Follow the dividend investment decisions of a person who has no background in financial investment and wishes to take control of their financial future.

Opportunities I'm Watching - 24 Feb 2018 21:56


In March I will have enough to make my next purchase. Luckily prices pulled back enough for some opportunities to surface, these are not huge value plays but at least fairly priced. While there are some nice deals in REITs right now I am going to pass this month. With rising interest rates REITs should be at depressed prices all year so I can get shares at decent prices later so no need to rush.

With REITs on the sidelines I can focus on adding equities of which 5 look like decent values and another 3 are close to my buy price. I already have positions in UPS and PFE so I am leaning towards ABBV, EAT, or LEG.


- Comments: 3

Adding EAT to my Watchlist - 18 Feb 2018 18:45



Brinker International (EAT)
Share Price: $32.88
Yield: 4.62%
P/E: 11.88

Brinker (EAT) is the owner of restaurant chains Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy. EAT has had a tough time with stagnate sales over the last 3 years at its largest franchise Chili’s but the bleeding is finally starting to slow thanks to an improved (simpler) menu and an increase to advertising. Additionally the simpler menu should reduce costs and increase service times which is a welcome improvement for not just company owned restaurants but also franchisees.

The bright spot is their new franchise Maggiano’s which last reported an increase in sales but with just 52 restaurants it is not enough to compensate for Chili’s. One limiting growth factor to Maggiano’s is that it serves a higher end class of eating which EAT refers to as “polished casual”. Unfortunately, this higher end market is limited to locations near high wage earning affluent major cities.

EAT pays a generous 4.62% dividend that is well covered with a payout ratio to earnings of 55% and significant free cash flow. The dividend has 13 straight years of dividend increases with its most recent increase of 11.76% and a 10 year average of 12.33%.

One knock against EAT has been the accumulation of debt which is starting to weigh on financials as annual interest expense jumped from $33M to $50M or an increase of 52%.

Overall EAT is far from a growth story but sales are stabilizing and should start to increase revenue in the low single digits. The current dividend is well funded and even has room to grow. From a financial perspective, EAT would be smart to stop share buybacks, cap future dividend growth to 8% and use the surplus cash to pay down long term debt to reduce annual interest expenses. It is be hard to ignore a stock with a yield that exceeds 4.5% and has potential to reasonably grow dividends 5-8% annually. Though I do not own any shares it is a stock I am considering to buy with my next transaction if prices stay below $34/share. - Comments: 0

February has been Awesome! - 17 Feb 2018 14:09


I’m not shy when people ask if I’m in the market as my response is always I’m fully invested. Since my friends, family and co-workers understand how invested I am I was shocked at how many were cautiously avoiding discussing the stock market with me assuming it was a bad time with the recent correction. The few that did ask were shocked when I responded with a huge grin stating “I’m having my best month ever!” With the markets in correction it may seem weird for someone to be smiling like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland but if you are a dividend growth investor you probably already know my reasons why.

February has been one of the best months in my investing career. Sitting at the middle of February there have been approximately 110 companies that reported dividend increases and an amazing 61% of those companies increased dividends greater than 9%! Also, January wasn’t too shabby either as 48% of dividend increases also exceeded 9% growth.


We are not talking just small companies, there were a plethora of big names throwing their increases around like; 3M, AbbVie, Air Products, Allstate, Corning, Clorox, Gilead Science, Hasbro, Hormel Foods, NextEra Energy, Pepsi, T Rowe Price, UPS, Waste Management, and Wendy’s. I do not own all of these but enough to provide a nice boost. And if double digit increases were not enough even some of my high yield stocks got into the game with decent raises from: Brookfield Renewable Partners (BEP)
4.81%, EPR Properties (EPR) 5.88% and Medical Properties Trust (MPW) 4.17%.

