There’s a lot of talk about dividends these days as investors seek out yield in this difficult market. But there is a big difference between investors chasing high yield above all else and investors seeking quality, low-risk stocks with reliable distributions.
Some traders may be jumping into income-oriented investments to capitalize on rising share prices in the short term — issues like Verizon (NYSE:VZ) which is up almost 15% in three months vs. a small loss for the Dow Jones, or Merck (NYSE:MRK) which has popped 10% in the last 30 days alone. Others may simply be hunkering down for a year or two until the dust settles and “growthier” stocks return to favor.
But there are some investors who, in good times and bad, focus on yield and dividend stocks above all else. This could be because of a need for regular “paychecks” from their investments, as well as a priority on capital preservation as well as appreciation.
So who are these dividend investors? I recently got my hands on a report from Ernst & Young that offers details.
The IRS reported that 25.4 million tax returns included qualified dividends in 2009, representing $123.6 billion of qualified dividends. The tax returns with qualified dividends have the following profile:
- 63% are from taxpayers age 50 and older,
- 32% are from taxpayers age 65 and older,
- 68% are from returns with incomes less than $100,000, and
- 40% are from returns with incomes less than $50,000.
The older demographics should not be a surprise. Typically, younger Americans don’t have as much money to invest (or as much motivation to invest), and when they do get in they sometimes chase higher-risk and higher-reward assets.
But I was pretty shocked to see the income distribution. It’s not unrealistic to assume that the 40% of dividend income filers who earn less than $50,000 annually may get the lion’s share of that income from their quarterly distribution checks.
Another interesting tidbit was the fact that dividends are a significant portion of portfolios even for older folks looking for very low risk and capital preservation. According to Ernst & Young:
“The data do not suggest that investors age 65 and older shun equities in favor of bonds or fixed-income investments. Almost three-quarters of mutual fund investors age 65 and older invest in equity mutual funds, and 47 percent invest in individual stocks directly.”
Just look at this chart about mutual fund “goals” and see where income lies, but then see how the percentage of equity funds remains very high even for those in their later years.
It’s probably not shocking to see that dividend investors skew older. But it’s worth noting that in recent years, bonds have been out of favor and equity issues paying big yields have been the go-to asset for investors in their golden years.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP.