122R | Learn More About Dividend Investing

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122R | Dividend Deep Dive
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Brad and Jonathan are joined by Brian Feroldi and Karsten from Early Retirement Now. With the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of dividend investing, Brad and Jonathan ask the hard questions. As the devil's advocate, they uncover more information about dividend stocks from passionate investors.

If you are ready to learn more about dividend investing, then let's dive in.

What Is A Dividend?

The first thing we need to understand is exactly what a dividend is. According to Feroldi,

“A dividend is when a company takes cash out of its bank account and give it directly to its shareholders. Normally, that is done directly out of profits.”

When a company earns a profit, it has to decide what to do with that profit. Paying out dividends to investors is just one of those options. They could also reinvest that money into the business, leave it in an account, buy back stock, and more.

Related Episode: The Unfair Advantages Of The Individual Investor With Brian Feroldi

Will The Stock Price Drop With Each Dividend Payout?

In Brad's example, when a company paid out a dividend, the stock price dropped to match the payout amount. The result was no gain in net worth when he received the dividend. This was a high yield dividend stock, so it is fairly common that this type of dividend stock will take a hit in the stock value each time a dividend is paid out.

However, not all dividend stock prices drop with their quarterly payouts. For example, a company was earning $25 million a quarter and only paid out $12.5 million in dividends. Overall, the stock price would still increase.

When the business pays out in cash dividend payments, the shareholders receive a more direct benefit from the profits of the company. Otherwise, profits will stay within the business and not necessarily benefit shareholders in a direct way. The dividend is actual income through which the shareholder can realize an immediate cash return without any stock price increase.

How Are Dividends Different Than Bonds?

With a dividend stock, there is no guarantee that the company will pay out dividends every single year. Unlike a bond, there is no maturity date on a dividend stock and no promise that you will get your principal back.

Dividends are not guaranteed like bond interest… [A] 10% dividend stock differs from the 10% bond in two important ways. First, there is no maturity date on a stock and even if you sell… there is no guarantee that you get that principal back. And then on top of that, there is no guarantee that this company will pay 10% dividends every single year.

The companies that pay out dividends are under no contractual obligation to pay out dividends. The dividend could be cut or completely eliminated at a moment's notice. One example is Century Link that recently cut its dividend percentage dramatically after decades of steady payments.

In American companies, most companies set up a dividend policy that outlines a percentage of the stock price payout each year. However, most foreign companies do not necessarily set a number instead they set aside x% of the profits.

Related: Intro To Dividend Investing

Where To Find Good Dividend Investments

Of course, your goal as a dividend investor is to build a portfolio that provides a stable income stream over time. However, your information about a company is all looking into the past. With resources like DRIP Investor and the Aristocrat's List, you can see how companies performed in the past. Past performance is not a reliable indication of future performance.

With a lot of backward looking bias I can come up with a great list of companies that were stable dividend payers over the last 10 years, 20 years, but the problem is that we have to do this in real time. We have to determine today which ones are the stocks that will be really stable going forward.

The biggest challenge is that it will be difficult to determine which company will be doing well in the next recession and which will be forced to but all of its dividends. You cannot determine future winners and losers by today's list of winners.

Related Episode: Sequence of Return Risk With Early Retirement Now

Is Dividend Investing To Similar To Stock-Picking?

Brandon from Mad Fientist, had this to say about dividend investments,

Dividend investors often feel they aren’t stock pickers but that’s exactly what they are. They are taking individual companies and taking on a unique risk because they feel that certain companies can offer something that others can’t.  Its an insane version of stock picking though. Even though I don't do it myself, it is easy to see why some people would try to find the next Amazon or Google. They are happy risking a tiny portion of their wealth for incredible returns. Dividend investors, however, take on the same individual company risks but do it for companies that have limited upside potential. A company that returns most of its profits to shareholders through dividends is obviously not focused on growing their company exponentially.”

Is Dividend Investing Worth The Effort?

When you build a dividend investment portfolio, you will need to put in a lot of time and effort. The goal is to create a nice income stream, but you are really putting a lot of emphasis on your ability to pick companies that will perform well into the future.

Instead, why not consider setting up something similar in your index fund. As an index fund investor, you do receive a dividend yield of just under 2%. If your goal as a dividend investor is to raise your dividend return rate to 4%, then it is not a guarantee that you can achieve that.

What About Total Returns?

In episode 122, Craig mentioned that he was not focused on keeping up with the market. Instead, he is focused on building a reliable income stream. Not only would you be putting the time to build this portfolio, but also not keep up with the market.

You may have a different opinion of this based on different stages of life. If you are close to retirement or in retirement, then you care more about the volatility of the market and drawdowns. With dividend investing, you may be able to create total returns that are less volatile.

