Why It’s Better To Invest In Growth Stocks Over Dividend Stocks For Younger Investors

Growth stocksDividend stock investing is a great source of passive income. The problem is, with dividend yields relatively low at 2-3% you need a lot of capital to generate any sort of meaningful income. Even if you have a $500,000 dividend stock portfolio yielding 3% that’s only $15,000 a year. Remember, the safest withdrawal rate in retirement does not touch principal. Furthermore you must ask yourself whether such yields are worth the investment risk.

If you’re relatively young, say under 40 years old, investing the majority of your equity exposure in dividend yielding stocks is a suboptimal investment strategy in my humble opinion. You’ll be hoping for filet mignon for decades while you eat Hamburger Helper in the meantime. When you reach your desired age for retirement, you might just be asking yourself, “Where the hell is the feast?

Out of the few multi-bagger return stocks I’ve had over the past 16 years, none of them have been dividend stocks. I’m sure dividend stocks will provide over 100% returns if you give them a long enough amount of time. But if you are like me, you’d rather build your fortune sooner rather than later. If I’m going to bother taking risk in the stock markets, I’m not playing for crumbs. When things turn south, everything turns south so there had better be more than a 3% dividend yield and some underperforming appreciation to compensate.

The following article will attempt to argue why younger investors should focus on growth stocks over dividend stocks in a bull market with potentially rising interest rates. In a bear market, everything gets crushed but dividend stocks should theoretically outperform.

A FUNDAMENTAL POINT TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT DIVIDEND PAYING COMPANIES

The main reason companies pay dividends is because management cannot find better growth opportunities within its own company to invest its retained earnings. Hence, management returns excess earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends or share buybacks. If a company pays a dividend equivalent to a 3% yield, management is essentially telling investors they can’t find better investments within the company that will return greater than 3%. Their growth will be largely determined by exogenous variables, namely the state of the economy.

Pretend you are the CEO of a hot growth company like Tesla Motors (TSLA), the maker of high performance electric cars. Do you think Elon Musk, the actual CEO is going to start paying a dividend with its profits instead of plowing money back into research & development for new models with longer battery lives? Of course not! It would be absolutely pathetic if Elon Musk could not beat a 3% return on its capital. Tesla Motors is up 500% since going public in mid 2010 and now Elon is a billionaire.

Lets look at a telecom company like AT&T (T) which has the largest wireless network in America. Mobile phone penetration is over 85% in America according to Pew Research, and AT&T has the largest subscriber base in the industry. The opportunity for accelerated growth is low, but the cash flow generation is high since AT&T is like a utility. As a result of strong cash flow and no better investment alternatives, AT&T pays a fat dividend of $1.80/share, equivalent to a 5% dividend yield with the stock at $35. Since the 2009 bottom, AT&T has risen 50%, UNDERPERFORMING the S&P 500′s 140% rise.

Tesla vs. AT&T Over Two Years

Tesla vs. AT&T Over Two Years

Just look at the comparison between Tesla Motor’s share price in blue and AT&T’s share price in green and there is no comparison. A $10,000 investment in Tesla in 2010 is now worth close to $50,000. A $10,000 investment in AT&T is 2010 is now worth $10,300, a terrible 3% return. But wait you say! If we add on the average dividend payment of 4% for the two years, we’ve got about a 11% total return in AT&T vs. a 500% return for Tesla.

Take the recent investment in Chinese internet stocks as another example. It would take three years of 3% dividend collecting to achieve the 10% return in one month assuming the stocks don’t grow. For VCSY, it would take 1,666 years to match the unicorn! Now of course the dividend stocks should also grow in a growing market, but so should growth stocks so we can effectively cancel the two out.

EVERY COMPANY HAS A LIFE CYCLE SO BEWARE

One of the greatest growth stocks in history was Microsoft (MSFT). But as you can see from the chart below, Microsoft hasn’t moved much since 2003. If you were a young lad who decided to buy dividend stocks in the 1980s instead of Microsoft while you had a chance, you’d be kicking yourself 20 years later. Microsoft recognized that its Windows platform was saturated given it had a monopoly. Meanwhile, PC growth was stalling out so only then did they start paying a dividend in January 2003.

As a dividend stock, Microsoft is not bad with a ~2.8% dividend yield. They clearly have tons of cash on the balance sheet and a very sticky recurring business model. The problem is that with a company so big, it’s hard to grow faster than the market anymore. The same problem plagues Apple.

Historical chart of Microsoft

Historical chart of Microsoft

What’s scary is that many companies have very short life cycles. How many companies did we know 10 years ago which are no longer around today due to competition, failure to innovate, and massive disruptions in its business? Tower Records, WorldCom, Circuit City, American Home Mortgage, Enron, Lehman Brothers, ATA Airlines, The Sharper Image, Washington Mutual, Ziff Davis, Hostess Brands and Hollywood Video are all gone! This is why you cannot blatantly buy and hold forever. You’ve got to stay on top of your investments at least once a quarter.

DIVIDEND INVESTORS SHOULD WORRY ABOUT RISING INTEREST RATES

Over the last several months US Treasury bonds have collapsed with the 10-year yield skyrocketing to 2.25%. We are now at 12 month highs and a 50% bounce from the bottom. If you believe interest rates are slowly going to rise as the Federal Reserve starts tapering off its quantitative easing, dividend yielding stocks and REITs will significantly underperform the broader stock market. Dividend stocks and REITs act much like bonds in this scenario.

I personally don’t think the 10-year yield is going to 3% within the next 12 months, but just the sceptre of rising rates will cause dividend yielding stocks and REITs to underperform. If the 10-year yield actually goes to 3% from ~2.2% currently, bond investors are going to start losing money. You do not buy REITs and dividend yielding stocks in a rising interest rate environment.

To give you a better understanding of how rising interest rates negatively affect the principal portion of a dividend yielding asset just think about real estate. If 30-year mortgage interest rates suddenly climb from 4% to 6%, there is going to be a serious slowdown in demand for new homes because of affordability reasons. As a result, home appreciation will slow or even decline to get back to supply/demand equilibrium. The same thing will happen to your dividend stocks, but in a much swifter fashion like you see below with Realty Income’s 20% correction over one week. Realty Income is down 2% today vs. 0.95% for the S&P 500.

Of course there are always tactical opportunities in oversold situations. If interest rates ease off a bit, all these REITs that are getting blow to bits will have a nice bounce.

REIT Getting Crushed With Rising Interest Rates

Realty Income Getting Crushed With A Rise In Interest Rates

YOU’VE GOT TO BUILD THE NUT FIRST

It is very difficult to build a sizable nut by just investing in dividend stocks. (Read: Build Your Financial Nut So Contributions Matter Less Over Time) The words “dividend growth stock” is almost an oxymoron because the larger your dividend grows the more it means management cannot find better use of its cash. Some people mistakenly take “dividend growth stocks” to mean these are growth stocks with growing dividends. There might be some companies with such qualities, but that is a conflicting statement as we’ve learned above.

Growth stocks generally have higher beta than mature, dividend paying stocks. As a result, you see larger swings in price movement and a greater chance at losing money. But for someone in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s it’s better to go a little farther out on the risk curve for more return because you’ve got more time to make up for any losses.

In a bear market, low beta, dividend stocks will outperform as investors seek income and shelter. Clearly we are not in a bear market yet, but who knows for sure. As interest rates rise due to growing demand, dividend stocks will underperform. They may even get slaughtered depending on what you invest in. You’ve got to decide how defensive and offensive you want to be.

If I think there is an impending pullback, I sell equities completely. I’m not a fund manager looking to outperform a down market by losing less with dividend stocks. I’m an absolute return manager looking to not lose any money, period and so should you. We retail investors have the freedom to invest in whatever we choose. Many funds have limits of 3-5% maximum cash holdings so they are forced to rotate into defensive names.

FINAL POINT: YOU SHOULD ALREADY BE DIVERSIFYING OR DIVERSIFIED

If you read my recommended net worth allocation by age and work experience post, you’ll see that my base case scenario in the second half of our lives is to have roughly a 30%, 30%, 30%, 10% split between stocks, bonds, real estate, and risk free investments like CDs. If you follow such a net worth split, then you already have a healthy amount of assets that are paying you income.

If you decide not to diversify your net worth and go all into dividend stocks, it’s possible to replicate such income, but it will be hard. You’ll also be in for some sleepless nights when the markets turn. The gross rental yield on my main rental property is 8%. Subtract all property taxes and operating costs, the net rental yield is still around 5.5%. Only names like AT&T can come close to matching such a dividend yield, and it’s doubtful AT&T will grow as fast as my San Francisco rental property with a surge of new companies and jobs in the Bay Area.

A lot of young folks are so excited about the initial stage of a portfolio’s growth because each contribution is a good percentage of the portfolio. If you’ve only got a $50,000 portfolio and you add $2,000 a month for a year, you’ll likely have around $70,000-$80,000. A 40%-55% growth in your portfolio is great until you realize it’s your savings contributions that provided most of the growth. Eventually you will hit a wall.

Heavily overweighting dividend stocks is a fine choice for those who have the capital and seek income within the context of a stock portfolio. Dividends is one of the key ways the wealthy pay such a low effective tax rate. But before you deploy a large dividend stock strategy, you’ve got to make your money elsewhere first!

TO RECAP

1) It’s very difficult to build a sizable financial nut with dividend stocks because management is returning cash to shareholders instead of finding better opportunities within the firm to invest.

2) Dividend stocks tend to underperform in a rising interest rate environment. Think what happens to property prices if rates go too high. Demand falls and property prices fall at the margin.

3) If you properly diversify your net worth you will already have a good portion of your net worth producing a steady stream of income through real estate, CDs, and other income producing assets. Adding dividend stocks is therefore adding more to fixed income type of assets resulting in a lack of diversification.

4) Match your investment style with your stage in life. It is backwards to aggressively invest in dividend stocks when you are young when you’ve got little capital. A $100,000 dividend portfolio will only yield around $3,000 in income a year.

5) Dividend stocks are fantastic for older investors who want to generate lower taxed income with potentially lower risk. If you think we are heading into a bear market, losing less with dividend stocks is a good strategy if you want to stay allocated in equities. Rebalancing out of equities may be an even better strategy.

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Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    I think the low-end dividend stocks are not worth it to collect dividends at my age and agree with that. There are, however, many dividend stocks yielding over 10% and the mREIT AGNC, which is yielding over 20% right now is one. PGH and PWE are Canadian energy companies yielding over 10%. Google searching “top yielding dividend stocks” will reveal many others.

    AGNC has a clause by law that as long as it pays 90% of taxable income, excluding unrealized capital gains, to shareholders through dividends, they don’t have to pay income tax (but the shareholders still have to pay the tax on dividends).

    I’ve noticed there is greater volatility with the higher-end yielding dividend stocks and I think they are a steal if you can get in at the right time when they are oversold.

    • says

      I don’t own AGNC, but a significant portion of my portfolio is in the asset manager, American Capital Ltd (ACAS), so I have a lot of exposure to the performance of mREITs.

      I would expect a fairly significant cut to AGNC’s dividend next quarter, probably to the tune of $.90-$1 per quarter instead of the $1.25 it was paying. That cut is already priced in, so I’d expect forward yields to stay in the double digits, but more like 15% instead of 20%. Just a head’s up – it’s not pretty in the mREIT space right now.

    • Anton Ivanov says

      True, but the stocks with such high yields aren’t likely to keep them for long. In fact, it’s probably a cause of concern, since their share price may have recently crashed to cause such high yields. If the price decline was due to short-term market noise – that’s fine, but if there are significant underlying fundamental problems, it’s another story.

      Overall, I agree with the point of view of the article. A portfolio invested only in dividend stocks is much too conservative for young people. But dividend stocks can be viable for diversification as you get older or as you begin to draw income from your portfolio.

      • says

        Dividend stocks and REITs have collapsed due to a real fear that interest rates will begin it’s ascension towards normalization, whatever that level is. I don’t think rates are going too much higher over the next 2 years, but they will eventually go up.

  2. says

    Good explanation of some differences between growth and dividend stocks, much better than a lot of other stuff I’ve read that just looks at charts and not the reasons behind them. I’m curious though, are there any historical examples or potential reasons you can think of that a growth company might choose to pay dividends rather than investing in R&D or something else?

    • says

      Yes. When growth slows and there’s no better investment opportunities. Public companies answer to shareholders. Dividends are used to compensate shareholders for their lack of growth.

      • Dividend Growth Investor says

        There are so many factual errors with your claims, I honestly do not know where to start. I would think that outlining these would take enough space for 1- 2 articles..

        Or maybe your goal is to generate controversy, and get more eyeballs to your site ;-)

        • Dividend Growth Investor says

          I disagree with most of the items you presented in this article. However, I like articles and people that do not agree with me. I learn more from those than those that tell me how awesome I am ( which I am).

          But to spice things up for you, look at Wal-Mart Stores (WMT). WMT has always paid a dividend ever since going public in 1972. It has also managed to raise it every year since then.

          • says

            Sounds great. Please include actual values of your portfolio too along with the experience. Helps highlight the case.

            Dividend Mantra is a good case study/data point of achieving $110,000 through dividend investing by age 31. $110,000 is fine but it has significantly underperformed my growth focused 401k in the similar period.

        • Jacko says

          You have a very narrow view if you can’t see the message that dividend stocks are mature companies with much lower growth that won’t provide outsized returns.

          Do you even have $100,000 in dividend stocks yet at your age? Hope you aren’t some 20-something year old with no formal training, living in the boonies spouting off why your way is the only way to go.

  3. says

    Great insight Sam! I wrote something very similar for later this week about how I am leery of dividend payers right now with the speculation revolving around the Fed and rates. I think they have their place in a well diversified portfolio, but you’re right, the younger you are the more you should be leaning towards those growth stocks. This is, of course, assuming you’re doing you’re due diligence and being wise about what growth stocks you’re going into. Even as I am staring down the big 4-0 I am leaning towards growth stocks as I have a pretty high risk tolerance and have been able to do fairly well with them.

  4. says

    Sam, I respectfully disagree with you on this one, I only consider dividend growth stocks that are growing both revenues and earnings while consisitently increasing their dividends above 5% a year. In many ways I look at my stock investments as owning a piece of property, except the property happens to be the best property on the block. Here is a good example of real “divididend” growth investing: From January 2008 to now a portfolio of these stocks (MA, TROW, SBUX, GWW, UNP, & DIS) had a total return (with dividends reinvested) of close to 160% trouncing the S&P 500 total return (with dividends reinvested) of 27%….all this while paying me “rent” that increase more than 5% per year. Sam, I am not saying it is easy, but in many ways people received more pain in the real estate market than holding these great “properties”.

    Joe

    • says

      Joe, we can basically cherry pick any stock to argue our case. Perhaps we have to better define what a dividend stock is then.

      I’ll definitely disagree with the pain feeling of when people’s portfolios were getting demolished in equities vs. just living in your home and not worrying about the daily price b/c there is no daily price.

      • says

        Sam, the thing is that I didn’t cherry pick it, I have bought and held these holdings during the housing meltdown and financial crisis, in fact I backed up the truck on some of the holdings during 2009, but let’s say you were right about cherry picking, I would ask you is it cherry picking buying companies such as McDonalds, Proctor & Gamble, IBM, or Pepsico (obviously big blue chip that even Grandma would buy) …Sam even these four (as a portfolio) returned better than a 60% return (w div reinvested)…Remember I said quality properties and obviously you must do some homework. Sam, it may have taken me awhile to learn how to find thes type of companies, but I would bet you it is as easy or hard as finding a great appreciating real estate property.

        Sincerely,
        Joe

        • says

          This is great to hear. Again, I am talking a relative game here. Im not saying dividend investing is bad, on the contrary. im saying for younger folks who whave more time, growth is more optimal.

          Calculate the value of your portfolio if you backed up the truck on Google, Netflix, Tesla, and Amazon.

  5. says

    It’s also very easy for any investor to shoot themselves in the foot by missing out on steady returns by constantly trying to find the next Amazon or Apple. For every investor that hitched their wagons to Amazon.com back in the late 90′s there were several others who made big bets on companies such as Pets.com.

    If finding great growth stocks was easy, we’d all be rich. I have to imagine that for most investors their overall stock returns will be greater sticking with dividend stocks than chasing those elusive multi-baggers.

    Not all stocks are created equal, even boring dividend stocks. AT&T may have lagged the S&P500, but my investment in 3M has outperformed the S&P by 21% since I bought it in 3/09.

    I think dividend stocks and growth stocks have a place in everyone’s portfolio, how much of each just depends on a persons individual goals.

    • says

      My point is that if you’re under 40-45 and don’t have much capital, it’s a suboptimal strategy in a rising market to have the majority of your equity portfolio in dividend stocks. What was the absolute dollar value on the 3M return (congrats btw)? Does it move the needle?

      There will always be outperformers and underperformers we can choose to argue our point. If folks are glad to spend the traditional 30+ years investing to get to a meaningful financial nut, then great. But for those who want to seek financial independence sooner, it’s hard for dividend investing to take your there.

      Young folks are confusing their savings contributions to their portfolio rather than their portfolio’s returns. Separate the two to get a better idea.

  6. says

    Couldn’t agree more. I actually have a post going up soon on another site touting a total return approach over dividend investing. Dividend stocks have been getting a lot of play in the news the past few years, which I think is a big reason so many people are focusing on them. But it’s really just an undiversified approach to focusing on the lower-returning piece of stock returns, and a sub-optimal approach to risk management. Even in retirement I wouldn’t focus on dividend payers in particular. If I want to mitigate risk or have more current income, I’d simply shift my allocation more towards bonds.

  7. says

    I am a dividend investor and I agree on the many points you are highlighting and more importantly, diversification is key and it’s different based on your age and goals.

    A 3% return is a good conservative dividend yield at market prices but over time, if you are carefully choosing your dividend investments, you can grow that dividends. Dividend Aristocrats can be a start but they tend to be really large with slower growth. If you do your research, you can still find companies with growth such as KMB but I agree that the LULU, Netflix or Tesla will rarely exist in such a portfolio.

    Dedicate some money for your hail mary. I still believe it’s important you understand what you invest in and do your research. Even for your hail mary.

    • says

      From a dividend investor I appreciate your viewpoint. I actually can’t wait to building the equity portion of my net worth to a big enough number where it alone can generate six figures in dividend income. Combined I’m there, but the competitor in me wants to see if I can do it with just equities.

  8. says

    I will and have gladly given up immediate income (dividend) for growth. I would rather have my stock split and grow vs. dividends which is a little more than bond interest. When I retire, I do plan to increase my allocation of TIPS and dividend paying stocks just to support my withdrawal rate.

    • says

      Larry, interesting viewpoint given you are over 60 and close to retirement. I wonder if I will feel the same way when I’m 60.

      I treat my real estate, CDs, and bonds as my dividend portfolio. So perhaps I will always try and shoot for outsized growth in equities. Thanks for the perspective.

      • says

        Your real estate can be part of a growth strategy, if you do a 1031 exchange for a larger property. My strategy was increasing value (income) and I gave up immediate income. It was partially a tax strategy and wealth building strategy. Capital gains was lower than my ordinary income tax bracket.

  9. Jason says

    I liked this article, mainly because you referred to people 40 and under as “young”. That made my day!

  10. says

    This is wonderful information Sam. I currently have about 85% of my investments in aggressive growth stocks, but I’ve been wondering if I should have a higher stake in dividends. I’ve been going back and forth on the matter, but for now I think you have convinced me to keep putting more money in aggressive growth.

    • says

      Nick, it’s the strategy I used in my 20s and by the time I hit 30, my 401(k) alone was over $250,000. Who knows the future, but more risk more reward and vice versa. It’s easier to take more risks when young. Good luck!

  11. JP says

    Does your analysis include reinvesting the dividends?
    What if you reinvested all the dividends instead of seeing them as “income” (DRIP model)?

  12. says

    Sam,

    I couldn’t disagree more. Total returns are derived from both capital gains and dividends. Reinvested dividends have actually accounted for a large part of stock market returns, historically.

    Per the famed John Bogle:

    “An investment of $10,000 in the S&P 500 Index at its 1926 inception with all dividends reinvested would by the end of September 2007 have grown to approximately $33,100,000 (10.4% compounded). [Using the S&P 90 Stock Index before the 1957 debut of the S&P 500.] If dividends had not been reinvested, the value of that investment would have been just over $1,200,000 (6.1% compounded) – an amazing gap of $32 million. Over the past 81 years, then, reinvested dividend income accounted for approximately 95% of the compound long-term return earned by the companies in the S&P 500.”

    And that’s coming from Bogle himself, the founder of Vanguard..who is obviously not pushing dividend stocks, but rather index investing. And yes you read that right. 95%. Or almost all of the long-term return.

    Sure it’s easy to compare AT&T to Tesla. You have a quasi-utility up against a start-up electric car company. Apples and oranges themselves couldn’t be further apart. Not only that, but if you would have done that comparison just four or five months ago it would actually have been pretty close, which is quite disappointing if you’re a TSLA investor. Speaks to the importance of time periods when comparing stocks. TSLA is up over 141% over the last 3 months. Besides, investors in AT&T aren’t looking to set the world on fire. They’re looking for stable income. And speaking to your 3% number you keep mentioning, AT&T yields 5%. That $500,000 nut then spits out $25,000 in yearly income at that level. Not so bad now.

    Let’s take a look at McDonald’s (a boring snooze-fest of an investment). They cannot grow much because they’re returning so much to shareholders. Or can they?

    MCD over 10 years: up over 366%
    S&P 500 over 10 years: up over 68%.

    And that MCD performance is before reinvested dividends. Which is really at the heart of all of this.

    I’m not investing for “3%”. I’m investing for 3% (or more in many cases) that’s growing by 7-10% or more yearly. That 3% then turns into 3.3%, 3.7%, 4.1%, 4.5% and so on and so forth. And since the market is pricing these stocks at the “3% yield” you mention, the stock price goes up in tandem to price the shares accordingly. That’s why MCD shares aren’t $20 per share yielding 15%.

    Looking beyond “the measly 3%” is important. You’re buying a piece of a high quality business that will grow earnings and send out a portion of those earnings to shareholders, which they can then reinvest back into the business. It’s a wealth compounding machine that almost greases itself.

    But, the less for you means the more for me. And I’m happy to buy them all up! :)

    Best wishes.

    • says

      Jason,

      Good to have you. Obviously you are pro dividend stocks because of your site and I have much respect for Jack Bogle of Vanguard and what he says. I also appreciate your viewpoint.

      Lets just look at the numbers and situation:

      * You are 30-31 and want to retire by 40 with a plan to live off your dividends.

      * Your dividend portfolio is ~$110,000 currently, yielding $3,000-$3,500 a year. You make no mention of a 401(k), so I’m assuming the $110,000 is it and a majority of your net worth. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

      * How do you plan to build your portfolio to a sizable nut within 9-10 years and retire through dividend investing as the main strategy and nothing else? Where do you think your portfolio will be in the next 9-10 years? 5X what you made in the first 9-10 years?

      If you want to put all $500,000 into AT&T stock for a 5% dividend yield, be my guest, but that’s still only $25,000 a year to live when you’re 40 which is probably equivalent to $20,000 or less in today’s dollars. Let’s forget about predicting the future and just look at what’s transpired. Using a growth strategy in my 20s has led to a 401(k) valued around $250,000 by age 30 and this was by saving less every month than you are contributing now b/c of the 401k contribution limits. My 401(k) was also shackled by a limited selection of funds and no growth stocks to specifically pick.

      You’ve got to admit the difference of $150,000 between the growth portfolio and your dividend portfolio at 30-31 is significant. And again, these are just the facts, not predictions which can be molded however way that benefits our argument. I’m confident your strategy of aggressively saving and investing in dividend stocks will payoff over the next 30 years, but I have my doubts that it will provide you enough to retire in 9-10 years at your pace based on history. If you were only able to accumulate $110,000 by 31, it’s difficult to see your portfolio grow 5-10X the pace during the same amount of time. I know everybody believes they are Warren Buffett in a bull market, but it’s best to be more realistic.

      I really fear young people are going to get to their target early retirement age and realize their assumptions were way off and regret their decisions along the way. I really do hope you prove me wrong in 9-10 years and get big portfolio return. I think a better strategy is to make money online writing about dividends so you don’t need to get that big financial nut. $2,000/month is very achievable after a couple years.

      Final point: Compare the net worth of Jack Bogle vs. any of the top 10 hedge fund managers in the world as we are comparing people at the top of the game.

      Regards

      • says

        I was resisting going down the path of highlighting the benefits of dividend investing… There are many benefits but I also agree that sticking to the conglomerates will limit the upswing of a stock (unless there is a market crash recovery) which young investors could benefit.

        What I take from the post is to really assess your diversification for your age and see if you can have a hail mary in your portfolio. Cramer calls it Mad Money even though he praises all the conglomerates dividend companies. If you take a chance with 2% or 5% that can double than there is nothing wrong but you have to be willing to lose it and it takes nerves of steal to not throw more money into it when you get some hail maries.

        I find there are also good growth with many dividend companies as I have a good number in my portfolio that have earned me 50% over the past 3 years. It’s a risk versus reward strategy. I stick to dividends because my downside is limited and I get paid to wait … I won’t elaborate more on my strategy here.

        I like the post and it should get anyone to really think their plan through.

    • says

      Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t your Bogle example showing that capital gains returned 6.1% over that period and dividends returned 4.3% The dividends are certainly important, but the capital gains are the larger part of the return. Saying that 95% of the return came from dividends is very misleading, because you’re counting all of that extra growth to dividends when it’s really just because the combination of the two leads to a bigger overall return. Dividends actually accounted for 41% of the growth, which is certainly significant but also changes the conclusion.

    • Jacko says

      Not sure how you can argue for dividend investing if you only have $110,000 at the age of 31. There’s no way to retire in 9 years at your pace. Just do the math. If $110,000 is your entire net worth then you are definitely underperforming for your goal.

  13. Cory Swartzlander says

    Sam, I agree with your overall assessment for younger individuals. However I don’t think your comparison of Tesla to AT&T is fair or a good one.
    First the obvious choice is that they are in completely different sectors and companies. So compare Tesla to say Ford, GM, or even TATA. Yeah the returns are still not very close but that does show the difference in growth vs stability/dividends. Which is why I agree with your point.
    Second Telsa could very easily fall back down in the next few weeks just as fast as it went up. This is obviously a risk you are taking in a “growth’ stock. Taking Tesla, I personally don’t think Musk(CEO?) will let it fail and will do everything in his power for electric cars to succeed, but we can’t say that about all growth stocks. Some companies in growth phases grow to fast and end up going bankrupt and getting bought up.

    Overall I do agree with your assessment in this article.

    • says

      The Tesla vs T is just an example. The argument is that if you are looking to accelerate your financial freedom, then you’ve got to take more risks. It is a paradox to try and achieve early retirement through dividend investing b/c it is very hard to build a large enough financial nut.

      Folks have to match expectations with reality.

  14. says

    Agree with you- my strategy has been shooting for multibagger stocks early on and later on plan on reinvesting the proceeds in dividend ETFS (VIG And VNQ) to supplement income from other sources. So far I’ve more than doubled my initial investment in the past couple years, much more than the meager returns offered by dividend stocks.

  15. says

    Those are some really helpful charts to visualize your points. Wow Microsoft really leveled off when you look at it like that. I have a good amount of exposure in growth stocks in my 401k that have been treating me pretty well.

  16. says

    I don’t agree with you. Just because a company pays a dividend doesn’t mean there’s no capital gains. Take a look at CVX or MCD – incredible growth over the last 10 years in addition to the dividends.

    I don’t think that dividend investing is the only path to riches. If I was going to move beyond dividend stocks, I would move into value investing as a whole with an eye towards total returns. I’m not going to buy anything unless the underlying business fundamentals suggest that it’s a solid investment.

    Maybe it’s a difference in personality, but I see your approach as illustrated by your examples (Tesla and Chinese internet stocks) to be far too speculative for my tastes. Tesla hasn’t had a quarter of positive earnings since it went public. I want to invest in businesses with a proven track record of success, not the hope of future success, maybe, if they don’t go bankrupt first.

    Your VCSY returns were amazing, but even by your own admission it was luck. There weren’t any fundamentals underlying your decision. You just picked something you thought would be hot and got lucky. And more importantly, you were smart enough to sell before the bubble burst.

    • says

      I didn’t say there are no capital gains with dividend stocks. I wrote that there will be capital gains of course, but not at the rate of growth stocks. Everything is relative and the pace of growth will not be as quick in a bull market.

      Dividend stocks are great. It’s not optimal for those who are trying to reach financial independence at a quicker pace. The question is, which is the next MCD?

  17. says

    A dividend growth stock investment strategy attempts to find companies that are already experiencing high growth and are expected to continue to do so into the foreseeable future.

  18. nbsdmp says

    Sam, I understand the premise and agree your risk curve should be higher when younger, but do you suggest to buy specific targeted mutual funds or to do the research yourself and pick individual stocks? I tried picking stocks a long time ago, but the more I learned about how businesses operate it became increasingly obvious I had no clue what I was doing. It always amazes me that a so-so public company can trade at 15 times earnings and people will sink a ton of cash into a single stock (I understand the whole liquidity aspect)…but small profitable good companies can be purchased for 4.0 – 5.5 times earnings. Your point about Enron, Tower, Hollywood, etc. really hits home & that’s why most of my free cash flow (since my nut is covered already) goes towards buying stuff you can touch & see like real companies or real estate.

    • says

      There are a couple premises:

      1) A growth strategy, be it in growth strategy funds, index funds, or stocks are worth the risk while you are younger and can stomach more risk.

      2) It’s worth putting in the effort to care more about your investments than anything else, instead of just setting it and forgetting it. Don’t mindlessly “invest” in stocks or funds without understanding what you are investing in. Empower ourselves with knowledge. We spend more time trying to save money on goods and services than investing it seems.

  19. says

    To me a core of dividend growth stocks needs to be established or at least contributed to along with growth stocks. The problem with growth stocks is knowing when to get out because when the markets turn they’re going to get beat down much harder and since a lot are running on shakier financial grounds the chances for a 100% loss is higher. I don’t think I’ll go broke owning Coke. The long-term compounding can do wonders for a portfolio.

    I still think an allocation to growth stocks is important for any investor, but more so for the younger ones. If you’re going to go with individual stocks then you need to keep a much more watchful eye on the companies. Considering a lot of people barely save as it is, blindly throwing what little you do have towards growth stocks expecting to hit 500% plus returns all the time is foolish. You need to have a solid plan in place for when to take profits and how much loss is enough to force you to cut and run.

    • says

      Hopefully the FS community here has gone beyond the core fundamental of aggressive savings in order to achieve financial independence. If not, maybe I need to post a reminder to save, just in case.

      I like your “not going broke with Coke” comment. It’s a defensive strategy which plays not to lose. Again, perfect for risk averse people in later stages of their lives. I treated my 20s and early 30s as a time for great offense. A go for broke, play to win strategy. I have lost money many times, but I’ve also found great returns with this mindset.

      Eventually we will all probably lose the desire to take on risk. I encourage younger folks to take full advantage of their youth because we’ll get old before we know it.

      • says

        How do you feel about small/mid-cap index or growth mutual funds over individual stocks? Personally I don’t know how to value a pure growth stock because you’re essentially hoping that (1) either someone will come along and pay a higher price or (2) the large number of variables that needs to hit just right all will allowing the company to become hugely successful. Just wondering what kind of exit strategy do you have for pure growth stocks? If it doubles, take out your basis and play with house money or trim the position every certain % higher? The potential for higher rewards in a quicker time span is there, but that’s if you can avoid the losers and get out with your profit. With KO, PG, JNJ…I don’t have to worry about going sleep and wondering if their value will be cut by 50% the next morning, a company like TSLA though it could easily happen.

  20. snodude says

    My strategy is to build the nut with private business and look to convert that to passive income via dividend stocks later in life. There is no greater way to achieve wealth than by private business, they can be bought at lower multiples and there is not a need to have percieved value to realize gains like stocks. Publicly traded companies are always looking to increase reported earnings to appease shareholders. Private companies look for areas to “hide” earnings to lower tax rates I.e. bonus depreciation, cash basis accounting.
    Great site!

  21. K says

    Thank you so much for posting this!!!!

    You just answered a large chunk of questions I had the other day

    Now I still want to know if you think it’s too late to get in on Tesla? Do you think there is still more upside there? If I had a chunk of change to put into a potential multi-bagger today would it be a good idea to put it into Tesla?

      • K says

        Thanks! Now I can divert my attention elsewhere lol
        I have my eyes peeled for the next and I’m finding it utterly difficult to focus at work while I research stocks/companies!

