Posts Tagged 'retirement'

It Really is All About Dividends

All was not lost in 2018, if you had the proper plan.

2018 was brutal. 10% up and 10% down in the spring followed by an upward trending summer and early fall. Then Bam! The third quarter set near term records, and not in the right direction, culminating in a 15% drop in a month. What happened Santa?

Suddenly all the new market geniuses created since the election weren’t so smart after all. Simple trend followers were forced to consider that things like earnings and valuations really do matter.

Worse, everything was down. Every S&P 500 sector was negative. Bonds were negative. With seemingly no place to hide, what is an investor to do?

I recently had a conversation with a client that is going to retire this summer. Their concern was that they couldn’t afford the portfolio loss right before retirement. My response was that even with a loss on their net worth, the income, the dividends paid by their portfolio actually increased substantially in 2018. An investor will not go broke if they can live off their dividends and income.

But that is theory. How did it actually work? I did a quick analysis for this client. He owns 24 stocks, with about 30% of the account value in a money market – opportunity money. As the markets decline yields increase, so I have the cash to pick up higher-yielding quality investments later at lower prices to increase his income. Of the 24 stocks held 21 increased their dividend payout in 2018 over their 2017 payout. Two lowered their dividend and one kept it the same. Pretty good batting average. The average unweighted increase in dividends was 11.87%. Meaning the 11.87% assumes equal weighting of all holdings. Since his portfolio is not equally weighted he saw an increase proportional to his holdings, his change in income could have been more or less than 11.87%. So let’s just say +/- 10% on the year. That is a pretty good gain in income anyway you slice it.

This why I always talk about having a plan and sticking to it. Plans may not be needed in raging bull markets, but they are the key to survival in bear markets. Our plan looks something like this: Identify high-quality dividend-paying stocks; Identify those selling for under intrinsic value; Identify those with substantial free cash flow to enable them to increase their dividends annually. Part II is to follow our defined macro signals to raise cash as a market declines to create a war chest for buying more at better prices.

If you don’t have a plan, if you don’t know where your retirement income will come from, feel free to give me a call or drop me an email. We’ll show you how to navigate these markets without having to dust off the resume in retirement.

Happy New Years, and Wishes for Good Returns in 2019!

Bill DeShurko Ofc: 937-434-1790 or

Mr. DeShurko is a registered representative of Ceros Financial Services, Inc, (Member FINRA/SIPC). Ceros is not affiliated with 401 Advisor, LLC or Fund Trader Pro. The views expressed are those of Mr. DeShurko and do not necessarily reflect those of Ceros Financial Services, Inc., its employees or affiliates.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results. 
All investing involves risk.


Dividend Investing

US News Logo


401 Advisor, LLC specializes in building client portfolios using dividend paying stocks due to their long term history of providing superior returns over non dividend payers. I recently contributed to an article posted by U S News on their web site. The article highlights warning signs that a stock may be cutting their dividend in the future.

Don’t Rule Out Bonds for Income

I recently posted an column at: titled: “Why Individual Bonds Remain Very Attractive” While investors are bailing from bond mutual funds – a wise move,  individual bonds do offer protections against rising interest rates not found in bond mutual funds.

 My overall prediction is that rates cannot go up dramatically. With every 1% increase in interest rates, the added amount the government must pay to just pay the added interest cost on the Federal debt, increases by about $180 billion. For perspective, the “sequestration”, the mandated cuts put into place that get the blame for everything bad in the economy, only cut spending by $42 billion (and prevented another $43 billion of spending increases). Simply put, the government and the Federal Reserve have a lot at stake to keep interest rates relatively low for a very long time. That said, a ½% increase across the board seems likely – but only if the economy continues in a positive direction. I think this is a big “if”.

The short version of the MarketWatch article is that many investors think that a bond’s value is fixed, and that they are stuck holding a bond to maturity. The reality is that a bond’s value will naturally increase in value through the first half of its life. This allows a bond investor to sell their bonds at a profit after a short holding period. If rates don’t increase. But even if rates rise, a bond will likely return to its par value several years before its actual maturity date.

