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7 Issues with Dividend Investing

As a monetary planner, I’ve been in lots of conferences with potential households who’ve totally different ranges of funding training. I usually discover folks assume dividend investing is magic and should be the end-all, be-all of investing. 

Sadly, most of the intently held beliefs folks have about dividend investing are unsuitable. The web is buzzing with articles about tips on how to discover dividend paying shares, which might create a want to reside off dividends as an alternative of promoting elements of your portfolio.

Earlier than I get into the problems with dividend investing, what do I imply once I say dividend investing?

Dividend investing is investing in corporations that pay money distributions. It’s a return of earnings to individuals who maintain the inventory.

Now, let me dispel a number of the myths of dividend investing and 7 issues with dividend investing.


Downside 1: Dividends Improve Your Taxes

The primary downside with dividend investing is that it will increase your taxes in a brokerage account. 

The taxes are normally not a difficulty in a tax-advantaged account, reminiscent of an IRA, Roth IRA, or 401(okay), however in a brokerage account, dividends can improve your taxes. 

When a dividend is paid, you might be taxed on it, whether or not you reinvest the dividend or take it as money. It doesn’t matter whether or not you permit it within the brokerage account or take it out. Will probably be taxed.

How it’s taxed is dependent upon whether or not it’s certified or nonqualified. 

Certified dividends are taxed at preferential capital positive factors tax charges. Nonqualified dividends are taxed at extraordinary earnings tax charges. 

Capital positive factors tax charges are 0%, 15%, or 20%, relying in your different earnings and which bracket you fall into. Extraordinary earnings tax charges vary between 0% and 37%. 

To ensure that a dividend to be certified, it should:

  • Be issued by publicly traded US corporations
  • An investor should personal the inventory for greater than 60 days out of a 121-day interval starting 60 days earlier than the ex-dividend date


The final bullet is sophisticated, however a common method to consider it’s in case you have held the inventory for a couple of months, the dividend will seemingly be certified. 

Sure funds normally don’t pay certified dividends, reminiscent of REITs, MLPs, and bond funds. They usually pay nonqualified dividends which can be taxed at extraordinary earnings charges. 

Now that extra about how dividends are taxed, let’s have a look at an instance. 

Let’s say you might be within the 15% capital positive factors bracket and earn $10,000 price of certified dividends in a brokerage account. 

Whether or not you reinvest the $10,000 price of dividends again into the inventory, take the $10,000 as money and depart it within the account, or distribute the $10,000 to your checking account, you’ll be taxed on the dividends. 

Your tax invoice for these dividends will likely be roughly $1,500. 

Now, it’s possible you’ll be pondering, “Who cares? I don’t thoughts paying taxes. No less than I get dividends.” 

I’ll handle that within the subsequent two sections. 

Downside 2: Dividends Are Compelled Taxation

Would you reasonably pay 15% in taxes on the expansion in your portfolio within the yr that you simply earn it or if you select to pay it?

I do know my reply.

I wish to select when to pay it! 

Dividends are pressured taxation. 

When you have a better earnings yr and wish to cut back your tax legal responsibility, you’ll be able to’t. You may’t management if you obtain the dividends, which suggests you’ll be able to’t management when you find yourself taxed on the dividends.

Who desires to be pressured to pay taxes? One of many greatest ache factors for folks in retirement is taxes. Most individuals wish to know tips on how to cut back their taxes and ensure they’re doing every little thing doable to pay what they’re legally obligated, however not tip the IRS. 

Dividend buyers are higher tippers to the IRS. 

With cautious planning, you’ll be able to higher management your tax scenario. In case you can cut back your earnings, that will enable alternatives for Roth conversions to cut back taxes over your lifetime. I’m not a fan of dividend investing as a result of it’s pressured taxation that doesn’t enable you as a lot flexibility with the way you management your earnings. 

I’d a lot reasonably management when I’m taxed. What do you favor? 

Now, you should still be pondering, “Okay, I’m taxed on what I’m incomes. That’s okay. It’s free cash. So long as I maintain incomes it, I can assist my way of life.” 

Let’s discuss that delusion. 

Downside 3: Dividends Are Not Free Cash – Yield vs. Return

Dividends usually are not free cash. They don’t magically come out of skinny air. Because the outdated adage goes, “There isn’t any such factor as a free lunch.” 

Let’s have a look at a easy instance. 

If Firm A is price $100, has no debt, and pays a $5 dividend, how a lot will it’s price after it pays the dividend?

The reply is $95. 

After the corporate pays $5, it has $5 much less on its stability sheet. It could possibly’t pay the $5 dividend and nonetheless be price $100. 

If it might, that will be like me providing you with $5 out of the $100 in my pockets and nonetheless pondering I’ve $100 in my pockets. 

The explanation folks get confused about dividends not being free cash is that inventory costs transfer always whereas the inventory market is open. It’s tougher to see on the day that an organization pays a dividend that it’s declining in value by the identical worth as a result of different forces are at play. 

