The Real Power of Dividends

Vacation Footwear for Ireland in October!?!

There are some strong opinions out there on which investing strategy is best. Over time, & from a pure numbers perspective, the only thing that really matters is total return. It doesn’t matter whether you get that return from capital gains, dividends, some other kind of distribution, or any combination of those. I suggest to my kids that they invest in low-cost, market index ETFs. They’ve got the time to make that work. No guarantees, of course. Going forward, maybe the American & Canadian markets will do what the Japanese market has been doing since 1989. That might not be a great outcome for them come retirement day.

The closer I get to retirement, the more I worry about running out of money during retirement. Any simulation I run with the 4% withdrawal “rule” always has a few chart lines that wipe out early. And I’m not even planning for an extravagant retirement lifestyle. Not only do I not want to run out of money during retirement, I’d like to think there would be enough left over for my kids to take my ashes back to Ireland when my time is done!

I started out with mutual funds way back. When I realised how much I was paying for underperformance, I got out of those. Then I tried picking growth stocks. I wasn’t very good at that & I lost some money. On the bright side, I didn’t have much money to begin with, so there wasn’t much to lose! Professional money managers were up next. Since I didn’t know what I was doing, I figured they would. Turns out they weren’t keeping pace with the market either & I was paying extra for that underperformance. Though I don’t blame the pros, they were creating portfolios based on my risk aversion. And I was pretty risk averse after getting burned by my own poor stock selections. With the benefit of hindsight, had I gone into index funds from the get-go, I would have fared far better. Despite the risks, that’s why I recommend index-tracking ETFs for my kids.

Now that I’m much closer to retirement, I have a different outlook. While I’m a hybrid investor now, investing in both stocks & ETFs, I have a leaning towards dividend-growth investing. It started with those 4% withdrawal simulations. If 4% was enough to live on, why not just have a portfolio that generates distributions of 4% annually? Rather than have to sell shares for income, couldn’t I just live on the dividends & distributions? Of course, you need a portfolio big enough to make that work. But that’s a whole other story! After years of messing around with the dividend-growth strategy, I finally got around to moving towards that approach a few years back. Now, instead of retiring at 83, I might be able to get out at 79! I’m kidding.

I hope! 😜

The anti-dividend lobby tell me it’s the wrong approach. But if I were already retired, selling shares of those beaten down index funds this year would give me some serious grief. While my dividend-focused portfolio is down year to date, it’s ahead of the market by more than 13%. And that comes with my bond allocation having the worst year in the history of the bond market too. That’s not too shabby. Moreover, those dividends are on synthetic DRIP (dividends are automatically reinvested in more shares of the same equity) so that my share count is increasing at an even faster rate, as the share prices get beaten down.

While the year-to-date market-beating performance is meaningless over such a short spell, I’m more focused on the dividends than the share price. A stock down 50% is buying twice the number of shares than before the downturn. So long as the dividends aren’t cut, I’m happy picking up more shares when things are on sale. While the dividend-growth stocks may not match the long term total return of an index fund, the real power of the dividend-growth strategy is psychological!

I’m off to Ireland for a long-overdue vacation today. I have no idea what I’m hoping the market will do while I’m away. But I’m praying I’ll get there, & back, safely. And that my portfolio keeps on chugging out those dividends while I’m gone. 🇮🇪☘️🍻

Important – this is not investing advice, it is for entertainment & educational purposes only. Do your own due diligence & seek professional advice before investing your money.

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