 For example I was recently quoted an Ohio municipal 10 year bond, Aa2 rated and insured, a ten year maturity, and a 3.655% yield to maturity. That is a federal and state tax free interest rate. If interest rates do go up ½%, the face value of the bond will drop below purchase price for the first 3 ½ years or so. But by year 5 the bond should be back to what an investor would pay for it today. So in effect, your 10 year bond has come a 5 year bond – paying 3.655% tax free. That is a pretty good deal.

If you own bonds and want to know when an optimum time would be to sell them, contact my office and we will run the analysis for you. If you need more income, or just want to diversify but don’t know where to go, give us a call and we can explain what bonds can do for you, even at a time when everyone is cashing in on their bond funds.

Caution is Warranted Despite Winning Streak

The Fed-inspired rally continues, however caution is warranted.

 This might be a time to recall the Wall St. adage, “It’s not what you make, but what you keep”. For some time now the only real economic positive (to the stock market) has been the continued monetary policy (QE III) of the Federal Reserve. Low rates have forced many investors out of the safety of CD’s and bonds and into riskier stocks in search of return. Trouble is that policy has only ½ worked.

According to an article at, the smart money has been net sellers this year, while the retail (individual investor) has been the buyer. In other words, what Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s (BAML) big clients have been selling, their brokers have been finding buyers among their individual clients. Anyone a client of BAML and gotten a call this year about what a great deal stocks are? Next time you might want to ask why all the big guys are selling if stocks are such a great buy!

 Here’s a piece of the story. And a link to more:

So far in 2013, BAML’s retail clients have put $7.37 billion into equities, while big institutions have taken $10.69 billion out of the stock market, and hedge fund clients have reduced their holdings of the asset class by $423 million. 

Read more


My Take

I’ve felt for some time that we are just along for the ride. There just aren’t solid fundamentals to justify this year’s gains, let alone a continued rally. However, all year, the “story” has been that the economy and corporate earnings will accelerate into the end of the year and continue through 2014. We have just started 2nd Quarter earnings reports, and along with actual earnings we will hear about outlooks for 3rd Quarter and beyond. This “guidance” hasn’t been great, but we are still early.

The question will be, if the earnings outlook is gloomy, can the Fed’s reassurances that ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) and a continuation of QE III be enough to keep the market afloat and bring back some of the “big” money?

My advice is to have a plan, and stay nimble.

Why We Use Dividend Paying Stocks for Income

At 401 Advisor, LLC one of our three investment strategies for our client assets is a model that primarily uses dividend paying stocks to produce cash flow. Dividends can be paid out to clients for income, or reinvested to provide portfolio growth through the purchase of additional shares.

The one disadvantage of choosing a strategy that narrows the investment options (only stocks that pay dividends in this case), is that different subsets of the overall market will both outperform and underperform the entire market for different periods. From the beginning of May through the end of June was one of those periods of underperformance for dividend paying stocks. Not only did we see underperformance, but we also saw uncharacteristic volatility. I wrote about this on my post on June 21, “Market Comment“.

This is when having a strategy that fits your investment goal is important. Matching strategy to objective allows us to focus on what is most important to our clients. In this case, income and preferably rising income.

 I looked at 17 of our portfolios’ top holdings. While this would not necessarily represent any individual’s portfolio, every one of our Dividend and Growth Opportunity strategy investors will hold several of these stocks. For the averages I just used a simple average and looked at stocks only, none of the ETF holdings.

I first looked at each holding’s price performance from May 1, 2013 open through the close on June 21st. I then looked at the first dividend paid in 2013 and the most recent and annualized the two to look at the difference.

