Sunday, January 22

Week 291 - Back-up Your Rainy Day Fund With A-rated Defensive Stocks That Are Dividend Achievers With Clean Balance Sheets

Situation: After retirement, you’ll have a stream of fixed income, ideally from several sources, namely annuities, a pension or Reverse Mortgage, Social Security, an IRA, a 401(k) or 403(b), and RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) on any of those you haven’t converted to annuities. For 30-40% of you, Social Security and perhaps a Reverse Mortgage will be the extent of your retirement income. You’ll budget that income, perhaps with the help of Food Stamps. But also need to have an FDIC-insured Savings Account for emergencies. That Rainy Day Fund will be eroded by inflation, travel, and non-recurring capital expenditures, mainly co-payments and deductibles on your health insurance. To keep ahead of inflation, we recommend that you stuff your Rainy Day Fund with Inflation-Protected Savings Bonds (ISBs), which currently yield 2.76%. You can cash those bonds in after 5 yrs without incurring a penalty, but would lose only one interest payment if you were to cash in earlier.

The money you take out of your Rainy Day Fund has to be replaced, so as to have at least a one-year year buffer, i.e., in order to keep it from disappearing. Those replacement dollars will have to come from a part-time job, renting out a room in your house, or severe budgeting. But there is a better way, which is to arrange (before you retire) to have a growing income. To help achieve this, back up your Rainy Day Fund by investing in “defensive” stocks, using the cheapest way possible, which is to purchase shares online and use “dollar-cost averaging” via automatic withdrawals from your checking account--into stocks of one or two companies among S&P’s defensive industries. These are: Health Care, Utilities, Consumer Staples, and Telecommunication Services

Mission: Set up a spreadsheet of A-rated Dividend Achievers in the 4 S&P defensive industries.

Administration: This week’s Table has 8 such Dividend Achievers, and the shares of all but Procter & Gamble (PG) and McCormick (MKC) can be purchased from Computershare; PG and MKC shares are offered by Wells & Fargo. The annual cost of investing $100/mo online in each is shown in Column AB of the Table. The average cost for investing $1200/yr in monthly installments is $8.00, giving an Expense Ratio of 0.67% (8/1200). There are also exchange-traded funds (ETFs) available for each S&P Industry but those would need to be purchased through a broker. The average dividend yield for all 8 is a little less than 3% (see Column G in the Table), and the average long-term price appreciation of the stocks is ~9.5% (see Column K in the Table). All 8 have less risk of loss in the next Bear Market than the S&P 500 Index (see Column M in the Table). 

Bottom Line: After you retire, your only sources of income growth are Social Security and dividend-paying stocks. The best way to safely capture dividend growth is to invest in a low-cost managed mutual fund like Vanguard Wellesley Income Fund (VWINX), where the managers mainly use safe bonds but thread in dividend-paying stocks to represent 30-40% of assets. The next best way is to have a computer hold stocks at 60% and bonds at 40%, e.g. the Vanguard Balanced Index Fund (VBINX). Finally, if you have the time and interest, pick relatively safe “defensive” stocks on the basis of dividend growth (see Column H in the Table) and historically low volatility (see Column M in the Table). Today’s blog focuses on that option.

Risk Rating: 4 (where 10-Yr Treasury Notes = 1, S&P 500 Index = 5, and gold bullion = 10)

Full Disclosure: I dollar-average into PG, JNJ and NEE, and also own shares of KO, WMT, ABT and MKC.

NOTE: Metrics are current for the Sunday of publication. Red highlights denote underperformance vs. VBINX at Line 17 in the Table. Purple highlights denote Balance Sheet issues and shortfalls. Net Present Value (NPV) inputs are described and justified in the Appendix to Week 256: Briefly, Discount Rate = 9%, Holding Period = 10 years, Initial Cost = average stock price over the past 50 days (corrected for transaction costs of 2.5% when buying ~$5000 worth of shares). Dividend Growth Rate is the 3-Yr CAGR found at Column H. Price Growth Rate is the 16-Yr CAGR found at Column K ( Price Return (from selling all shares in the 10th year) is corrected for transaction costs of 2.5%. The Discount Rate of 9% approximates Total Returns/yr from a stock index of similar risk to owning shares in a small number of large-cap stocks, where risk due to “selection bias” is paramount. That stock index is the S&P MidCap 400 Index at Line 31 in the Table. The ETF for that index is MDY at Line 17.

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