Living The Dividend Dream
Incredibly, there are some investors out there truly living their dividend dream.
Today’s post highlights one of those investors for investing inspiration…
But let’s back up a bit…
Some time ago…yours truly wrote a controversial post about the intent to live off dividends and distributions from our portfolio.
Indexers gasped and likely unsubscribed to my site!
Well, even though some considerable time has passed since that post my thinking and income goals remain the same – as least in part for semi-retirement planning:
I continue to believe “living off dividends” (and/or distributions) should work out well for us.
And I’m not alone.
For today’s post, I’m profiling a very successful investor…..who not only dreams of dividends but is living the dividend dream right now.
Living The Dividend Dream
Welcome to the site for this latest investor profile, The Dividend Dream.
I look forward to sharing this interesting new investor profile below but first up, a recap about why dividends and distributions continue to matter to me/us on our income journey.
Yes, my approach to live off dividends remains alive and well in 2023!
My dedicated page including many of the stocks I own.
Here are some reasons why some investors couldn’t care less about dividends:
- The trouble with any “live off the dividends” approach is that you’d need to save too much to generate your desired income. Fair.
- Dividends are not magical – there is nothing special about them. Sure, of course they are not magical or free!
- A dollar of dividends is = a one dollar increase in the stock price. True.
- Stock picking (with dividend stocks) is fraught with under performance of the index long-term. I’m not convinced about that.
- You can never possibly know long-term how dividends may or may not be paid by any company. Fair.
In many respects these investors are not wrong and/or are not pointing out some challenges with DIY stock investing.
You do need a bunch of capital to generate meaningful dividend income.
Dividends are part of total return.
Stock picking to some degree opens opportunities for market under performance.
However, my responses and approach to some of these items are as follows, since I believe dividend investing offers far more good than harm:
- While market underperformance may occur (that is subjective and up to personal investment success, luck, and other factors that are very difficult to substantiate), dividend investing offers up some essential long-term investing discipline, for me at least, to stay the investing course, including when markets tank in any given year. If anything, I buy more!
- This way of investing provides HUGE motivation and inspiration – to keep investing, in any market climate. The way I see it: money that makes money can make more money.
- Dividend investing, seeing the tangible money flow into our accounts month-after-month, reinforces my belief that nobody cares more about my financial well-being than I do (except for my wife!). Ha.
All kidding aside…dividend investing and having a plan associated with building ever-growing income offers something that some other ways of investing just can’t readily offer: support for the emotional discipline to execute this strategy, come heck or high water, or even until the end of all capitalism as we know it!
But that’s just me and our plan.
Your mileage might vary and that’s OK.
There are many ways to invest and many reasons that folks invest in what they do.
That said, dividend investing is far from any local phenomena.
I reached out to The Dividend Dream for her to share her reasons for investing in dividend paying stocks, including why dividends matter (or not!), and any considerations she has for any investors at any age on their investing journey.
Living The Dividend Dream – Dividend Dream – welcome to the site!
Hey hey… thanks for having me. I appreciate the invite!
Before we dive into your investing thesis, why you own what you own, and much more – tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, what can I say. People call me The Dream, Dream Girl, aka Dreamer.
I’m anonymous for now as I’m still working a bit, although I entered into a “freestyle” work optional state this year (2023). I’m a businesswoman, living in the southern United States. My field is strategy and marketing, and I went to a top MBA school. I’m in my mid-40s and am married to a wonderful woman who is a professor. I am the breadwinner in the family – by far – so I feel financially responsible for our future. And yeah… that’s the skinny, essentially.
I feel personal finance is personal – a constant refrain on this site. What I mean by this is: everyone’s financial situation is different, and they have personal reasons to invest the way they do, to realize their individualized goals.
How did you get started with investing?
I actually have been thinking about “retirement” ever since I was a teenager. Really, it’s always been more about being financially secure and independent. My family fell on some hard times and it scared me. I didn’t really have any choice but to rely on myself. I held several jobs in high school and throughout college. So… long story short, after college I started like everyone else with a 401k at work, trying to max that out every year. But when I started getting into my 30s that’s when I started to really breakout out of the mold, rolling past 401ks into investment accounts where I had complete control and could pick to hold whatever assets I wanted, not just the choices provided by an employer.
