Dividends can be an important source of income. However, there are several factors you should take into consideration if you’ll be relying on them to help pay the bills.
An increasing dividend is generally regarded as a sign of a company’s health and stability, and most corporate boards are reluctant to cut them. However, dividends on common stock are by no means guaranteed; the board can decide to reduce or eliminate dividend payments. Investing in dividend-paying stocks isn’t as simple as just picking the highest yield; consider whether the company’s cash flow can sustain its dividend, and whether a high yield is simply a function of a drop in a stock’s share price. (Because a stock’s dividend yield is calculated by dividing the annual dividend by the current market price per share, a lower share value typically means a higher yield, assuming the dividend itself remains the same.)
In a word, very. Dividend income has represented roughly one-third of the total return on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index since 1926.*
According to S&P, the portion of total return attributable to dividends has ranged from a high of 53% during the 1940s–in other words, more than half that decade’s return resulted from dividends–to a low of 14% during the 1990s, when the development and rapid expansion of the Internet meant that investors tended to focus on growth.*
And in individual years, the contribution of dividends can be even more dramatic. In 2011, the index’s 2.11% average dividend component represented 100% of its total return, since the index’s value actually fell by three-hundredths of a point.** And according to S&P, the dividend component of the total return on the S&P 500 has been far more stable than price changes, which can be affected by speculation and fickle market sentiment.
Texting versus email (or even snail mail). Angry Birds versus Monopoly. “The Theory of Everything” versus “The Sound of Music.” “Dancing with the Stars” versus “American Bandstand.”
It’s no secret that there are a lot of differences between baby boomers, born between 1946-1964, and millennials, who were generally born after 1980 (though there is disagreement over the precise time frame for millennials). But when it comes to finances, there may not be as much difference in some areas as you might expect. See if you can guess which generation is more likely to have made the following statements.
Boomer or millennial?
- I have enough money to lead the life I want, or believe I will in the future.
- My high school degree has increased my potential earning power.
- I rely on my checking account to pay for my day-to-day purchases.
- I consider myself a conservative investor.
- Generally speaking, most people can be trusted.
- I’m worried that I won’t be able to pay off the debts that I owe.
Today more than ever, charitable institutions stand to benefit as the first wave of baby boomers reach the stage where they’re able to make significant charitable gifts. If you’re like many Americans, you too may have considered donating to charity. And though writing a check at year-end is one of the most common ways to give to charity, planned giving may be even more effective.
What is planned giving?
Planned giving is the process of thinking strategically about charitable giving to maximize the personal, financial, and tax benefits of your gifts. For example, you may need to receive income in exchange for the assets you donate, or you may want to be involved in deciding how your gift is spent–things that typically can’t be done with standard checkbook giving.
Questions to consider
To help you start thinking about your charitable plan, consider these questions:
Which charities do you want to benefit?
- What kind of property do you want to donate (e.g., cash, stocks, real estate, life insurance)?
- Do you want the gift to take effect during your life or at your death?
- Do you want to retain an interest in the property you donate?
- Do you want to be involved in deciding how your gift is spent?
Does more wealth lead to more happiness? Researchers have tackled this question for decades, and although the results have differed, one fact is certain: The relationship between money and happiness–or “well-being,” as many researchers put it–is complicated.
Think before you spend
In their book, Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending, Professors Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton summarize their own and others’ research. What they found is that it’s not necessarily how much you make that matters to overall happiness (although that certainly contributes), but what you do with your money. They boiled down the findings to five “key principles of happy money.”