Here’s food for thought about what’s been fair game for ardent fans and passionate detractors alike: Buy the dividend to get the stock.
For at least one wholehearted devotee, it’s the basis of an all-weather investing philosophy that captures a “double miracle” of compounding, makes volatility “your friend” and is, all in all, the smartest way to gain equity return. So argues dividend-growth investing expert David Bahnsen in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
What Bahnsen, 45, founder and managing partner of The Bahnsen Group, craves most about dividend-growth investing is the ability to meet clients’ cash-flow needs now and into the future.
Dividend growers are especially advantageous for accumulating and distributing retirement income: The investments are a hedge against inflation, mitigate risk, outperform the market with less volatility and perform well in periods of market distress, the FA maintains.
In his new book, “The Case for Dividend Growth: Investing in a Post-Crisis World” (Post Hill Press-April 2019), Bahnsen, named by Barron’s, Forbes and The Financial Times a top U.S. financial advisor, presents a compelling guide to everything you always wanted to know about dividend-growth investing — plus everything else.
The approach is focused on discerning those companies with a defensive business model and free cash flow that grow through profits and consistently grow the dividend they pay to shareholders. Such shining examples Bahnsen sites include McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Walmart.
In the interview, the advisor, whose firm manages $1.6 billion of clients’ assets, distinguishes between mere dividend payers and dividend growers. Further, he reveals the biggest positions of dividend-growing stocks in his firm’s portfolio.
The chief investment officer looks for stocks that have demonstrated dividend growth of 5% or more for at least the last five years.
In the interview, he makes a persuasive case for advisors to look into dividend-growth investing, or what he calls his “worldview,” because, he contends, it provides plenty of upside, companies with a defensive balance sheet and generates tax-efficient income with a better defensive downside approach.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Bahnsen, whose firm, registered with HighTower Advisors, is located in Newport Beach, Caifornia, and New York City. The FA, who was previously with Morgan Stanley and UBS Financial Services, was speaking by phone from his Midtown Manhattan office. He is a frequent speaker on a range of topics, among them, “economics and liberty” and “Christians in the marketplace.” In the interview, he explained how dividend-growth investing is not just a strategy but rather, a philosophy; and he did not hesitate to underscore that being good at it “takes work.”
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: Is investing in dividend-growing stocks appropriate for retirement planning?
DAVID BAHNSEN: They’re fantastic both for people in retirement and for those who won’t retire for 30 years. They’re a great way to acquire capital that will be a future source of income, and they’re also a great way to protect income in retirement. Last December the market dropped 14% from peak to trough. But dividend-growth payers, like Verizon, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Merck and Coca-Cola were down 4%, not 14%.
What’s the key difference between dividend growers and dividend payers?
Dividend growers are characterized by the consistent and repeatable growth of the income they’re generating, whereas a mere dividend payer doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the company’s commitment to growth. There’s a third category too: high-yield dividend stocks. They’re dividend growers that pay a very high dividend, but they’re often future dividend cutters and not in a financial position to grow the dividend.
Why are dividend-growing stocks good to own during periods of market volatility?
They mitigate risk because you’re investing in strong companies with defensive characteristics. The price volatility that scares so many investors is muted relative to overall market volatility. Also, they benefit investors who are accumulating because the dividends are reinvested at lower prices.
Volatility becomes your friend: You get built-in compounding. With a dividend, you get compounding on the stock price and compounding on the extra shares at lower prices that you’re picking up from the dividend. You want some of these dividends paying out at lower prices. It lowers your cost of ownership over time.
Is investing in dividend growers more popular now?
Yes, but not in the right way: A lot of people talk about dividends because interest rates have been so darn low for so long, and they view it as just a way to beef up income. But this is an all-weather philosophy: I don’t believe in dividend growth because the Fed has interest rates low. I believe in dividend growth all the time, even in a higher rate environment.
What’s your central argument about dividend-growing stocks?
I’m [rejecting] the idea that they inherently underperform because they pay a dividend and are [therefore] less attractive, more boring, less growthy. The fact is that the dividend growers have substantially outperformed the entire market and have done so with significantly less volatility. The longer window you give yourself, the truer that is.
Why have these stocks been such good performers?