Dividend Safety Signs and Warning Flags

Posted on July 18, 2013 | AAII Journal

Many investors have sought shelter from the stock market storm in more mature dividend-paying companies, since the income from these firms provides at least some positive return in an otherwise bleak environment.

But the economic downturn has tested even the most mature and stable firms, with some forced to cut dividend payments. Others have managed to maintain current levels for the time being, but could be forced to make cuts in the future.

What signs can you look for that indicate the safety of a company’s dividend payment stream?

Investors in dividend-paying stocks typically seek stocks that are paying steadily increasing levels of dividend income, and have the cash flow and financial resources to continue to pay the dividends. There are a number of financial ratios and indicators you can use to evaluate this; the most common are listed below.

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