How to Get Dividend Income

A young businesswoman checks a stock market investment display.
•••

d3sign / Getty Images

To make money through dividend investing, you must find companies that are likely to increase their dividend payments year after year. When you do that, you cause more money to flow into your bank account. As the firm's sales and profits grow, so will dividend income.

Making money from dividend-paying stocks is one of the basics of good investing. But you need to know what dividends are and how they work if you want to put them to good use. Learn how these kinds of stocks add a stream of income to your accounts.

What Is a Dividend?

Companies fund dividend payments when they earn a profit. They use part of these profits to send money to the people who invested in them. The board of directors meets to listen to company leaders, who suggest how much of the profit should be set aside for growth. A portion of what's left is then paid out to shareholders as dividends.

The board of directors also considers how much profit should be used to pay down debt and how much should be used to buy back stock.

Why Use Dividends for Income?

Your dividends can be reinvested. You can also use them to pay household bills, send a child to college, start a business, pay for vacations, or give to charity. The more shares you own of good dividend stocks, the more money you can make. Dividend investors collect this specific type of investment over time.

If you invest well, your net worth and income will keep growing as time goes on.

You could earn a large amount of money each year just from dividends alone if you invest over 30, 40, or 50 years or more.

An Example

Suppose Anthony is 18 years old and he's just gotten a job. He decides that he wants to start making money from stocks, so he begins to invest. He chooses shares of big blue-chip firms. He looks for ones that show healthy growth, strong balance sheets, and a solid history of raising the dividends it pays out over time.

He wants to avoid taxes, so he opens a Roth IRA to hold these stocks. Anthony can add up to $6,000 to this account each year because he is under 50 and that is the limit set by the IRS as of 2021.

This move gives him a great edge in tax planning. He'll never pay a penny in taxes on the gains he makes in this account as long as he follows Roth IRA rules. Contributions are made with after-tax dollars and they can't be deducted from income, so any money he takes out will be tax-free after five years.

Anthony is able to grow his money at 8% for the next 50 years. Thanks to compound interest, his portfolio grows to more than $3 million by the time he reaches 68 years old and decides to retire.

If he invested wisely and picked stocks with an average dividend yield of at least 3%, he could collect about $96,000 in dividends each year. That's cash in his pocket. And don't forget, he doesn't have to pay any taxes on this income because he holds the stocks within his Roth IRA account.

Important Things To Consider

Making money from dividend stocks involves a handful of key factors:

For instance, the net investment income tax went into effect in 2013. This tax collects 3.8% from your net earnings depending on what you earn and your filing status. It applies to those who make more than $200,000 a year and are filing single or head of household, or more than $250,000 a year if married filing jointly (if married, filing separately, the income threshold is $125,000). That could affect your bottom line if the threshold applies.

Also be aware that picking a firm with tons of debt and falling sales is always a big risk, no matter how large the payout may appear.

You might instead look at a low-cost index fund that is focused on dividend-paying companies. An index fund is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) or mutual fund that tracks a certain market index. This way, you don't have to select each stock on your own, but you can still try making money with dividend investing.

One such index is the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats Index. It tracks large, high-quality blue-chip stocks in the S&P 500 that have raised their dividend every year for the past 25 years.

You can also take a look at dividend-focused ETFs, such as the iShares Dow Jones Select Dividend Index or the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF.

Be sure to read the mutual fund prospectus before you invest. This tells you how the stocks held in the fund are chosen. That will help you see whether the risks are right for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often are dividends paid?

Most companies pay dividends on a quarterly basis, but some may choose to pay monthly, annually, or even semiannually. You can check a company's investor relations page to find out when it pays dividends.

How do I calculate dividends?

Dividends are paid on a per-share basis. In order to calculate your expected payout, multiply the dividend by the number of shares you own. For example, if you own 10 shares in a company that pays $2.90 per share in dividends, you will receive a $29 dividend payment.

How do I know what stocks pay dividends?

A company's investor relations page, along with its information on its listing exchange (the Nasdaq, NYSE, etc.) will include information about dividends. Generally speaking, if you want stocks that pay dividends, you should look at larger, more well-established companies.