Sunday, December 30

Week 78 - Master List Update (Q1 2013)

Situation: The time has come to provide sober guidance about saving for retirement. For most people, mutual funds are the best route to take and we’ve listed our 5 favorites in the accompanying Table. We remind you that you should not have more than 20% of your assets in a single fund, or 5% in a single stock. As noted in our Week 3 blog (see Goldilocks Allocations), it is also important to balance your stock investments 1:1 with bonds. Our 5 mutual funds do that when you have 20% of your retirement savings in each.

Whew! Now for the fun stuff, which is to generate a list of stock picks that meet our investment criteria. Previously, we’ve agonized over company fundamentals like efficiency (ROIC), long-term debt, and having enough free cash flow to pay for dividend increases (FCF/div). In this blog, we’re going to let you do that for yourself by using red warning flags in the 3 right hand columns of the Table (courtesy of data from the WSJ). This way, you’ll see the entire “universe of data” we analyze, starting with the 199 companies at the Buyupside website called Dividend Achievers. Those companies have had 10 or more consecutive years of dividend increases. We’ve added Occidental Petroleum (OXY) which will qualify come January first.

Next, we eliminate any company with a dividend yield less than the 15-yr moving average for the S&P 500 Index (1.8%). Then we eliminate any company that doesn’t have an S&P stock rating of A/M or better AND an S&P bond rating of BBB+ or better.

The remaining 49 companies can be split into two groups, those whose stocks lost less than 65% as much as the S&P 500 Index during the Lehman Panic AND had a 5-yr Beta of less than 0.65. Those 19 companies are less risky that the others, and make up the first group at the top of the Table. The 30 remaining companies are in the second group, and the 5 mutual funds (mentioned above) compose the third group.

Which of the top 19 stocks are particularly attractive to the risk-averse investor? We think those are the ones that pay a higher dividend than most others AND grow that dividend faster. I use a 3:7:10:50 standard for finding those good "income" stocks. By this I mean there is at least a 3% dividend yield, at least a 7% dividend growth rate, at least a 10% ROIC (5% for a regulated utility), and less than 50% capitalization from bonds. Six in the top 19 meet that standard: JNJ, ABT, PEP, PG, NEE, MCD. However, we eliminate Abbott Labs (ABT) because it is breaking up into two companies, so we’re down to 5.

Those readers who are over 55 and have little in the way of retirement savings should pay attention to these 5 reliable income producing stocks. We’ll aggregate the data from those, to augment our guidance for late-stage investors (see Retirement on a Shoestring Week 14 & Week 15). These 5 stocks are so bond-like that you needn't bother hedging them with an equal investment in bonds or bond funds. But you do need to “dollar-average” equally into all 5 DRIPs. We'll call this group "Stand Alone Stocks" and put their aggregate data at the bottom of the Table for comparison with aggregate data for the 5 mutual funds we mentioned.

Bottom Line: Recent academic studies show that returns from less risky (more bond-like) stocks are as great as returns from more risky stocks. Read this recent analysis by Mark Hulbert to open your eyes to the importance of holding such stocks in your portfolio.

Risk Rating: 4.

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