All together these raises have increased my annual dividend income by 3.4% in just two months! This increase is not even reflecting any dividend re-investment or new purchases and we still have 10 months left to the year for even more raises! Typically the first and last quarter of every year represent the bulk of my dividend increases and going out on a prediction limb it appears my portfolio is on pace to grow 6 to 7%. Considering I designed my portfolio for 3.8 to 4% annual organic growth this will be a huge beat.

2018 will more than likely go down as one of the best all-around years for organic dividend growth among DG investors. It is years like this that help fan the flames for what has become my passion. - Comments: 0

Pensions Are Big Business - 10 Feb 2018 14:09



16 months ago I was offered a choice of cashing out my pension or begin receiving a monthly check for the rest of my life. At the time I was 49 and this was a major life decision with retirement 10 to 15 years away.

When I received the final offer in the mail I was shocked at how small the amounts were after working for 29 years at the same company. The buyout was 30% less than I had hoped for and the monthly check option, summed upped annually, equated to 5.6% of the buyout balance. This didn’t exactly seem like a fantastic option and I knew I could match and eventually beat that return with just dividend & interest income. Like any good investor I ran the numbers, developed an investment strategy and back tested the strategy using Portfolio Visualizer and even did a Monte Carlo analysis. Sure enough everything I ran had a greater than 90% success rate so I decided to take the lump sum payout and invest the money in dividend growth equities, real estate, bonds, and preferred stocks.

It took 14 months to invest all the funds which was completed with my last REIT purchase at the start of February. Within this first year of investing I only received 4% dividend income but my forward dividend income for the remainder of 2018 will exceed the pension payout and my forward yield is 5.8% thanks in large part to a full year of dividend income and recent torrent of dividend increases. Going forward it appears my portfolio income will grow at a rate of 4-5% annually, not great but not bad either considering I have non-growth income products like bonds and preferred stocks. If this was so easy to accomplish then why wasn’t the pension paying more? One theory I had was pensions must have high fees so I embarked on an investigation into my State’s pension fund and was shocked to see that Pensions are big business.

The Pension fund I investigated has a total value of $32 billion and generated $867 million in net dividend and interest. That is only a pathetic 2.71% yield. If this wasn’t bad enough, I discovered there was $99 million in investment fees which further reduced the income to $768 million with a yield of just 2.4%. These fees, which do not even include an additional $4 million pension management cost, represents 11.42% of net income. If I add up all of my personal trading and ETF fees it equates to only 0.5% of my dividend income. Holy cow 11.42% is expensive!


A breakdown of the fees revealed that the bulk of the fees are associated with “Investment Advisors” which totaled to $78M. Looking at the list of advisors it was like a who’s who of Wall Street! Just over 70 different advisory firms were there holding their hands out waiting for their annual payment.


This is just one pension fund, if we include all public and private pensions it is not hard to see that this is big business for Wall Street and it all comes at the expense of pension plan participants and in some cases tax payers. In hindsight, taking a lump sum payout was the best option. The ability to invest and control investment expenses is in my hands and after seeing what pension plans pay in annual expenses I’m feeling extremely confident in my decision. - Comments: 0

UPS Increases Dividend 10% - 09 Feb 2018 11:41



UPS just announced an increase to its quarterly dividend from $0.83/share to $0.91/share a 9.64% increase! This makes the annual dividend $3.64/share and increases the yield to 3.33% as of Thursday's 2/8/18 close at $109.28/share.

With a new yield of 3.33% this moves my fair value price up to $121/share making it slightly undervalued to its dividend growth rate and the long term goals I have set for income growth. While I have no surplus cash to purchase additional shares I do have another tool at my disposal to capture the opportunity called dividend reinvestment. So first thing this morning I logged into my brokerage account and turned on the auto dividend reinvestment.

This correction is slowly starting to make some dividend growth equities attractive again and hopefully there will be more opportunities to come. - Comments: 0

STAG - Low Growth Not a Good Fit - 04 Feb 2018 18:22

Tags: irm stag


Earlier this week Stag Industrial (STAG) increased its monthly payout from $0.117 to $0.118, an increase of 0.85%. This is the third year in a row where annual dividend growth is less than 1% and a bit disappointing.

