Intro To Investing – Dividends
Most people dream of being able to make a stable income just from investing the money they have now. One of the easiest ways to do this is through dividends- one form of return you can receive on your investment dollars.
Dividends are the payments companies make to their owners, who in this case are their stockholders. Here’s a helpful analogy to make it clear.
If you and a friend built a chair using lumber you purchased for $10 and you sold that chair for $50, you’d each take home $20. The “company” in this case is you and your friend, who are working together. Whoever paid for materials would be reimbursed out of the sale of the proceeds. The rest of the money would be the company’s earnings and the company would pay you both, as owners.
Things aren’t so straightforward with stocks and dividends, though. You’re an investor in the company, so you’re essentially loaning the company money (or are buying someone else’s loan). The company might use that money to pay employees, buy raw materials, improve their machinery or expand their business. In exchange for that loan, the company agrees to pay you a set amount, called a dividend. Dividends can pay out monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.
There are a few other keywords to know when looking at dividends. First, recognize the difference between dividend yield (a percentage) and payable dividend (an amount of money). Payable dividend is the amount of money the company pays per share. If a company pays $0.32 per share, and you own 100 shares, your dividend will be $32. The yield is the payable dividend divided by the stock price. This lets you know what percentage return you’ll get on your investment.
Be careful when shopping for stocks that offer a high dividend yield. Often, companies looking to attract investment will take steps to lower the price of their stock by increasing the percentage yield without changing the payable amount. A company that pulls these kinds of tricks is often not in the best financial position, and your dividend money could dry up in a hurry.
The second set of terms is pay date, ex-date and announcement date. The pay date is the date on which the company will pay out the dividends. They’ll deposit money in your brokerage account or mail you a check on that date. The “ex-date” is short for excluded dividend date. If you were a shareholder on the ex-date, you are entitled to dividend payments. If you sold before that or bought after that, you don’t get dividend payments. The announcement date is the date at which the board of directors announces they’ll be paying a dividend. Such an announcement will include a pay date, an ex-date and a payable dividend amount.
Dividend investment strategies differ from growth strategies in two key ways. First, growth investors try to get in on the ground floor of an emerging stock, while dividend investors are usually buying shares of established companies that have strong track records. Second, growth investors have to sell their shares to receive their investment gains. Dividend investors want to hold their shares as long as possible to keep getting those dividend payments. While growth investment offers more risk, it also has the potential of offering a higher reward. Growth stocks generally increase in value faster than dividends increase.