Awesome. OK, let’s get into it. Why dividend investing? Why do you invest the way you do?
For background – I’ve invested in mutual funds, CDs (Mark: certificate of deposit – like a GIC here in Canada), ETFs, bonds, growth stocks, dividend stocks and real estate. So I’ve kind of done it all. With mutual funds, the costs, one-time a year payout, and little control over the mix always bothered me. Bonds are fine, but you’re invested in a long-term play there. Real estate rentals are ok, but I hate when my tenant calls me to fix something… and for some reason it’s always at an inopportune time like the holidays or when I’m on vacation.
When I really started thinking about the opportunity and power of dividend investing, I instantly knew it was for me. I used to think about a draw-down strategy where I’d plan the exact amount I needed to last until my last day and end with zero. That’s kind of morbid, and anyway, how exactly do you estimate that?
With growth stocks, the “luck” aspect of selling at the right time always concerned me. But with dividend investing, I can have my cake and eat it! I can have assets kicking off cash flow that can replace my salary, they continue to grow annually both in dividends and appreciation (total return), and I don’t have to sell when I don’t want to. Or ever, perhaps.
What’s your stance on indexing then? Why or why not?
Oh, index funds? Yeah I’m onboard. I have ETF index funds too, like SCHD. But the issue with standard broad based ones is the yield is not going to be enough to cover your salary, and therefore not enough to be “life-changing” for real. And when I say that I mean, you can actually change your life or lifestyle like I’m doing now. That is, unless you have a ton of moolah. Now I suppose you can use more adventurous ETFs like JEPI or DIVO for immediate cash flow, but then the issue is capped upside.
So I’m not against them. And for some folks it’s a good option if they don’t want to stock pick or worry about company research. For me, ETFs / index funds are in my portfolio mix to play a role of diversification or cash flow, but I’d say about 90% of my portfolio is dividend stocks.
What are the downsides to dividend investing? Be harsh – it’s not perfect, right?
Be harsh? Ok Mark. Are you ready? If you pick the wrong stocks, it can be… not good. Really bad in fact. If you concentrate highly in a handful of stocks, especially if they are the wrong picks, you might not succeed. How’s that?
That’s pretty harsh (and correct)!
OK, let’s come back to your investing style and approach. What stocks or securities do you own and why?
I lean heavily into dividend aristocrats, dividend contenders, dividend kings, and the like. Companies that have a very strong track record of paying out and increasing dividends for 25, 50 and even 100 years. I always look at FCF (free cash flow) and payout ratio, and want to make sure the business is healthy and can cover that dividend. I also like companies with regulated or restricted competition, and moats to protect the business. Add industries that are recession proof… that’s basically where I like to pick from.
What are some of your largest holdings, for how long, and why?
I was 100% in cash when the covid crash hit, because I cashed out thinking there was going to be an emergency of some kind in the US due to problematic leadership. So about a month after the crash happened, I dove back in and bought everything I have now. Some of my largest holdings include so-called sin stocks (MO, BTI, PM), Telcom (BCE, T, VZ), Healthcare (ABBV, PFE), REITs (O, STWD), Tech (MSFT, IBM), Utilities (DUK, SO), and Canadian Banks (BNS, BMO).
I show my full portfolio on my YouTube channel, if your readers are interested:
Thanks for sharing.
A question/concern for many DIY investors is ample diversification and/or concentration risk from just owning a few stocks or the wrong stocks. What’s your reply to that? How many stocks do you own and why? How many stocks might be enough?
Like I mentioned, yes this is the core risk! I don’t have any holding that is more than 10% of my full portfolio of $1.5M. That’s one rule.
I also make sure I diversify across industry and geography. I hold about 75 stocks, and that fluctuates +/- a few stocks depending on opportunity. I rebalance when I feel I need to if one position is getting too big or has had a major run up.
Some say that 10-20 stocks is enough to be diversified, but I like what I call “the long tail” which gets me way past diversification minimums. But here’s the thing, I actually ENJOY reading, keeping up with, and reviewing all of these companies. It’s fun for me. So in that way it fits my personality. Part of being a great investor is knowing yourself and how you will best be successful.
Well put, that last part.
Related to my investing journey, it is my hope that dividends (and capital gains) can work harmoniously together to help fight inflation – as prices and costs of living rise over time – I hope that the companies I own can help fight inflation via raising their dividends to shareholders. What’s your take on owning dividend paying stocks for fighting-fighting power? Do you see that fighting power in your own portfolio?
Without a doubt.
My portfolio is packed with dividend raisers, and I expect to get that raise every year for years to come. That is actually a key to the success of this strategy. In the mix, I have more bond-like higher yield dividend stocks that deliver cash now. But added to those is higher CAGR (5%-10%+) growers that give me the ability to grow the dividend salary each year to fight inflation.
I have a plan/dream as you might be aware to “live off dividends” and work part-time as part of my upcoming semi-retirement plan.
As someone has been there, done that a bit, what advice or caution do you have for this plan of mine?
I’d say the plan to stair-step down and try to live partially off dividends and partially off active income is a good one. I actually tried an experiment in 2022 where I took a 6-month sabbatical, and let me tell you it’s a shock to the system. I also burned through my emergency cash so fast it was scary. I had more emergencies come up last year than just about any year.
(Mark – good to know!)
So my advice would be, have a cushion of cash that well exceeds what you think you need. Try to get those dividends to above what you think you’ll need. And maybe have a few work options that would allow you to flex up and down those first couple years in case you need… or want to. Another issue I had was when I quit cold turkey I did get stir crazy a little bit and needed mental stimulation. So having non-work hobbies or passions you can dive into. That is something else to think about. So often our identities are tied to what we do, that we don’t even know who we are without them.
I don’t believe in any 4% safe withdrawal rate (I’ve got some links below on that – although it’s a decent back-of-napkin rule of thumb).
Do you agree or disagree?
Well, I plan to have a 0% withdrawal rate. In other words, I’m hoping to reach $100,000/yr US in dividends this or next year. This doesn’t include any of my wife’s assets or social security, or even my social security when I collect it. Our HH (household) expenses are $90,000/yr.
So, I’m hoping to not have any withdrawal. But broadly to answer your question, I just think that’s a rule of thumb like anything else, and the rate should be custom to the amount of the portfolio and the expected lifespan of the person/couple. That’s it.
Finally….lots of questions I know for this one…what’s your take on “living off dividends” solving some of these issues that early or full-on retirees might experience? Do you agree such an approach is valid in at least helping to address some of these retirement planning concerns and constraints below? Why or why not?
Oh I agree!
I’m not going to sell anything, thus I don’t have to incur any gains tax if I never sell. And dividends are tax free up to $89,250 for married couples in the US in 2023.
The only thing I don’t agree with here is the no rebalancing. I do rebalance as some of my stocks just keep growing because when the snowball gets this big, it grows like a weed on dividends. So like STWD I’ve had to sell off many times because it just keeps getting huge. And with others like BCE I have about $150,000, so I use the dividends to spread into some of my other positions and no longer DRIP into it. But I suppose if you’re at a static point where you’re not reinvesting anything anymore, perhaps then!
Great stuff and very interesting stuff.
Living The Dividend Dream summary and closing thoughts…
Well, lots to unpack here and lots of different lifestyles associated with any investing approach, but here are my takeaways from this latest investor profile. I would be curious to know about yours! From me:
- Dividend investing, while this investing approach has some risk no doubt, I feel it can very financially rewarding over time.
- While any individual company can, could or might occasionally cut their dividend it should be the DIY investor’s focus on the collective performance of their basket of stocks related to their financial goals – that should reward said investors in meeting their financial goals over time. Otherwise, index invest away as you wish if you’re concerned or in major doubt.
- While dividends are never guaranteed (just like stock prices are never guaranteed to go up) by investing in proven companies that reward shareholders AND by building diversification into the DIY stock portfolio, there are many positives that can be gained from an income-replacement approach.