  22. Chris M. says

    I am new to managing my own money and just LOVE your blog! You explain everything in layman’s terms! What do you advise in terms of TIPS since inflation is inevitable with the flow of money in the economy? I love this article about dividend paying companies- makes sense. Keep up the great work and all the research you do!

    • says

      Welcome to my site Chris! Always good to hear from new readers. Make sure to sign up on the top right corner via RSS or E-mail.

      TIPS is definitely a great way to hedge against inflation. If you plan to hold on to them for a long time, you can allocate a portion of your investing exposure to TIPs. I just don’t think there is that much value in bonds at all, and the only reason why I would buy bonds is for tactical hedges (instead of shorting this crazy market).

  23. John says

    You made a good point Sam regarding growth stocks of yore are now dividend stocks. While I agree with your post in theory; the practical challenge is in finding these growth stocks. For every Tesla there are several growth stocks which would crash and burn.

    Isn’t it better to invest in the index and the ride it out. I’ve lost a ton of money in trying to find these elusive growth stocks consistently.

    • says

      I’m an advocate of allocating the majority of your exposure to whatever index you choose. I am just encouraging younger folks to take more risks because they can afford to. Focusing on dividend stocks and bonds in your 20s and 30s is suboptimal. Yes your companies have less of a chance of getting crushed, but the upside is also less as well.

  24. says

    I’m planning to start investing after I turn 18 and this post really taught me a valuable lesson when it comes to investing in stocks, specifically whether to invest on growth or dividend stocks. I will surely consider buying growth stocks than dividend ones. Thanks!

    • says

      Mark, just remember, RISK and REWARD. There’s very few cases where there is a lot of reward with little risk. You can and WILL lose money. Investing is a lot of learning by fire. But if you never get up and swing, you will never hit a homerun.

  25. says

    Sam, while I agree with your general comment that the capital returns on larger dividend stocks are likely not as significant as growth stocks, an investor can easily make a total return of 10% plus consistently by buying these stocks steadily overtime with minimal stress. In my view, this is very important when you are a young investor. Steady returns at minimal risk. Growth stocks are high beta, when they fall they fall hard. Its like riding a roller coaster. Give me a McDonalds any day over a Tesla.
    The best of both worlds are small/mid caps stocks that pay dividends. Thats really my sweet spot. I get close to $9k of my total $27k in annual dividends from this group of payers. They give me capital growth and income growth of close to 20-30% per year. Probably $200k of my cash is tied up in these companies. Unfortunately exposure to these types of stocks isn’t readily available in the US market, they’re plentiful down under though!

    • says

      Howdy Mate,

      I think we just have a different view of risk as i disagree with your statement “Very important when you are a young investor. Steady returns at minimal risk.” Chances are that one will never be able to achieve a big enough financial nut through growth stocks. But I can assure you that chances are practically zero a dividend investor will ever find the next Google, Apple, Tesla, Netflix, Microsoft etc because these stocks never focused on dividends during their growth phase.

      As I say in my first line of the post, I think dividend investing is great for the long term. It’s just suboptimal for younger investors who are looking to achieve financial freedom sooner. A 10% total return is nice, but if the financial nut is small it doesn’t move the needle. Your $27,000 a year is great after a nice bull market, but what is the inflation rate, risk free rate, and the past several years of broader market returns in Australia? We need to compare apples to apples. Where else is your capital invested is another important matter beyond the 200k.

      Best, Sam

  26. LaQuinta Growth says

    I thoroughly agree with you on investing in growth stocks and looking for higher reward names while you are younger.

    It’s perplexing to hear investors under 30 or even under 40 predominantly focus on dividend stocks if they wish to retire early. One guy I know is 29 years old and is a dividend investor with only a $90,000 portfolio. He says he wants to retire by 45 at the latest and there’s just no way if all he could amass is $90K after 7 years. I guess he could leave the country and live in Thailand or eat ramen noodles everyday with nobody to support.

    Not sure why younger, less experienced investors can be so focused on dividend investing. Maybe because it is so easy and their knowledge is limited?

  27. Jacko says

    You make an excellent point about dividend stocks being mature companies with slower growth and therefore dividend payouts to shareholders. Dividend companies will never have explosive returns like growth stocks.

    Younger investors investing for a 3-4% dividend yield are misallocating resources and their portfolio amounts after 5, 10, 15 years shows this. Dividend investing is easy because there’s less risk and all the names like Coke and Walmart are out there. Doesn’t take mug analysis or brain power so you can’t fault younger investors for just sticking with this strategy.

    No hedge fund billionaire gets rich investing in dividend stocks.

  28. Jon says

    I do think there is something to be said about taking additional risk when you are younger, but I think proper diversification is critical. I don’t put all of my eggs in any one basket nor strategy. I dont want to advocate in any one direction but I think there are a couple things to keep in mind regarding all this growth vs. income bologna:

    1.) You are flat out wrong if you believe a 25-30 year old investor who makes monthly contributions to a boring dividend portfolio will struggle to reach financial independence by retirement. Run the numbers on $2,000 a month with a 4% starting yield, 7-8% annual dividend growth and a measly 5% share price growth for 20 years and tell me what you come up with? I’ll give you a hint its $1.6MM and the portfolio is spitting off $100,000/year without ever selling a share. And you may not even be 50 years old yet. If you have a shorter time horizon or you want to live your life like a Lil’ Wayne music video, the whole thing is more difficult. But as anyone knows, time is your most valuable asset. Since we have a hard time with basic math lets use Laquinta Growth’s friend as a working example. $90,000 by 29 is nothing to sneeze at. Again, if total contributions are $2,000/mo with a 4% average dividend yield, 8% average dividend growth, and 5% price appreciation by age 45 his buddy will have a $1.3MM portfolio and it will be paying $75,000 in dividends. I dont know what part of the world you all live in but that is already substantially higher than the average household income.
    2.) I am going to go out on a limb and say maybe 5% of the people reading this blog will ever actually pick “a 10-bagger”. I thought at this point it’s pretty much proven that trying to go out and pick high flying stocks or a 100% aggressive growth strategy flat out doesnt work. Over the long term, dividends have been critical to total return. From the end of 1929 through March 2012, reinvested dividends provided almost half of the S&P 500 Index’s total return, or a 9.4% annualized return versus a 5.2% return for price appreciation alone. If anyone wants to bet that they are going to consistantly destroy the S&P over the next 20-years and wants to put their naive money where there mouth is come find me.
    3.) “No hedge fund billionaire gets rich investing in dividend stocks” – this is the most rediculous and erroneous comment. A wise man once said “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.” He doesnt run a “totally awesome hedge fund” but guess what, he did alright with lame slow growth dividend stocks didnt he?

    I invest all over the place; growth stocks, dividend stocks, “evil over priced bonds”(heaven forbid!), REIT’s, etc. There are merits to all strategies, and I think the overall missing ingredient is someone’s dedication to their chosen strategy. You go after something with 100% conviction in anything in life you’ll be successful. The problem people have is staying the course and remaining committed. Stay thirsty my friends….

    • says

      Jon, feel free to share your finances and your age.

      I write this post based off my own experience where I’ve developed a financial nut that generates over $100,000 a year in passive income now, which does include dividends before the age of 35. I couldn’t have gotten there if I didn’t invest in growth stocks over the past 13 years.

      Please provide your story so we can understand perspective. I’ve found that there is a dividend investing bubble with so many people who are not financially independent pontificating why dividend investing is the greatest strategy on earth. I do like the strategy. I just don’t think it’s going to help those who want to reach financial independence before the traditional retirement age.

      • Jon says

        Samurai -

        I can’t disagree with you that if you are trying to be financially free by 35 you are going to have to get way more creative with how you approach your investing strategy. If you are already generating $100,000 a year passively I commend you for reaching such a feet. Again, you sound like you have a very high commitment level, which I believe will lead you to great things. Unfortunately your story is the exception, not the norm. I am in no way advocating being “normal”, in fact most of the readers here are probably far from it. This is great, but the long stick of reality is a tough one when we’re talking extreme early retirement. This isn’t to discourage anyone, but realistically if you are trying to retire in 10-years it doesn’t matter if your annual returns are 10% or 50%. You’ll need aggressive measures.

        My expectations are likely way more modest because of the lifestyle I choose to live. I didn’t start my career until I was 24 and worked your typical office job that everyone hates. I am 30 now, and I’ve very gradually had to move my way up. My household income is probably more than most ($200k+) but I also spend my fair share trying to keep some semblance of balance. I save what I want, but I most certainly could do more. I am well aware of my shortcomings and things don’t happen overnight. Total readily investable assets are probably in the neighborhood of $350k. Could I get lucky and double down on the next Apple or LinkedIn? I could…and I’m young so if things go sideways I could always start over.

        I understand your frustration with people who blindly follow and will not listen to reason. Dividend investing isn’t the greatest thing ever invented. It’s simply 1 of many tools you may want to have in your bag to make things work. As I mentioned in my first post I wouldn’t ever advocate putting 100% of your savings into anything. Real estate developers are notorious for this. But when incorporated appropriately can be another very powerful income generating tool.

        Again, congrats on the success, keep it up. I just don’t want people to avoid one particular approach all together because they are only looking 5-feet in front of them.

        • says

          Thanks for sharing Jon.

          What it boils down to is risk, reward. You can reach early financial independence without taking risk. So if one is saying in going to retire early and live well of dividend investing, it’s probably not going to happen.

          It’s probably not going to happen blindly swinging for the fences either. But, at least there is a chance. It gets harder to take risks once you’ve built a financial but it are too old to want to start over.

          Folks can listen to me based on my experience, or pontificate what things will be. All is good ether way!

  29. Shobir | Find Some Money says

    There are some great examples here. Is there any way to hedge the dividend payments? I’ve not done a lot of research into this however I was thinking about buying the dividend stock and then selling a call option, if the stock did rise then the call option would rise in value and I would make a loss but still get a dividend payment. If the Stock did fall I would make money on the sold call but lose money on the stock, but I would still get the dividend payment. Has Anyone tried a strategy like this? Does one exist?

    Interesting article, thanks.

  30. Charles | Loans for People on Benefits says

    High dividend is important but it comes at a risk, I was been holding Pitney Bowes for a while and managed to receive over 10% for an extended period of time, I was able to escape before they cut their dividends and stock plunged. I guess the moral is you need to strike a balance between growth and dividend otherwise you’ll get into trouble eventually. This is a great post, thanks for sharing, really detailed and concise.

  31. Eric says

    Interesting article for a young investor like myself. I’ve started out mainly investing in established dividend paying companies like AT&T and Altria, thinking that they will be around for a long time and I can set my positions to DRIP and forget about them.

    I’ve been reading a lot of the classic value investing Graham/Buffet stuff and was wondering what are the best ways to tell apart a highly speculative stock like Tesla, from a legitimate growth investment opportunity?

    Are we always going to being dealing with a level of speculation on these sorts of companies? Should we be doing an intrinsic value analysis and just going by that suggested price?

    Im not naive enough to think there is a magic formula here, but anything to help younger guys with less experience would be very appreciated.

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