If actually constructive information comes out on the day the corporate pays a dividend, it might go up by an analogous quantity. For instance, if Firm A proclaims they’ve a brand new partnership within the works that will likely be constructive for the corporate, they might go up in worth by $5 on the identical day they pay a $5 dividend. 

In case you simply seemed on the inventory on that day, you may assume that you’ve got the identical firm price $100, however you additionally obtained $5 as a dividend. It truly seems just like the dividend was magically paid. 


However, that’s not what occurred. If the dividend hadn’t been paid, the inventory seemingly would have been price $105 ($100 + $5 improve in value). 

In both case, you will have $105. 

If the corporate pays a dividend, you will have the $5 dividend plus the $100 in a share of Firm A. If the corporate doesn’t pay a dividend, you will have the $105 in a share of Firm A. 

This brings me to my subsequent level – dividend yields don’t equal return. 

Folks usually confuse dividend yields and return or value appreciation. 

Keep in mind how I mentioned you’ll be able to higher management how you might be taxed should you don’t deal with dividends? 

You may higher management how you might be taxed by specializing in value appreciation. 

Value appreciation is the important thing right here. 

When a inventory goes up in a brokerage account, you might be not taxed on it. If a inventory goes up $10,000 in a brokerage account, you aren’t taxed on the $10,000 till you promote. 

I do know that appears primary, however let’s break it down additional. 

Folks ought to care most about their complete return, that are the dividends plus value appreciation. 

Whole return = Dividend + Value Appreciation

For instance, if Firm A pays a 4% dividend and appreciates 6%, they’ve a ten% complete return. 

To make the numbers extra concrete, let’s say Firm A is price $100 once more. Firm A paid you $4 in dividends and appreciated $6 within the first yr. 

How a lot is taxed? 

As you realized earlier, $4 will likely be taxed at capital positive factors charges, assuming it’s a certified dividend. In case you are within the 15% capital positive factors bracket, you’ll pay $0.60 in taxes. 

The $6 you earned from value appreciation received’t be taxed. 

It doesn’t sound unhealthy with smaller numbers, however let’s do that on a portfolio degree now. Let’s assume you will have $1,000,000 in a brokerage account and earn 4% in dividends and 6% in value appreciation. 

Now, you will have $40,000 in dividends, resulting in a tax invoice of $6,000. The opposite $60,000 earned by means of value appreciation is just not taxed. 

It feels worse now, proper? 

What if, as an alternative of incomes dividends, you earned 10% by means of value appreciation? 

Then, you don’t obtain any dividends and get to decide on if you acknowledge the $100,000 acquire. 

In case you are attempting to create decrease ranges of earnings, maybe you solely promote $40,000 and acknowledge $4,000 in capital positive factors. 

In that scenario, $4,000 in capital positive factors will likely be taxed at 15%, that means you owe $600 in taxes. 

As a substitute of paying $6,000 in pressured taxes by means of dividends, you narrow your portfolio tax invoice to $600 in taxes by means of specializing in value appreciation.

Taxes - Dividends vs. Price Appreciation

I’d a lot reasonably obtain the vast majority of my return within the type of value appreciation – not dividends. 

Dividends don’t magically improve your return or make your earnings safer. They aren’t free cash, however they’re pressured taxation. 

A greater technique to make investments is to deal with complete return. Value appreciation permits extra flexibility in the way you acknowledge earnings and can be utilized to plan your earnings year-to-year for tax planning functions. 

Downside 4: Dividend Shares Are Not a Bond Substitute 

Regardless of what number of instances you learn it on-line, it doesn’t make it any extra true. Dividend shares usually are not a bond substitute. 

Bonds are usually used for earnings and to cut back the ups and downs of the portfolio. They don’t seem to be meant to be drivers of development. 

To place it in perspective, let’s have a look at how one dividend ETF, the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (ticker: VIG), carried out in comparison with an mixture bond ETF, iShares Core U.S. Mixture Bond ETF (ticker: AGG), throughout market turmoil. This isn’t a advice for both ETF. I’m utilizing them to point out that bonds usually don’t decline in worth as a lot as shares throughout inventory market declines. 

The primary graph exhibits the decline of every in the course of the begin of the COVID pandemic. You may see in March of 2020 that bonds declined in worth, however nowhere close to as a lot because the dividend ETF. 

The bonds declined just a little greater than 5%. The dividend shares declined about 25%+. These are two very totally different experiences for buyers. 

In case you had $1,000,000 invested in every, you’d have about $950,000 invested in bonds and about $750,000 invested within the dividends shares close to the lows. 

The second graph exhibits the efficiency of the identical ETFs in the course of the Monetary Disaster in 2009. Bonds primarily held their worth throughout that point whereas the dividend shares declined significantly. 

Decline of Dividends vs. Bonds Financial Crisis

If an investor desires to take extra inventory threat and is snug with the ups and downs, that’s okay, however dividend shares usually are not an alternative choice to bonds. I’d return to my earlier level that if an investor desires to take extra inventory threat, why not make investments it in a method that focuses on value appreciation? 

