7 ‘Set and Forget’ Dividend Stocks for Long-Term Wealth

Stocks to buy

Long-term dividend stocks can be a great vehicle for producing strong capital growth for your portfolio. This is a big reason behind the popularity of “dividend aristocrat” stocks, or stocks with a more than 25 year track record of dividend growth.

Yet while some of the highest-quality dividend stocks out there have “dividend aristocrat,” or, in some cases, “dividend king” (50 years or more of consecutive dividend growth) status, names in either category aren’t the only long-term dividend names to consider.

There are also plenty of “aristocrats” in the making, stocks that have ten years or more of dividend growth under their belts. In some cases, these rising-star dividend stocks may be stronger opportunities, in terms of yield and price appreciation.

With this, let’s take a look at seven long-term dividend stocks, of either the “aristocrat” or “aspiring aristocrat” variety, and see why each one is worthy of making a buy-and-hold position at current prices.

Automatic Data Processing (ADP)

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Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP) is global leader in the payroll processing industry. With its deep economic moat, the company has a strong track record of steady growth and consistent earnings, resulting in strong total returns (price appreciation and dividends) for investors.

As I have argued previously, this makes ADP stock a top choice among stocks to buy and hold for years, decades, or even over several generations. While arguably trading at a fair valuation (25.9 times forward earnings), given the aforementioned qualities, and assuming high single-digit earnings growth continues, this valuation is likely sustainable.

At current prices, ADP sports a forward yield of 2.37%. This may not sound like “high yield” to you, but with the company just a year away from reaching “dividend king” status, and the latest dividend increase coming in at 12%, these payouts are likely to continue being a significant contributor to total returns.

American Water Works (AWK)

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American Water Works (NYSE:AWK) is a water utility company, serving 3.4 million customers across fourteen U.S. states. With fifteen years of consecutive dividend growth, this stock is a decade away from reaching “aristocrat” status.

Again though, “aspiring aristocrats” like AWK stock should also be considered top choices among long-term dividend stocks. Trading for 27.4 times forward earnings, it’s not as if shares have been under-the-radar of the market. Like with ADP, AWK’s is fairly valued rather than undervalued.

However, with AWK representing ownership in a high-margin, recession resistant business. With sell-side forecasts calling for high-single digit earnings growth in the coming years, this valuation is likely sustainable. Shares in turn could keep moving higher, in tandem with this earnings growth. AWK has a 2.14% annual dividend yield. Payouts have grown by an average of 9.31% per year over the past five years.

L3Harris Technologies (LHX)

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L3Harris Technologies (NYSE:LHX) is another “aspiring aristocrat” I’ve included in past coverage of top stocks to buy and hold for the long haul. As it relates to long-term capital growth, there are two strong catalysts in motion. First, geopolitical tensions are rising and aren’t likely to simmer down anytime soon.

This bodes well for defense stocks across the board, and LHX stock is no exception. Second, there is great potential for cost/growth synergies, as a result of L3Harris’ penchant for making “bolt-on” acquisitions of other defense contracting companies.

Regarding dividend growth, LHX has increased payouts 22 years in a row, hence the “aspiring aristocrat” moniker for this 2.19%-yielding stock. While the company’s last dividend increase was small (1.79%), a re-acceleration of earnings growth due to the above-mentioned catalysts could mean a return to larger dividend increases seen in the recent past.

Next Era Energy (NEE)

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Shares in NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) struggled during most of 2023, but make no mistake. NEE remains one of the top long-term dividend stocks, and could produce strong total returns for investors buying it today.

NEE stock slumped because of rising interest rates and their impact on growth, but has started to bounce back due to growing expectations about interest rate cuts later this year. Trading for 18 times estimated 2024 earnings, shares appear more than reasonably priced, given mid-to-high single digit growth forecasts. A further renewal of appreciation for NEE’s long-term potential could mean a continued re-rating to the upside.

Speaking of earnings growth, don’t forget such growth also points to further increases in this “aristocrat’s” quarterly payouts. The stock today has a forward annual yield of 3.06%. Over the past five years, NextEra Energy has increased its dividend payout by an average of 11% annually.

Starbucks (SBUX)

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“Dividend aristocrat” McDonalds (NYSE:MCD) may be considered the top restaurant stock among long-term dividend investors, but instead of opting for the golden arches, you may want to select Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) instead.

The ubiquitous coffee chain still has a ways to go before becoming an “aristocrat” itself.

However, between now and when SBUX stock attains this status, shares could produce very strong returns. Shares currently have an annual dividend yield of 2.48%. This payout has grown by double-digits on average each year over the past five years.

More importantly, atop this baseline return, is the likely continued price appreciation, driven by earnings growth. Forecasts call for Starbucks’ earnings to increase by 15.5% this fiscal year (ending September 2024), and by between 16% and 17% during the following two fiscal years after that. Not too shabby, for a stock trading for just 22.3 times forward earnings.

Snap-On (SNA)

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When it comes to long-term dividend stocks, Snap-On (NYSE:SNA) is another name to consider. The industrial tool maker’s dividend (current forward yield of 2.62%) has increased by 14.5% on average annually over the past five years.

Admittedly, this level of dividend growth may not seem sustainable. After all, forecasts call for mixed results in the coming years. So then, why make SNA stock a “set and forget” long-term buy? While encountering a rough patch today, over a longer time frame Snap-On has demonstrated consistent profitability growth.

Furthermore, Snap-On beat expectations when it last reported earnings. Future results could come in much stronger than sell-side estimates suggest. Reasonably-priced at 15.2 times forward earnings, there may even be room for an expansion of SNA’s forward multiple. Growth re-acceleration, success with a recent acquisition, or even greater investor awareness may result in an eventual re-rating for Snap-On shares.

Visa (V)

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With a forward dividend yield of 0.79%, Visa (NYSE:V) at first may not seem like a noteworthy dividend stock. Yet while the company, one of the world’s leading payment technology firms, sports a low yield, said yield has been growing at a rapid clip.

That is, payouts for V stock have grown by around 16.3% on average annually over the past five years. Such payout growth may be poised to continue. As I argued previously, numerous factors point to the company continuing to report double-digit earnings growth in the years to come.

The largest factor is the global pivot away from using cash to using cards/digital payment options for consumer transactions. This long-term trend is of course also a good sign when it comes to further price appreciation. This should outweigh any near-term concerns about the stock’s valuation (26.7 times forward earnings) and low yield.

On the date of publication, Thomas Niel did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Thomas Niel, contributor for InvestorPlace.com, has been writing single-stock analysis for web-based publications since 2016.

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