In closing, it is my hope that I can continue to profile many investors on this site for inspiration or other – to highlight there are very personal and interesting paths to wealth building.
You can find The Dream, Dream Girl, aka Dreamer and her very interesting YouTube channel to ask more questions about her investing approach and more below.
Here is one of her latest updates including screenshots from her portfolio.
YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/@thedividenddream
How much do you need to retire on $7,000 per month?
Read on 🙂
Hi Mark: I recently read a title article in the Globe and Mail that said that young investors will have a hard time getting to were Boomers are today. Don’t they realize that Boomers were young investors once. It just depends on how you invest and I see no reason why a young investor should not proper in the future as investing is a long range plan and when started at 20 or 24 can lead to wealth at 60.
It’s possible but like you, I was young once too!
Hi Mark: I too have owned sin stocks in the past and got well compensated for them. I bought Rothmans and it paid a great dividend. One year a friend of my brothers threw a surprise party for his wife and I got there before my brother and his family. When they arrived I was talking to my niece and she likes to kid and asked me if I had any stock tips. I said well Rothmans would be a great one to buy and she turned to me and said Child Killer! and then she said well got to go, got to mingle. Rothmans was taken over by Philip Morris International but the dividend was great while it lasted. I have been unofficially retired for 31 years and officially for 16 years. that took some math as I retired at 60 and will be 75 at the end of March. When it comes to stocks I never take money out but I might pause for a while. This happened after the ’73-’74 Arab Oil Crises and I started to buy bonds. This was a huge mistake as bonds pay interest and also the prices of the bonds dropped off a cliff as interest rates rose.
Hi Mark: A very interested article. One question is if you have a stock that splits multiple times why sell part of it? Doesn’t this show that it is a great company. Companies like CU, T, ENB and BN that have split multiple times do so because the price has risen along with the dividend rate. My dad used to say that I had too many share and to SELL some of them. This was apparent when the eastern telcos merged to form Aliant Inc. I ended up with over 18000 shares so I sold half to bring me down to 9387 shares. As mentioned before I have one big bucket that everything goes into. Also ETF’s are not the holy grail as you can lose with them too. I just saw were six Horizon ETF’s have filed for a reverse split. Four at 1/4, one at 1/6 and one at 1/15. I roughly added up my dividends for ’22 and they come to $228,000.00. Next year there will be more but that should keep the wolf away from the door. There will be more to come in the form of T3’s and T5013’s, interest and a small pension. I too find reading about these companies enjoyable and don’t plan on stopping in retirement just because I reach my goal as my goal keeps growing higher. You don’t need a lot of money to start just start as investing in dividend stocks is a long term goal.
I certainly don’t mind letting my “winners” run but I do try to avoid any one stock or a few stocks dominating my portfolio. I try to keep any one stock to ~ <5% or so of my entire portfolio value. This way, I avoid a bit of concentration risk.
Certainly ETF prices can go up and down for sure.
“You don’t need a lot of money to start just start as investing in dividend stocks is a long term goal.”
I agree. I bought my first dividend income/growth stock about 15 or so years ago. I haven’t stopped yet 🙂
Thanks for your detailed comments!
Congrats Dividend Dream you picked a great time to get out and back into the market and bought great dividend producing stocks. I love the idea of dividend investing and just living off the dividends never having to touch capital. However, my experience and track record have proven that I can’t pick the right stock, time the market or know when to sell. I have always been a buy and hold forever investor which lead me to owning some great companies which hit a rough patch and I ended up riding them all the way down to zero. How do you know when or what to sell? Do you have a trigger like lowering of dividends which signal you to sell?
I was never able to answer that question and decided average market returns over the long-term will have to due and switched to being just a total market index investor.
Yes I made a mistake, my apologies.
Whilst interesting/entertaining to read, I note that the applicable taxation rules in America would have an effect on how one invests differently than Canada.
The second thing is that attempting to time the market isn’t a huge factor for a lot of dividend income seekers. If the pros can’t consistently be successful, I doubt the average DIY investor could either. Having said that, getting lucky once in a while *feels* great! 🙂
Yes, true. Although dividend taxation in Canada, assuming no other income (very, very rare) is taxed very favourably since the corporation already paid tax. That said, I know few folks that could ever “live off dividends” and won’t have CPP or OAS or other.