While STAG is a well-managed company it no longer fits into my dividend growth expectations/goals and I will sell my entire position. Hate to sell a consistent monthly dividend payer but with 10 years left until retirement I need something with a better dividend growth rate of at least 2% annually. The biggest question is what to back-fill with.

Selling STAG actually gives me some time to look closer at my REIT diversification. After review I already have a significant position in the industrial & warehouse space through W.P. Carey (WPC) so now would be good time to diversify into a new REIT equity space. Interestingly there have been several articles on Seeking Alpha comparing WPC to Realty Income (O) as to which is the better investment but I just can’t see the comparison. O has a focus on retail space while WPC’s portfolio only has a 16% allocation to retail. If anything I thought comparing WPC to STAG was a better analysis as 44% of WPC’s portfolio is in the industrial warehouse space.

Regardless of the Seeking Alpha articles, I decided to reinvest the STAG proceeds into Iron Mountain (IRM) as I have no position in the data storage space and this will not just help me diversify my REIT holdings but will also provide a 20% income boost as IRM is has a 6.98% yield versus STAG’s 5.75%. The other aspect I like about IRM is its geographic diversification as 33% of its revenue is outside of the U.S. which should provide some buffer to rising interest rates and lower dollar on the foreign exchange.


- Comments: 0

I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS! - 28 Jan 2018 16:40


I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS! was a quote from the Generation X cult classic movie Better Off Dead where John Cusack’s character was pursed through the entire movie by a paperboy trying to collect $2 owed to him. To this day I still here an occasional fellow Generation X compatriot quote that classic line and can’t help but chuckle.

This classic line did make me think about how much $2 can make a difference if invested over the long term. The movie Better Off Dead came out in 1985 and unfortunately investing that much money in the stock market back then was just impossible. I remember opening my first trading account at TD Waterhouse (now TD Ameritrade) in 1989 and trading commissions were a whopping $49 per trade. With commissions at these exorbitant rates our poor paperboy was out of luck investing back in the day but if he had access to modern tools such as M1 Finance or Robinhood, which offer free stock trades, there would be no problems investing that $2.

Unfortunately, all of us at some moment in our lives struggle with finances where saving seems like an impossible task and investing seems even further away. But, what if all you could save was $2 per week? If you started saving just $2 a week ($104 a year) for the rest of your working life (40 years) and invested using a dividend growth strategy it would provide a retirement income of approximately $160 a month or $1900 a year. Maybe your struggles weren’t as hard as mine and had a little bit more to save & invest each week, here is a table of what a lifetime of modest savings would have yielded at retirement:

Monthly Dividend at Retirement
$2/week $160
$5/Week $400
$10/week $800
$20/week $1600

Amazing what just a small sum saved over 40 years can do….that is why I want my $2 dollars. - Comments: 0

Completed Motif Portfolio Experiment - 01 Jan 2018 16:29



I know it has been a while since I last posted an update on the portfolio experiment but please forgive my laziness as reporting monthly was becoming a bit of a drag so I decided to hold off until the final month. Excuses aside let us jump to the experiment results and conclusions!


The last 5 years has seen new investing platforms extremely different from traditional investment brokerage houses. With so many new tools available to investors it could be confusing as to which one to use. To investigate further we kicked off an experiment in December 2016 to invest a fictional $10,000 using the popular Motif Investing platform.

Motif investing was launched in 2012 by Hardeep Walia, a former Microsoft Executive, who founded the platform to help investors gain more control over what they can invest in. Motif offers a theme-based approach for investors to pick an idea to invest in and in a low cost way. It is important to note that Motif is not a true trading platform as it does not allow for trading of options or futures.