Taking a simple average the “portfolio” has a year to date price gain of 4.17%, but a loss of 4.67% from May 1 through June 21. For an investor on January 2nd, the portfolio yield would have annualized to 4.57% for the year based on first quarter dividend payments. But based on the most recent dividend payments, the annualized yield would be 4.69%, a raise of 2.56% (annualized to 5.12%). Plus dividend stalwarts McDonalds and Verizon  typically raise dividends in the third quarter. With official inflation running at about 1.5% our income investors have received a nice raise in return for the volatility we’ve seen this year. In fact our largest loser in the portfolio, UHT has actually increased its dividend from $0.62 per share to $0.625 per share. Relatively small, but showing that a yield increase is not dependant on price appreciation.

For a retiree especially, income and income growth are their typical primary investment objectives. Well chosen stocks, based on free cash flow analysis, will continue to pay, and as we’ve seen actually increase dividend payouts, even in declining markets.

Despite recent weakness and some continuing uncertainty over rising interest rates, a focus on dividends is a long term profitable strategy. Below is a graph from Ned Davis research that shows that dividend paying stocks, and specifically stocks that increase their dividends outperform the overall market.



Top Dividend Picks for Retirees – 2013

I am of the firm belief that the only way for a retiree to invest with an anticipation of receiving a life-time income from their investments is to buy dividend paying stocks. Ideally, big blue chip stocks with not only a history of paying dividends, but of increasing their payouts as well. We know the names; IBM, P&G, Coke a Cola (KO), Exxon… Unfortunately, many retirees having seen incomes frozen for a decade and portfolios ravaged by two bear markets, find that the 2%-3% dividend yields offered by these companies is just too little to pay today’s bills and enjoy even a modest retirement. To accommodate retirees with higher income needs I try and mix in a combination of the tried and true blue chips with a few “high yielders” to bring up the overall portfolio yield. I define “High Yielders” in today’s market place as stocks with a minimum of a 5% yield (more than double the S&P 500) and still hope to stretch that into the 7%+ range without adding too much risk.
So with that in mind here are two of my top picks, one in each category for 2013.

McDonald’s (MCD)
When looking for sustainable and increasing future dividends stodgy and boring, and needed is a very good thing. While food in general is a need, some might question the “need” behind a Big Mac. But ask any working single mom, and “Kid’s Meals” is on the need list. While third quarter 2012 saw an uncharacteristic slow down in earnings, for retirees we are looking at cash flow. Even with a drop in share price over 17% at its lowest, MCD announced an increase in their quarterly dividend in November from $.70/share to $.77/share. This marked the 36th consecutive year of increasing their payout.
Fundamentally MCD is an all weather stock. In poor economic times harried workers “downsize” their eating out bills by going from the mid-tier Applebee’s and Olive Gardens to McDonalds. Also expect more competition for Starbucks as MCD develops their “Café” identity. MCD has a strong international presence for growth in developing markets, and offers a currency hedge to the dollar.
Their payout ratio is modest at 52%, P/E at the market level at 15.35 for 2013, and modest growth expectations in the high single digits for 2013. MCD is a solid 3.47% yielder providing income stability and a likely raise well into the future.

SeaDrill Limited
While SeaDrill Limited (SDRL) provides a wild ride (Beta 1.97) it can be worth it for the investor needing a little extra juice in their dividend payouts as SDRL has a current yield of 9.21%.
SDRL is in a solid and growing business. They provide deep water and submersible rig platforms for oil and gas drilling and exploration. Their largest division “Floaters” are fully leased for 2013.
Of course no company sports a (%+ yield without their being question marks. For SDRL there are two major market concerns. The first is debt. Simply put SDRL is considered a “highly leveraged” company.
This is fine as long as cash flow can support the debt. Recently SDRL’s stock took a tumble when they agreed to sell their tender rigs division. While accounting for a small portion of cash flow, any disruption is seen as a concern. However, SDRL also announced that they plan on using the proceeds to invest in more floaters – a higher revenue source per rig, and as mentioned above, their current inventory is fully leased. Bottom line, by the end of 2013 revenues should be up, not down without an increase in debt.
Market concern two is that SDRL paid two dividends in December 2012. Their normal December dividend and a prepayment of the March 2013 dividend. For new investors, if SDRL maintains their 2012 payouts, this would mean a yield of about 6.14% vs. the reported yield of 9.21%. However with a projected P/E of 11.61 for 2013, and earnings growth potential, I see SDRL as a way to boost income in a very solid industry and a very solid capital gain potential as new rig development and leasing accrues revenue to their earnings.

