularly attractive to retirees looking for supplemental income.

  • More stable companies: Companies that pay dividends tend to be more mature and stable than companies that don't. Startups rarely pay dividends because they plow back all the profits to fuel their growth. Only when the company has attained a sustainable level of success does its board of directors vote to pay dividends. In addition, the need to pay dividends tends to make the management more accountable to shareholders and less prone to taking foolish risks.

  • Reduced risk: Because dividends give investors two ways to realize a return on their investment, they tend to have a lower risk-to-reward ratio, which you can see in less volatility in the share price. A stock with lower volatility sees smaller share price declines when the market falls. Low volatility may also temper share price appreciation on the way up.

  • Two ways to profit: With dividend stocks, your return on investment (ROI) increases when share prices rise and when the company pays dividends. With non-dividend stocks, the only way you can earn a positive return is through share price appreciation — buying low and selling high.

  • Continued ownership while collecting profits: One of the most frustrating aspects of owning shares in a company that doesn't pay dividends is that all profits are locked in your stock. The only way to access those profits is to sell shares. With dividend stocks, you retain ownership of the company while collecting a share of its profits.

  • Cash to buy more shares: When you buy X number of shares of a company that doesn't pay dividends, you get X number of shares. If you want more shares, you have to reach into your purse or pocket to pay for them. With dividend stocks, you can purchase additional shares by reinvesting all or some of your dividends. You don't have to reach into your pocket a second or third time. In most cases, you can even enroll in special programs that automatically reinvest your dividends.

  • Hedge against inflation: Even a modest inflation rate can take a chunk out of earnings. Earn a 10-percent return, subtract 3 percent for inflation, and you're down to 7 percent. Dividends may offset that loss. As companies charge more for their products (contributing to inflation), they also tend to earn more and pay higher dividends as a result.

  • Positive returns in bear markets: In a bear market, when share prices are flat or dropping, companies that pay dividends typically continue paying dividends. These dividend payments can help offset any loss from a drop in share price and may even result in a positive return.

  • Potential boost from the baby boomers: As more baby boomers reach retirement age and seek sources of supplemental income, they're likely to increase demand for dividend stocks, driving up the price. Nobody can predict with any certainty that this will happen, but it's something to remain aware of in the coming decades.

About This Article

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Lawrence Carrel is a contributing writer for The Journal of Indexes /, where he writes a weekly column on the exchange-traded fund and indexing industries.

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