If popular dividend stocks such as those on the "dividend aristocrats" like JNJ and MMM continue to climb over time, won't new investors like myself be severely disadvantaged buying into these? The amount of stocks one can get to receive respective dividends are severely reduced compared to those buying year/decades ago. For example MMM is now near 200. You'd have to have 100's of 1000's of $ to be able to make any decent dividend gain.
The market price (MVPS) of a share has increased, but so may have the company's earnings; theoretically, as the company increases its earnings, it has generated enough cash flow to increase its dividend while maintaining a stable dividend payout ratio.
So investors from years ago held comparable stakes for acquiring equivalent dividends, but unless the stock in question split, the price of each share has increased, more or less proportionally to the improvement in size of the dividend per share. If these two things increase at the same rate, then the dividend yield remains constant.
As an example, let's look at $ABBV.
The price per share (MVPS) has grown considerably:
But so has their earnings:
This growth in earnings has enabled the company to increase their dividend/share. Here's their dividend growth story:
As a result, in order to compare a previous dividend to the current one, you have to look at the dividend yield, instead of the dividend amount. Here's how the yield has moved:
The yield describes how much cash streams an investor will receive by holding the security. In this case, the yield actually went up, not down. For every $1.00 you invest into the security, you get $0.047, which is larger than $0.036.
I picked this stock randomly, and the dividend yield growth will vary from stock to stock and industry to industry.
Also won't those near retirement who want to switch to a more relatively stable lower risk investment profile will be severely disadvantaged selling their growth investments for these dividend stocks at such prices? Why would therefore anyone even go down that investment road.
Once a company declares a dividend for the quarter, they are obligated to fulfill their promise to the shareholders. If a company has a solid history of paying dividends and growing its dividends, and can sustain its current payout ratio, then investing in profitable companies that pay a "safe" dividend is a risk-averse way of generating income or preserving wealth. It's not the only / best way of making money, but it is a reasonably established route, particularly for older investors who don't have time to take on additional risk.
Can anyone explain to me how this continues to work over time (keeping in mind I am an absolute beginner at stocks). Will people be looking for "new" dividend stocks and hope they become the next batch of aristocrats?
That's one possibility, but the other is to hope that current dividend payers continue to increase their earnings. If they grow their earnings, they can increase their dividend while retaining approximately the equal payout ratio, which is simply:
You want the payout ratio to be below 70% (unless it's a REIT, which is an entirely different discussion) for sustainability. If you're hoping for dividend growth you would ideally want to invest in something with a relatively low payout ratio so that it has headroom to grow safely. Likely something below 30% if dividend growth is your primary focus.
A payout ratio of higher than 1 indicates that the company can't sustain the dividend without increasing its earnings, and a ratio between 0.7 and 1 is a situation that should make you skeptical of dividend growth and dividend safety.
In this case, SeekingAlpha is saying that the TTM non-GAAP payout ratio is reasonable, but a little high compared to peers in the same industry; the GAAP payout ratio is excessive, so there are important minutiae to consider as well when accounting for irregular or one-time expenses that the company incurs over a given timespan:
Compare this to the energy sector, where the non-GAAP and GAAP ratio are over 80% and 100%, resp.
(Or is the div yield more important)
Yes dividend yield is what's important in this context (as well as payout ratio, which tells you if the current dividend is sustainable or safe), in addition to the future prospects of the company.