That method you get to manage how you might be taxed. 

Downside 5: Dividends Scale back What The Firm Can Reinvest for Progress

Another excuse I don’t like specializing in dividend investing is that corporations that pay dividends have much less cash to reinvest for development.

They’re admitting that they don’t have concepts to extend the worth of the corporate, which normally means they’re carried out rising as quick. 

One other method to take a look at it’s that they’re saying, “We don’t have a accountable method to make use of this cash and it will be higher in your fingers.” Then, you turn out to be chargeable for deciding what to do with that earnings – whether or not it’s investing it or spending it. 

Since dividend corporations are usually extra mature, their higher days are normally behind them, and this exhibits up in efficiency.

For instance, beneath is a chart of the identical dividend ETF in comparison with an S&P 500 ETF (ticker: SPY). As you’ll be able to see, efficiency has been decrease for the dividend paying shares than the ETF that tracks the S&P 500. 

Dividends vs. S&P 500 ETF Performance

I’d a lot reasonably put money into corporations which can be reinvesting earnings, being revolutionary, and have extra potential for value appreciation. 

Downside 6: Focusing Solely On Dividend Shares Reduces Diversification 

One other usually forgotten facet of specializing in dividend shares is that you’re excluding a complete universe of shares! 

In reality, FINRA reported that in 2015 that about 84% of the businesses within the S&P 500 index pay dividends. Within the Commonplace & Poor’s mid-cap index, it was about 70.5%. For the Commonplace & Poor’s small-cap index, solely about 54% had been paying dividends. 

Let’s have a look at an instance as of April 2022. 

If I display for home corporations buying and selling on the NYSE or NASDAQ utilizing Charles Schwab’s inventory screener, there are 4,548 corporations out there. 

If I display for corporations that don’t pay a dividend, there are 2,826 corporations out there. 

Which means there are about 62% of corporations that don’t pay dividends. 

Are you able to think about solely specializing in about 38% of the investable shares? 

In case you are solely specializing in dividend investing, you might be leaving out many corporations. Plus, you might be seemingly leaving out shares from sure segments of the market. 

For instance, you seemingly would have much less of an publicity to small cap shares. As famous earlier, solely 54% of small cap shares had been paying dividends in 2015. After I do the screening in the present day, it’s about 52% – not a lot has modified. Traditionally, small cap shares have carried out higher than massive cap shares over longer intervals of time. 

Focusing solely on dividend shares means you aren’t as diversified as you may be. 

Downside 7: Dividends Are Not Assured  

Lastly, and maybe most significantly, dividends usually are not assured. 

Folks discuss dividend shares as if they’re assured to go on for eternally, however there are numerous examples of shares slicing their dividends and even going bankrupt

Oftentimes, dividends are lower or lowered with no discover. Worse, the inventory value can drop, generally considerably, on the similar time dividends are lower or lowered. 

There are numerous shares folks thought had been “secure bets” as a result of that they had been paying a dividend for a very long time or persistently made cash. With hindsight, it’s simple to say, “After all, I wouldn’t put money into that sort of inventory. I’d promote it earlier than issues received unhealthy.” 

That’s what many individuals assume, however but, that’s not what occurs.

You may ask buyers in Basic Motors. They paid a dividend for a number of a long time up till 2006 after they lowered their dividend after which in 2009 declared chapter. 

What about Washington Mutual? It was an enormous monetary establishment with a rising dividend till they declared chapter in 2008. Folks misplaced a lifetime of financial savings. 

You even have BP. It seemed strong as a dividend paying firm till the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The inventory dropped significantly, and the corporate suspended their dividend for over half a yr. 

Folks usually will say this received’t occur to them – that they’ve a strong firm. But, who can management what occurs on the earth?

Who can management how shopper habits change, whether or not somebody commits fraud, or how the world will reply to a disaster? 

Dividends usually are not assured. It’s not a daily earnings stream you’ll be able to depend on.

Last Ideas – My Query for You

Dividend investing has been widespread for a very long time, however it appears to come back out and in of favor relying on what is occurring on the earth. 

I’m not a fan of dividend investing. 

Not solely do dividends improve your taxes, however they’re a pressured taxation. As a monetary planner, I desire investing in a method that permits for extra tax planning. 

Dividends are actually not free cash. Your complete return is what it’s best to care most about, and I desire most of my return to come back from value appreciation – not dividends. 

Though folks might declare you’ll be able to maintain dividend shares as a bond substitute, you now know the chance is just not the identical. 

When an organization pays a dividend, they’re admitting they don’t have good concepts to develop your cash. Over time, we’ve seen that dividend shares as a complete have worse efficiency. 

Lastly, dividends usually are not assured. Don’t let anybody inform you in any other case. 

I’ll depart you with one query to behave on. 

Which downside with dividend investing will you keep in mind the subsequent time you learn an article about the advantages of dividend investing?



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