Web Talk Radio Interview

I  was recently interviewed by Robert Margetic of Web Talk Radio for a piece on “The New Retirement – Its Your Attitude” The segment discusses new thinking that retirees must adapt to for a successful financial retirement.

Why I’m Worried

Over the last week I have done a major revamp of our managed portfolios. In our ETF Seasonal Growth Strategy I’ve rotated into low beta and low volatility ETF’s. In our Dividend Income strategies I’ve replaced several higher beta holdings with lower beta, lower P/E, and unfortunately lower yielding stocks and ETF’s. Our models also signaled a sell of JNK, the SPDR High Yield Bond Index ETF, which increased our cash position by 20%. Here’s what I’m looking at:

  1. Seasonality. Any fundamental investor, and probably most technical investors seem to minimize the history of “Sell in May, and buy in November” as a legit trading strategy despite historical evidence showing significant risk reduction by following the strategy. While results are not consistent, what the data does show is that most of histories large drops have come between May and November. I don’t like big drops, so I’m cautious, and nervous.
  2. The Chicago Federal Reserve’s National Activity Index (CFNAI) has had a large downturn since February. While the St. Louis Financial Stress Index (STLFSI) continues to show an improving trend (downward sloping line means less stress), the level is still well above levels that have historically started recessions. Apparently from the graph below, STLFSI is just not improving fast enough to keep the CFNAI above a zero reading

Year to date the Standard and Poors High Beta ETF (SPHB) has outperformed the Standard and Poors Low Volatility ETF (SPLV) and the index itself (SPY) which is what you would expect in a rising/bull market. See Figure 2 below: Blue line – SPHB, yellow line – SPLV, and the red and green candle sticks – SPY.

Chart 2. Year to Date: SPY, SPLV, and SPHB


However, if you look at the same chart below, but change the time frame to the past month you can clearly see the market has rotated to lower volatility (risk off) stocks vs. higher beta (risk on) stocks as represented by the SPLV and SPHB ETF’s.

Chart 3 One Month: SPY, SPLV, and SPHB


But the big worry comes down to Spain. Chart 4 shows the past two years of SPY and I’ve highlighted the highly volatile breaks in between a couple of nice runs. Pretty much each period of high volatility has come about from concerns over Greece and the Greek debt crisis. While out of the headlines, Greece has not been solved. Only the can has been kicked down the road. Last December the EU implemented LTRO, Long Term Refinancing Operation. Which basically has given European Banks free money. The thinking was that this would kick the can into 2012. Wrong. We are barely past a quarter into the year, and Spain’s financial difficulties have started to hit the news. Particularly troubling because here in the U. S. corporate earnings have beaten estimates thus far. The expectation, (hope) was that with good earnings, reasonable valuations, and continued ZIRP, earnings would kick off another leg of the bull market. Instead the market has been shrugging off the good news (earnings) and moving on the bad news (Spain).

By summer Greece should be back in the news, and Italy and Portugal should be attracting their fair share of attention as well.

Chart 4. SPY, 2 Years


Bottom Line is summed up nicely in this headline from on Monday the 23rd:     INVESTOR ALERT Stocks slide as volatility leaps

 Volatility is not good for stocks. While there is still time for President Obama to work some election year magic, and keep the economic expansion going through the fall elections, the markets seem to be betting against him, for now.

But I would recommend being alert, and don’t forget, “Don’t fight the Fed.” If the Fed comes up with a new money producing stimulus, the market could bounce back quickly and it will be “Risk On!” again. • 937.434.1790

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Charles H. Dow Award Winner 2008. The papers honored with this award have represented the richness and depth of technical analysis.