Yes, very much so Lloyd: so many DIY investors, retirees, soon to be retirees all seem to want the same thing – which is not market excitment.
Great work Dreamer!!
Thanks Lloyd… agree timing the market is a terrible idea. In the states we had a leader that said he was going to overthrow the US gov and nuclear bomb the world. So I took money out for the first time in my life. Kind of a once in a lifetime crisis I hope! Cheers – TDD
My wife retired at age 57 and I when I turned 60. I have been retired now for close to 3 years. Our portfolio is 100% dividend paying Canadian stocks, and our current dividend income is close to 70K (and rising) of which over 17K comes from our TFSAs. For my sanity I still do a few months of contract work during the winter months, so for now I guess I am semi-retired. The part I like the most about dividend investing is not worrying about if I will outlive my savings. My father is 101 years old, still living pretty independently in a retirement home, so assuming I inherited some of his longevity genes there is a good chance I could be kicking around for a long time. Who knows what the future will bring, but barring any extremely expensive medical emergency, we should never have to sell stocks for income (using the 0% rule to answer one of your previous readers questions). I just wish I had started dividend investing earlier, but since most investors are self taught, we all had to learn our own lessons. Having more people like you to bring our “lessons learned” to the younger crowd out there will hopefully save them making quite as many mistakes as we did. Keep up the good work and I am confident you too will reach your semi retirement /retirement goals, and be living the dividend dream.
Great comment and details, Howard.
Your father is 101? Wow. Incredible.
I hope I have clarified this for other readers, but to your point, I can’t see myself ever “retired” and never not working. Maybe that will happen but I can’t see it now 🙂
I would prefer to manage more my time and work on my own terms. I enjoy the current role, but I sincerely want more life-work balance. That means part-time work in my 50s and I hope that can begin next year in 2024…sometime.
I too gravitate to dividend investing for this very reason: “The part I like the most about dividend investing is not worrying about if I will outlive my savings..” but I also like the level of income predictability, in general, that a basket stocks provide. I mean, sure, if you own enough individual stocks long enough, some might cut dividends or other. But, many might raise their dividends too. There are many ways shareholder value is created. Dividends are just one of them.
I appreciate your kind words about my site. I don’t pretend to be a perfect investor just like I believe there is no perfect portfolio. Instead, I think if you can save a bit, invest a bit and live a bit – for most people – that’s pretty darn good.
I will keep you posted with others here!
Amazing job Howard! $70k is such an achievement – cheers TDD
Mark, I always enjoy your posts and learn a lot from them. My question today is regarding the 4% withdrawal. Wouldn’t Dreamer’s dividend withdrawals count towards that 4%?
If she intends to spend them from her portfolio, the dividends, then yes IMO but I believe she will reply to that question soon!
Interesting, I always looked at the 4% rule in light of a retiree who is selling a portion of their stocks/ETFs/Funds/Bonds periodically to finance their retirement. This is like an investment burn rate. The goal was to be able sell them at a rate that would allow a person to outlast their savings. If you are only using your dividends to live on, the principle never shrinks, in fact it should grow for the rest of your life at some rate between 7 to 12% (minus div) depending on the composition of your dividend portfolio. And with dividend growth of 5 to 10% inflation is not a worry. So I am a bit confused on how burn rate applies to a dividend portfolio (assuming you can live off dividends only). We don’t worry about outliving our investments, my only concern is how much the government will get when we go.
I see dividends and capital gains being two sides of the same coin. Ideally, you want lots of both but it is not possible in reality…you usually get a bit of both from dividend stocks.
If you have high dividend yield, you don’t usually have high growth/price gains.
If you have high price gains, you don’t usually have high dividend yields to shareholders.
Just the way it is.
Meaning, so, if you’re taking your dividends as cash and “living off dividends” then you really have only capital gains + dividend increases to help you fight long-term inflation or spending needs. Not a bad thing of course, since the capital stays intact.
