Beware of the Dividend Cult
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Like many professional investors, I love companies that pay dividends. Dividends bring tangible and intangible benefits: Over the last hundred years, half of total stock returns came from dividends.
In a world where earnings often represent the creative output of CFOs’ imaginations, dividends are paid out of cash flows, and thus are proof that a company’s earnings are real.
Finally, a company that pays out a significant dividend has to have much greater discipline in managing its business, because a significant dividend creates another cash cost, so management has less cash to burn in empire-building acquisitions.
Over the last decade, however, artificially low interest rates have turned dividends into a cult, where if you own companies that pay dividends then you are a “serious” investor, while if dividends are not a centerpiece of your investment strategy you are a heretic and need to apologetically explain why you don’t pray in the high temple of dividends.
I completely understand why this cult has formed: Investors who used to rely on bonds for a constant flow of income are now forced to resort to dividend-paying companies.