The uniqueness to Motif Investing is that you can create a basket of stocks or ETFs (max of 30 different stocks) with assigned percentage allocations. It is kind of like making your own ETF or mutual fund. When you invest in the basket it will buy all of the shares, including fractional shares, at the percentages you defined and all for just a small transaction fee of $9.95. If a basket of stocks is not to your taste the platform does allow you to buy and sell individual stocks with a $4.95 commission per trade.

We went forward and created the following custom Motif portfolio for our $10,000 investment and actually tracked two versions pre-retirement and post-retirement. The difference between the two portfolios is that all dividends paid in the post-retirement would be distributed and not reinvested. The rules for the experiment were pretty simple, we would not adjust the portfolio or re-balance but instead let everything just ride.

The following table is the initial basket that was created using a combination of individual stocks and ETFs:
Compass Minerals CMP 4%
Wal-Mart WMT 4%
General Motors GM 4%
Cracker Barrel Restaurants CBRL 4%
P&G PG 4%
Archer Daniel Midland ADM 4%
Petmed Express PETS 4%
Travelers Insurance TRV 5%
Canadian Imperial Bank CM 5%
Johnson & Johnson JNJ 5%
Merck MRK 5%
3M MMM 5%
Emerson Electric EMR 5%
Omega Healthcare Invest OHI 5%
STAG Industrial STAG 5%
W.P. Carey WPC 5%
Apple AAPL 4%
AT & T T 5%
Microsoft MSFT 4%
Artesian Resources Corporation ARTNA 3%
PPL Corp PPL 3%
iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bd HYG 2%
iShares iBoxx $ Invst Grade Crp Bond LQD 2%
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond TLT 2%
iShares S&P US Pref Stock Idx PFF 2%


2017 S&P 500 Total Return 21.83%
2017 Avg Inflation Rate 2.12%
30 yr Bond as of 12/2017 2.76%


Pre-Retirement Portfolio
Starting Portfolio Value Ending Portfolio Value Gain
$10,000 $12,210 22.10%
Projected Annual Dividend Income Actual Annual Dividend Income Income Increase
$397.06 $420.17 5.82%
Post-Retirement Portfolio
Starting Portfolio Value Ending Portfolio Value Gain
$10,000 $11,785 17.85%
Projected Annual Dividend Income Actual Annual Dividend Income Income Increase
$397.06 $416.46 4.89%
Sector Performance
Sector Gain/Loss


Final Sector Allocations
Sector Original Post-Retire Pre-Retire
BASIC MATERIALS 4.00% 3.14% 3.13%
CONSUMER DISCRETIONARY 12.00% 11.91% 11.80%
CONSUMER STAPLES 12.00% 13.77% 13.58%
FINANCIALS 10.00% 10.03% 9.94%
HEALTHCARE 10.00% 9.20% 9.09%
INDUSTRIALS 10.00% 11.04% 10.92%
REAL ESTATE 15.00% 14.02% 13.85%
TECH/COMMUNICATIONS 13.00% 14.40% 14.20%
UTILITIES 6.00% 5.44% 5.37%
BONDS & INCOME 8.00% 7.05% 6.97%
CASH 0.00% 0.00% 1.15%

Portfolio details
S&P 500 benchmark source
Inflation source U.S. Labor Dept


Reduced Fear - When the experiment was first started there were about 15 equities I thought were fully valued or over-valued and if I was buying individually I would not have immediately bought them. However, being part of a basket of stocks removed my hesitation and good thing it did. 2017 was a banner year for stocks and I would have missed out on some large gains.

Portfolio Monitoring - This element caught me totally by surprise. For my whole investing life I have tracked and monitored individual stocks. Within the first couple of months I found tracking sector allocations within the basket was easier and less stressful.

Post-Retirement Portfolio - The post retirement portfolio performed to expectations with the intent to provide dividend income that was better than the 30 year U.S. Treasury Rate and growing dividends that beat inflation.

The portfolio initially had a yield of 3.97% and in the end actually yielded 4.16%. The 30 year treasury at the start of the experiment was 3.06% and ended 2017 at 2.76%. The portfolio handily beat the 30 year treasury rate.

