My general investing philosophy is dividend growth investing. I have a multitude of reasons for this, some of which include
- Creating a growing income stream to eventually live off of
- Having said income stream grow over time, at most times at rates greater than inflation
- Not wanting to sell assets in retirement
- Not being so intimately tied to stock price in order to make money
- Being able to tune out the day to day noise in the markets
- Being able to buy (and sell) opportunistically
- Sleeping well at night!
- Bonus point: Being able to leave a nest egg for my kids to hopefully follow in my footsteps
The power of dividend growth investing comes from what I call the three-headed monster:
- New purchases bring more income
- Reinvested dividends generate their own income
- Buying companies with yearly dividend raises generate even more income
Over the long term, dividend growers have beaten the market by a drastic amount. I fully expect this to continue to be true going forward.
Creating a Growing Income Stream
The first three of my bullet points are all related. The main driver of my investing decisions is that I know my working days are ultimately limited. Needing money for future expenses an unavoidable fact. I am spending my working years investing in quality companies that have a vested interest in rewarding their shareholders. By investing in quality companies, in aggregate, they will be able to grow my income over time – as opposed to a fixed yield instrument. Often times – in fact – most of the time, the income stream should grow in real terms, that is, greater than inflation. In short, I should become wealthier over time!
I wish to hold on to my money generating assets during retirement. The common path has been to sell 4% of assets per year though that is evolving. As we have seen since the Great Recession, the future is very unpredictable and current retirees are hurting for yield; stock prices overall are quite high, yields on treasuries and bonds are at historic lows and social security increases have been next to non-existent. The current baby boomers may be forced asset sellers in order to pay for general living expenses. It only stands to reason to hang on to the money generating assets and living off of the income payments.
Ignoring The Noise
Being an exclusive total return investor, i.e, buy low and sell high is that you need to be right on both sides of the trade. You need to have purchased your stock at a sound valuation and also need to then sell it when it is no longer reasonably valued in order to actually make a profit. Otherwise it is merely paper gains and losses. Following dividend growth investing I don’t care what happens with day to day prices because at the end of any given day my income is unchanged. Over time I don’t care about the market volatility, my income next year will be greater than my income this year.
I also don’t need to try to be right on both the buy and sell side of a trade in order to make money, I am continually getting return from the quality companies that I am invested in. Also, as it is true that trees don’t grow to the sky, yields don’t grow to the sky. That is, for good dividend paying companies, price will follow the growing dividend. All things being equal, if a dividend grows 10%, the stock price should grow 10%.
The last bullet point from that trio was about being opportunistic. The importance of that statement can not be understated. Since I am continually getting a reasonable return, I can buy and sell opportunistically. Part of my philosophy is selling if the valuation has become completely uncoupled with reality. Conversely, buying a stock when I perceive it to be undervalued gives me an additional margin of safety and the potential for future market beating returns.
The last two points are valuable to me as well. Nobody wants to stay awake worried at night because they don’t know if their big bet on a small pharmaceutical will pay off or not. By and large, the companies in my portfolio are large cap, dividend payers with varied histories of increasing their dividends.
If all goes well, I’ll be able to live off the income generated while the underlying assets continue to grow. It would mean the world to me to leave my kids with a portfolio that they could continue to benefit from and hopefully pass of to their kids as well, and so on.
My Definition of Dividend Growth
An important caveat I will make is that my definition of dividend growth may be broader than a current retirees. I won’t hesitate to sell a stock if the situation warrants it. Example reasons include a dividend cut or drastic overvaluation.
Additionally I do hold some current non dividend payers. Companies like Google for example, I expect down the road to start paying dividends. For a non dividend payer, valuation is still of paramount importance. Overpaying for any stock will limit your future total returns. In addition, I have a few companies with low current payouts that I expect to grow them drastically over the next decade or so.