If you reinvest your dividends, that’s like a total return approach. You’re betting on the sum of dividends + gains = total return for your portfolio. It’s like the company never paid a dividend in the first place since a dollar of dividends = a dollar in capital gains. Worth the same.
If you are only using your dividends to live on, the principal never shrinks, but the higher growth might not be there as well.
If dividends can grow AND you get capital gains, that’s good of course, and what I’m striving towards.
Yes, avoid too much government money – duly noted. 🙂
“If you have high dividend yield”
In this context I would substitute the phrase “high payout ratio” versus yield. Yield is hugely dependent on stock price (whim of the market) and may, or may not, be indicative of how much the company retains for growth.
Fair comment, although payout ratio as a company metric is very different but I know what you are saying!
re: payout ratio:
The dividend payout ratio is the ratio of the total amount of dividends paid out to shareholders relative to the net income of the company.
Sounds fair, my only comment is that I look at it from the point of view of a retired person. I no longer care much about growth of my portfolio, I care most about growth of my dividends (income). Each and every increase feels like it did when I received a raise at work, except the yearly raises I get now are much higher. Sure hope that will continue….
I’ve heard so much that over the years and seems to be moreso, Howard.
DIY investors and retirees really care about the income from their portfolio, and while growth is great and nice, it’s the meaninfgul, reasonable cashflow that matters.
I find any ongoing debate about whether a (dividend) income approach versus a total-return approach is better, annoying. I really don’t care. Rather, it’s the meaningful cashflow that I would imagine most retirees want and need. Doesn’t really matter how you achieve it.
I look forward to my next round of raises. Got quite a few already and it’s only Feb.! Hee-hee 🙂
The way I look this, normally dividend stocks do not grow fast. Take BCE as an example, I bought some BCE 2017 at $57, today it’s around $60, almost no growth. But if one lives off dividends, of course they don’t care.
Also keep in mind it’s not guaranteed DGI stocks will always increase dividend. Take a look at AQN. I lost big on this one.
For indexers, they live off selling part of the portfolios, a majority of them still have a portfolio continue to grow in retirement if market is good.
If we talk about total return, in long run, I kind of believe indexing could have higher return than a DGI portfolio. I invest in DGI stocks mainly for years when the market is down. Both SP 500 and SP TSX have lost 10 years. I don’t want to retire then face a lost 10 years. With DGI stocks, if diversified enough, even with some of the stocks cut/eliminate dividends, hopefully I will still be able to harvest enough dividends to survive the worst market crash.
Ya, if we talk about total return, in long run, best way to accomplish that is via indexing. It does not mean however there are not other good ways to invest IMO. AQN stung a few people but it should slowly climb back over time. Might take many years however.
I am happy with my portfolio overall, no major changes to make; own plenty of good stocks in good sectors. Just need to keep investing and let the portfolio do it’s thing.
I hope all is well, May! Haven’t heard from you in a bit!
If I’m making $100k in dividends (soon) off of a $1.5M portfolio, it would be a 6% take. But with 0% drawdown. What’s likely is that the market will recover over the next 2-3 years so that % will go… up/down?
Let’s say my portfolio quickly rebounds to $2.5M, but my dividends grow to $125k, then I suppose it would be a 5% take. See, that’s why the 4% focus and total port value doesn’t matter much to me. It’s all about the steady dividends, and the rest can flux up and down with not much attention from me! Cheers – TDD
That makes sense TDD, and aligns to what many dividend income bloggers strive for as well. The idea of “living off dividends” to some degree where some (or most or all!) of their expenses could be covered by the dividends and distributions of what their portfolio generates. Not right or wrong, but certainly a lofty and aspiring goal for many including me.
Can’t say this Living The Dividend Dream – Dividend Dream investor is a good example. If he was 100% in cash before the pandemic hit, he sounds more like he uses the market like he was at a casino.
Thanks, Johnny. Just an investor profile. that is all.
I will let Dream answer back on her approach.
Agree timing the market is a terrible idea. In the states we had a leader that said he was going to overthrow the US gov and nuclear bomb the world. So I took money out for the first time in my life. Kind of a once in a lifetime crisis I hope! Cheers – TDD
And I’m a woman.