The portfolio annual income grew 4.89% over the course of the year and this does not even reflect dividend raises announced that would not take effect until Q1 2018. Considering that 8% of the portfolio was tied up in Bond & Preferred Stock ETFs this is a pretty solid growth rate. Our 4.89% growth rate easily beat the 2017 average inflation rate of 2.12% and even the highest month of inflation in February 2017 when inflation hit 2.7%.

If Total Return is more important to you than income the portfolio had a total return of 17.85% versus the benchmark S&P 500 total return of 21.83%. With 8% of the portfolio allocated to Bond & Income it was not a surprise that it under performed.

Pre-Retirement Portfolio - Like the post-retirement portfolio the pre-retirement portfolio easily beat our income benchmarks with an ending yield of 4.2% and dividend growth rate of 5.82%.

From a total return perspective the portfolio grew 22.1% which included a reduction for a $9.95 commission to reinvest dividends in the month of September. The 22.1% gain beat the S&P benchmark of 21.83% and is pretty commendable considering the 8% allocation to Bonds & Income ETFs.

Overall the portfolio could have performed better in both income growth and total return if Motif had a free DRIP (Dividend Re-Investment Plan) policy. I find it amazing that they have yet to implement a DRIP as that has been the number one complaint from investors since day one of the trading platform launch in 2012. If the platform had a free DRIP the income growth would have improved to just north of 6% and our total return would have improved by 0.52%. I realize a half percent does not sound like much but if this was a $100,000 portfolio that equates to a lost $500.

Motif Resources - An area greatly lacking in the Motif platform is the area of investor education. If you are a novice investor there is little material to material to help you understand how to evaluate investments. Even simple concepts and definitions like dividend yield, price-to-earnings ratios or price-to-book ratios are nowhere to be found.


If this was still 2012 I would have been screaming from the mountain top that Motif is a great low cost tool but alas it is 2017 and the landscape has changed. New platforms such as Robinhood or M1Finance offer lower fees. Also in this time period traditional brokerage houses have changed, companies such as Fidelity and Schwab have lowered their trading fees to $4.95 and offer a plethora of free trade ETFs and provide investor education tools as well as access to trading options and futures.

Overall I would recommend using Motif for seasoned investors looking to invest a lump sum such as a 401K rollover or other windfall just before or during retirement and wishes to live off of their dividends. The use of baskets is an efficient way to quickly invest and diversify with one simple trade.

For new investors, investors slowly building a nest egg, or retirees looking to sell down holdings (in-lieu of dividends) I would not recommend Motif. If Motif implements a free DRIP program I would change my tune to some extent but until that time there are better options available today. - Comments: 0

Portfolio Experiment - Month 7 - 02 Jul 2017 12:58



Month seven into the Motif portfolio experiment and the markets were churning in June from a proposed Amazon buyout of Whole Foods and a Tech sell-off but that didn’t slow the markets as the S&P 500 ytd return grew from 7.73% to 8.24%. The motif portfolio was no slouch either as it also grew its ytd return to 11.15% from 9.56%.

Dividend Income

Projected June dividend income $35.39
Actual April dividend income $36.27
Growth of +$0.88

Income grew thanks to a raise from Travelers Insurance (TRV).

Now that the first half of the year is behind us we have 14 out 25 holdings who have increased their dividend payouts and we should start to see more significant increases of actual to planned monthly dividends.

Portfolio Value

Pre-Retirement Retirement
Starting Value $10,000 $10,000
Current Value $11,156 $11,156
Cash Balance $207.11 -
Cash Distributed - $207.11
Total Portfolio Value $11,363 $11,156
Total Return 11.36% 11.15%

Petmed Express (PETS) continues to knocked it out of the park as their share price has risen from $35/share to $40/share. I happened to own PETS in my personal portfolio and did sell a significant portion of this position at $41/share and re-deployed the money. However for this experiment we are letting it fly.

