Many investors are looking for safe stocks to help mitigate the current volatility. The stock market is in the midst of its scariest correction since March 2020. Heading into 2022, there were already concerns around inflation and incoming rate hikes. Now, things have gone from bad to worse with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has caused all sorts of ripple effects in terms of commodity prices and shortages.
For risk-seekers, there are plenty of opportunities to go bargain hunting in more adventurous stocks. For others, such as seniors and retirees, however, this is not the time to be taking wild risks.
In fact, the recent downturn may have shown some people that their portfolios had too many speculative holdings and not enough solid blue chips. With that in mind, it’s time to look at seven of the top safe investments for seniors in 2022.
One other key factor for many retirees is income. In a world where bank certificates of deposit and other fixed-income products don’t pay much interest, stocks have become an important alternative. As such, we’ll be setting a minimum of a 3.0% dividend yield for all the companies listed below. With that, here are seven safe higher-yielding investments to consider today:
- ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)
- Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ)
- Unilever (NYSE:UL)
- Enbridge (NYSE:ENB)
- 3M Company (NYSE:MMM)
- Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB)
- Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED)
Safe Investments for Seniors: ExxonMobil (XOM)
ExxonMobil is back. For the past five years or so, people had written off the integrated oil giant. It was supposedly a dinosaur company selling soon-to-be obsolete fossil fuels.
Prominent pundits said that the era of oil had already ended as electric vehicles would take all the market share.
For now, however, oil and gas investors have had the last laugh. Perhaps no American oil giant is better situated than Exxon. It continued investing heavily in new oil and gas projects during the bust, while many rivals turned to renewables or quit spending on new opportunities altogether.
Exxon’s investment in Guyana, in particular, is paying off as the company now has a huge low-cost oil field in a time when the world is desperate for more crude.
Incredibly enough, XOM stock still hasn’t hit new all-time highs. It’s only back to near its prior peaks in 2008 and 2014. This comes even as the intermediate-term outlook for oil and gas has arguably never been better. With Russian crude embargoed, the world faces a structural shortage, and producers like ExxonMobil have an incredible hand to play.
As far as things go for income investors, ExxonMobil remains the stalwart of the American oil companies. It resisted fierce calls to cut its dividend during the bust in 2020. Now, it is offering shareholders a generous dividend of more than 4%.
On top of that, look for more share buybacks as the company is simply a gusher of free cash flow right now. Exxon has a good management team that is taking care of world-class assets during an oil shortage, and XOM stock has more room to run.
Verizon Communications (VZ)
Income investors have long relied on telecom stocks. These firms aren’t flashy and don’t grow quickly, but their cash flows and dividends tend to be exemplary.
Smartphones are among the most indispensable consumer products out there, and thus people keep paying their phone bills regardless of economic conditions.
Additionally, with consolidation in the industry, the United States is now down to just three major carriers. When there isn’t much competition, it allows carriers to charge higher prices. Verizon has been a big beneficiary of this trend.
Right now VZ stock is trading at 9.6x this year’s earnings and an estimated 9x next year’s earnings. The company is slow-moving, to be sure, but when you start off at a single-digit P/E ratio, any growth at all works.
With the long-awaited 5G rollout finally gaining steam, Verizon may see some upside from its huge investments in that area. In the meantime, shares offer a nearly 5% dividend yield.
Safe Investments for Seniors: Unilever (UL)
Unilever is a leading multinational consumer products company. It sells goods such as soap, hair care products, sauces and salsas, teas and so forth.
It is one of the world’s largest firms in its industry, as it generates more than $50 billion in annual revenues.
Over the past year, UL stock has fallen by 20%. This has come as management has struggled to deal with the current inflationary wave as its profit margins decline.
While Unilever has some problems, investors have overreacted. Shares are back down to mid-2010s levels. Meanwhile, activists are making an effort to shake up the company and get it back on the right track. UL stock is at a 13x forward P/E ratio and offers a generous 4.6% dividend yield.
In addition to oil majors such as ExxonMobil, pipelines are another great option for conservative investors. In general, pipeline companies serve as a sort of toll road type of asset.
They get paid more for the amount of volume going through their system instead of being based on the spot price of oil or natural gas. As such, this makes their cash flows more reliable through both good and bad times.
A new wrinkle has emerged in the classic pipeline formula, however. That’s because political and environmental opposition has made it difficult to build new pipelines in North America. Projects such as the Keystone XL have become unrelenting political controversies.
In this scenario, ironically enough, it makes existing pipelines more valuable. If operators can’t build new ones, it puts more scarcity value on the existing infrastructure that is already in place. Enbridge is right at the top of the heap in terms of its network of pipes crisscrossing the entire continent.
Also, unlike many U.S. counterparties, Enbridge never took on an excessive amount of debt. This allowed it to keep its dividend going at full steam even during the energy bust.
Now, there should be significant dividend hikes and share buybacks ahead as the industry enjoys an era of renewed prosperity. With Russian crude out of the picture, more drilling may occur in the U.S. and Canada, which would further help Enbridge. For now, shares yield 6.1%.
Safe Investments for Seniors: 3M Company (MMM)
Industrial conglomerate 3M is most well-known for its Post-it notes and other adhesives. However, the company has an incredibly broad range of products spanning workplace safety, automotive products, healthcare supplies and advanced materials, among other goods.
MMM stock has dipped over the past few months. Part of that is the result of fears around an economic slowdown in general, and part is due to some legacy legal liabilities at 3M.
Investors shouldn’t get too worried about the short-term, however. 3M’s broad manufacturing capability, advanced research and development operations and profound range of product lines give it the versatility to thrive in almost any market.
MMM stock is trading at 14 times earnings and 13 times forward earnings. Even with the sharp share price drop, the company continues to grow and has a reasonably upbeat outlook for 2022.
Meanwhile, the company is a Dividend Aristocrat, having increased its payout for more than 60 consecutive years. Shares currently yield a juicy 4.2%.
Paper products and personal hygiene maker Kimberly-Clark has been a reliable stalwart over the decades for conservative investors.
Shares advanced to new highs during the pandemic. That made sense, as people were busy stocking up on toilet paper, soap and other such essentials.
However, as the economy has reopened, KMB stock has sunk. Shares are down 17% year-to-date and are now trading at levels seen back in 2018. This creates an opportunity for investors to buy this blue-chip at a reasonable valuation. For investors that missed KMB stock during the pandemic, this is a second chance.
Earnings for 2022 are expected to be down slightly. That’s because sales are still soft compared to the pandemic-driven boom last year.
Meanwhile, labor costs and inputs such as wood pulp are up due to the inflationary wave. However, analysts see earnings returning to normal in 2023, which would put the forward P/E ratio back to 16. Meanwhile, the yield has climbed to nearly 4%
Safe Investments for Seniors: Consolidated Edison (ED)
Rounding out the list, there’s power utility Consolidated Edison. ConEd is one of the oldest continually-operating power utilities in the United States.
It also primarily serves the New York City metro area, giving it a dynamic and robust region as its principal customer.
Despite its storied history, ConEd has been one of the fastest-moving utilities in terms of going renewable. The company is the second-largest operator of grid-scale solar power in the country. This makes it a leader in sustainability and attracts a legion of ESG and green-focused investors.
ED stock has started to ramp up over the past few months. Even after a big move, however, the stock is still selling for less than 20x forward earnings while paying a 3.5% dividend yield. Utilities aren’t flashy, but they get the job done in terms of safe reliable income.
On the date of publication, Ian Bezek held a long position in ED, MMM, ENB, UL, and XOM stock. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.