With less potential volatility and the ability to build income now, it could be a good option for some. If you were retiring with no retirement savings, then dividend investing would be an extremely attractive option.

For Karsten, although total returns may be slightly less, that's not the dealbreaker. The dealbreaker is that it simply takes too much time to build an maintain a dividend portfolio.

Who is Dividend Investing Best For?

First and foremost, a dividend investor must be interested in learning more about these companies. If you do not have the time or interest to keep up with the market, then dividend investing is not a good fit. Index funds are simply easier and offer attractive growth.

You must have an interest in building a passive income that could meet your needs. When the next recession comes, dividend income could help to cover your expenses if you lost your job but do not want to sell off your plummeting stock.

The right choice for the cast majority of people the vast majority of the time is index funds.

In your 20s or 30s, then the tax consequences alone may be enough to deter you from building a dividend investment portfolio. Even Warren Buffet warns that the tax consequences dividend payment programs are inferior to sell off programs in his 2012 letter to the shareholders.

However, if you are closer to retirement with a tax-deferred account to work with, then you may consider transitioning into more dividend stocks. You may think of this as an alternative to bonds. Or a way to keep more of your portfolio in equities.

The key to potential success in a dividend portfolio is that you need to have a strong interest in individual businesses. Without that, the potential income stream may not be worth the time and effort it takes to build it.

Related Episodes

New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!

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6 thoughts on “122R | Learn More About Dividend Investing”

  1. Very informative. However, for me personally, I still feel that real estate is the best early retirement vehicle for me. I consider it the shortcut to FI.
    With very little out of pocket and only 3 great properties I’ve been able to match my current take home pay from my job. With what I have in the works I should be able to reach FI in another year or two. I am not a high income earner so with hopes of reaching a high savings in a retirement acct to get that 4% would be next to impossible. The amount of money needed to purchase enough individual stocks to get the amount of dividends needed is also not feasible. Yet with real estate I get high, stable income, increase in equity, tax benefits, and in the future if more money is needed, there are multiple options other than just selling, as you would need to do with stocks. With RE I can just refinance and pull money out. It does take a little more effort than just tossing money into an index fund. But not as much effort as you may think.

  2. Thank you for the followup on dividend investing! Really enjoyed the comparison to bonds, and the clarification on how businesses that pay dividends don’t always have their stock price go down. The Mad Feintist’s perspective was a valuable and blunt one as was the comparisons to having bonds in your portfolio. Thanks for taking the time to dive deeper guys!

  3. I had a hard time listening to this episode because it was so biased. It really had a strong negativity against dividend funds. The thought was that you need to buy stocks to do this; and then more talk about stocks failing and you have to consider that. The problem with that thinking is that there is VHDYX and VIHAX at vanguard. they are indexes of a different sort that’s all. If you purchase them it’s like someone purchasing VFINX but more of a focus to dividends. If a person purchases those 2 mutual funds it’s simpler in the sense that you don’t have to use the 4% rule. You get what the companies feel they can pay. Also, it will probably rise at a faster rate because you shouldn’t need bonds in a portfolio because as was said companies with dividends are usually less volatile.

    And if you’re looking for a total return the Dividend Aristocrats (nobl) have destroyed the s & p 500 over long periods of time. Here is a chart for reference. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/05/09/1-chart-that-shows-how-badly-dividend-aristocrats.aspx

    Anyway, there is value in both ways and they are essentially indexes just not the famous S&P 500 index.

    Thanks and apologize for my little rant.

  4. I loved this episode. You guys are like Click and Clack for the FIRE movement. I loved the nerdy deep dive and the special guest. Keep episodes like these coming.

  5. Is important to bring experts that are not bias to justify a certain point, but bring those that can share historical empirical data from seasoned experts who have been practicing this strategy for more than 10 years. A large part of the total return of most stocks is from dividends not just capital appreciation. Buying stocks that do not have a proven history of earnings from which dividends are paid, is called speculating not investing, Investing is purchasing an asset which will generate income as well hopefully capital appreciation. Why own an asset that generates no income? I have been investing for over 30 years in dividend growth stocks which not only have appreciated in value, but due to the dividend growth, are now paying me over 15 to 20% return just in the dividend passive income. What I find in general in the FIRE movement is the opinion of people under the age of 30 who have not experienced market cycles and what truly works over time. By default indexed funds embraced by this community are filled with dividend paying stocks which also distribute the dividends, albeit quarterly and immediately then lower the net asset value (NAV) on the day of distribution. However I get my dividends when paid by the company while mutual funds get to use your dividend for the quarter and then distribute to you later. I’m not apposed to mutual funds or indexing for that matter which is provably better for those who don’t care much about investing and want someone else to do it for them. The rest of us who want to be fully engaged in managing our portfolio, are perfectly okay with other strategies.

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