From a sector perspective, Commodities improved slightly but are still down 17%. Consumer staples has soared but that is slightly skewed thanks to PETS. Tech took a big drop but it was offset with gains from Financials, Industrials, and Healthcare. All year long I have seen sectors rise and fall, this really shows how a diversified portfolio can offset losses and allow it to grow.

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
FINANCIALS - 10% 4.3%
HEALTHCARE - 10% 11.5%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 13.2%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 15.0%
UTILITIES - 6% 16.8%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 4.23%

- Comments: 0

Know your REIT Terminology - 18 Jun 2017 12:17

Tags: reit


If you are investing for dividend income Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) will be a major investment in your portfolio and is a subject I do not touch on often enough on this blog but I should being as REITs make up 15% of my personal portfolio. That said, I am sharing a post of a recent Motley Fool Article written by Matthew Frankel that I thought was worth sharing that defines common REIT terminology.

(here is a link to the full article)

1. Funds from operations (FFO)
This is perhaps the most important term you need to know to be able to properly evaluate REITs. Most other stocks are judged based on "earnings" or net income, and ratios based on earnings, such as the price-to-earnings multiple. However, net income doesn't accurately reflect a REIT's profits because of a real estate-specific accounting metric known as depreciation. In a nutshell, the REIT version of earnings is "funds from operations" (FFO), so you should consider it as such when reading a REIT's financial results.

2. Adjusted funds from operations (AFFO)
Going a step further, most REITs emphasize adjusted or normalized FFO figures in their reporting. Simply put, this is a company-specific way of expressing FFO in a way that's most relevant to shareholders and analysts. Keep in mind, however, that this is not a standardized accounting metric, and its calculation can be slightly different between companies.

3. Capitalization rate (cap rate)
This is the net operating income generated by a property, relative to its purchase price. A property that costs $1 million and generates $60,000 in net operating income would have a cap rate of 6%. When evaluating properties to buy, an REIT looks for the highest cap rates available for the desired level of risk the REIT's management is comfortable taking on.

4. Funds available for distribution (FAD)
This is similar to FFO or AFFO, but subtracts recurring real estate expenditures and some other items to express how much money is available to pay out as dividends.

5. Cost of capital
REITs have two basic ways to finance the acquisition of new properties — issuing equity, or taking on debt. The cost of capital refers to the dividend rate and expected growth of issued stock, or to the interest expense incurred on debt. Lower costs of capital generally translate to more favorable environments for acquisitions. As an example, a low cost of capital allowed retail REIT Realty Income Corp. to roughly double its initial acquisition goal for 2016.

Also known as net operating income (NOI), EBITDA is a common financial metric, and stands for "earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization." In evaluating REITs, the debt-to-EBITDA ratio is often used for assessing a company's debt level.

7. Equity REIT
This refers to a real estate investment trust whose primary business is owning and renting properties. This is as opposed to a mortgage REIT, which is a company that invests in mortgages and/or mortgage-backed securities. A hybrid REIT invests in a combination of properties and mortgages.

8. Leverage
Simply put, leverage refers to debt. Specifically, REIT leverage is often expressed as either a percentage of total capitalization or a percentage of equity capitalization. For example, if a REIT reports leverage of 30% of total capitalization, this means that 30% of the REIT's total capitalization is made up of debt, with the other 70% made up of the market value of its equity capital.

9. Net asset value (NAV)
This refers to the total market value of all of a company's assets. For a REIT, this means the market value of its properties, plus the value of any other assets it owns. Admittedly, this is a somewhat subjective metric, because there are several ways to assess the value of the same property.

10. Total return
REITs are "total return" investments, which means that their goal is to produce a combination of income and share-price growth. Total return refers to the combination of the two, and is generally expressed on an annualized basis. For example, a stock that pays a 4% dividend yield and rises in price by 6% in a year would have generated a total return of 10% for that year. - Comments: 0

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