In my entry criteria, I look for great stocks with sustainable dividend payout, long histories of dividend growth and strong competitive advantages. I also have a minimum entry yield of 2.5%. There come times however, when the company I own keeps increasing its earnings and dividends, but the stock price rises faster than fundamentals. As a result, while my yield on cost is attractive, my current yield is less than my entry criteria.
For example, my yield on cost on W.W.Grainger (NYSE:GWW) is 4%, whereas the current yield is 1.60%. My yield on cost on Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) is 3.40%, while the current yield is 1.20%. My yield on cost on Higham Institution for Savings (NASDAQ:HIFS) is 3.60%, while the current yield is 2.20%.
The common characteristic behind these three positions is that each has delivered solid capital gains since my initial purchase.
Some investors question whether owning these stocks would make sense, given the low current yields that they are exhibiting. Replacing my positions in W.W.Grainger and Family Dollar with stocks which yield 3% currently would provide an almost doubling of my dividend income from each position.
This would be a mistake however, since nothing has fundamentally changed with these businesses. In addition, both companies have excellent growth prospects ahead of them, which will likely lead to further increases in earnings, dividends and stock prices over time.
Stocks can deliver low current yields, even while the underlying business keeps growing. This will lead to a higher dividend income stream coupled with a solid potential for capital appreciation.
For example, current yields on certain quality stocks such as Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Abbott (NYSE:ABT) were low during the last few years of the 1990’s bull market. Investors who sold and purchased higher yielding shares would have most probably missed on the upside potential for both capital gains and dividend income. While adding to position which are overvalued might not be the best idea, holding onto these positions might be perfectly appropriate.
As a dividend investor, I expect to hold my holdings for as long as possible. This is until one of my exit rules kick in. I expect that at least several of my long term portfolio holdings will generate total returns of several hundred percent over the next decades. This will compensate for the ones that cut dividends or get bought out for example. By selling stocks simply because the current yield is low, I might risk reducing my long-term returns.
In addition, I am not a big fan of chasing yield. If I were actively replacing my income stocks with higher yielding ones, this would increase the risk to dividend income, as most higher yielding stocks have higher payout ratios. In addition, most of the higher yielding securities come from a concentrated number of sectors.
Full Disclosure: Long all stocks mentioned above