Retirement isn’t a game. The financial stakes are serious. The prospect of running out of money in retirement is terrifying and real.
In the search for retirement income, many investors often:
But for diligent savers, there is a solution – focus from the outset on generating sustainable and increasing income. We outline five problem areas and offer solutions for potential lifetime income:
Money markets, CDs, short-term bond funds and some fixed annuities help avoid short-term market volatility. They deserve consideration in any retirement portfolio. For a portion of it, perhaps. But if you take too little market risk in your retirement portfolio, you also wind up overexposed to inflation. Which, over time, is every bit as dangerous.
Data shows that stocks – and particularly dividend-paying stocks – are an important component of an inflation resistant portfolio, even in retirement. Here’s why:
As of this writing, the annual U.S. inflation rate is hovering at about 2%1. But that likely understates the real inflation cost experienced by retirees. For example, the cost of health care in retirement—a critical retirement planning consideration - is increasing by an estimated 3.6% per year2. That’s nearly twice the average money market rate today. A recent industry study pegs the out-of-pocket cost of health care in retirement for a married couple at more than $285,0003.
Without investments in your portfolio that generate the cash to pay those expenses, the steadily increasing cost of health care will eat away at your retirement portfolio.
To preserve your retirement nest egg against the withering effects of inflation, you need to generate an income that increases with health care costs and other costs of living.
That’s why a continued allocation to stocks well into retirement– particularly dividend-paying stocks - is critical: Between 1990 and the end of Q1 2019, the mean annual dividend growth rate in the S&P 500 was 6.01%.
When you own a great stock with a long track record of increasing its dividend, think twice before you sell it. Investors commonly lighten up on stocks to buy bonds and annuities as they approach retirement. And this is understandable. But the best dividend-paying stocks should be thought of differently.
A substantial allocation specific to dividend growth stocks means you need less emphasis on costly annuities to generate a given amount of increasing income.
After all, why overweight annuities for income, when there are literally dozens of dividend-paying stocks with decades-long records that may generate greater income, greater free cash flow, and higher returns on capital?
The Dividend Aristocrats is a group of stocks in the S&P 500 that shares the following criteria—they pay a dividend; they have increased their dividend every year for at least 25 consecutive years; they have a minimum market cap of $3 billion. As of this writing, there are 57 of them.
Yes, bear markets are a concern for all stock investors. But this is why a track record of dividends is important: The income survived and increased even when stock prices fell.
When interest rates are low, you don’t want to make the mistake of locking yourself into a low income for a long period of time. That’s the danger with financial products marketed as guaranteed against market risk: They can lock investors in to sub-par returns for many years.
For example: Compare a fixed income investment such as a CD, bond, or annuity paying a rate of 3.15% to a portfolio consisting of the Dividend Aristocrats. The Dividend Aristocrat portfolio has a current TTM yield of 3.23%. That’s an even higher current yield than the annuity. And while dividend increases are not guaranteed, every stock in the Dividend Aristocrat portfolio has done so for 25 years straight – in good years and bad.
Dividends are nice. But don’t focus solely on the current dividend. That’s a common and dangerous trap.
What’s most important is the long-term stability of the dividend, and a company’s track record of increasing the dividend consistently, over time.
Over time, dividend growth, rooted in solid fundamentals and high-quality earnings, is far, far more important than current yield.
To assess a dividend-paying stock, consider the following factors:
As we can see from the track record of the Dividend Aristocrats, the most reliable dividend-paying stocks have generated consistent dividend increases every year, in all kinds of economic conditions, for decades.
When interest rates are low, bond risk is at its highest. There’s nothing wrong with good-old-fashioned asset allocation. But when interest rates are low, bond prices are high, by definition. Upside is limited, and downside potential is significant.
Furthermore, unlike great dividend-paying stocks, bonds don’t increase their coupon payments every year. This is why bonds are referred to as fixed income.
Integrity Viking Funds, founded in 1987, is a boutique asset manager with a focus on income producing strategies, including the Integrity Dividend Harvest Fund (IDHIX, IDIVX, IDHCX). The Funds are available at more than 500 financial intermediaries in the U.S.
For more information, please contact Michael Morey, CIO and Portfolio Manager, at 701-712-8826 or firstname.lastname@example.org