I wouldn't normally hit you with a cliche right out of the gate, but here goes: "Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is." Hockey great Wayne Gretzky first spoke those words. Since then, the statement been repeated so many times that it has become a cliche. But cliches don't become cliches by being untrue. The reality is that Gretzky's approach is still applicable in many arenas beyond hockey, including investing in dividend stocks.
If you're a retiree, this idea is especially important. You don't want to buy dividend stocks that have had strong dividends in the past but are likely to cut payouts in the future. You're much better off buying the stocks of solid companies that have demonstrated they like to boost their dividends.
With apologies to Wayne Gretzky, sometimes looking at where the puck has been can be helpful. At least the metaphor works with a stock like AbbVie. Including the years that AbbVie was part of its parent, Abbott Labs, before being spun off as a separate entity in 2013, the company has increased its dividend for 47 consecutive years. Over the past three years, AbbVie has boosted its dividend by 67%, with its yield now standing at a mouthwatering 5.8%.
But should you be worried about AbbVie's dividend in light of declining sales for its top drug Humira and the company's increased debt load resulting from its planned acquisition of Allergan? I don't think so. For one thing, the Allergan deal will reduce AbbVie's reliance on Humira. Also, the company expects to quickly lower its debt levels. Most importantly, AbbVie will continue to be in great shape to deliver ongoing dividend payments.
The company claims other blockbuster drugs with strong momentum. AbbVie's two newly approved immunology drugs, Rinvoq and Skyrizi, could combine for more than $10 billion in peak annual sales. Allergan brings huge winners Botox, Juvederm, and Vraylar to the table. My prediction is that AbbVie's dividend will grow, but its dividend yield could fall as the stock rises, with investors realizing they've been too pessimistic about the big drugmaker.
2. Bank of America
Bank of America's long streak of dividend increases came to a screeching halt during the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009. But the financial-services giant soon returned to its dividend-growing ways, increasing its dividend in each of the past six years and boosting the payout by an impressive 140% over the past three years. Bank of America's dividend now yields a healthy 2.5%.
When Warren Buffett significantly increases Berkshire Hathaway's position in a stock, it's worth taking a look at that stock. That's exactly what has happened this year with Bank of America, with the stock now Berkshire's second largest holding. What's especially notable about Buffett's move is that it increased Berkshire's stake in Bank of America above the magic 10% threshold where additional regulatory requirements kick in.
Why does Buffett like Bank of America? Probably because the company has delivered industry-leading growth but its stock is still a bargain with shares trading at only 10 times expected earnings. Those reasons, along with its strong dividend growth, are good ones why retirees who aren't billionaires and investing legends should like Bank of America, too.
3. Home Depot
Home Depot didn't increase its dividend for a few years at the end of the last decade. But the home-improvement leader subsequently put the pedal to the metal, boosting its dividend payout by 444% since 2011 and nearly doubling its dividend in just the last three years. Home Depot's dividend yield currently stands at 2.3%.
You might look at Home Depot's second-quarter performance and have some qualms about buying the stock. The company reported sluggish growth and lowered its full-year 2019 outlook. But the reasons behind this weakness -- low lumber prices, tariffs, and wet weather -- aren't permanent issues that fundamentally change Home Depot's long-term prospects.
Home Depot basically enjoys a duopoly in the U.S. home improvement market along with its rival, Lowe's. The company remains financially strong. And while the home improvement market can be cyclical in nature, over the long run you can count on the fact that consumers and contractors will need supplies to complete their projects. I think that Home Depot, like AbbVie and Bank of America, will provide retirees reliable and growing dividends for years to come.