Will Kellogg Help You Retire Rich?

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Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

The food industry used to be a stable, boring business, with staples like cereal generally providing predictable but unexcitingly slow growth. Lately, though, food giant Kellogg (NYS: K) has found itself in the middle of some lucrative controversies that have been anything but boring. Having won a key battle, can the cereal giant broaden its scope to become a true leader throughout the food business? Below, we'll revisit how Kellogg does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.


Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Kellogg.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

SizeMarket cap > $10 billion$17.6 billionPass
ConsistencyRevenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years3 yearsFail
 Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years2 yearsFail
Stock stabilityBeta < 0.90.45Pass
 Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%(14.1%)Pass
ValuationNormalized P/E < 1816.10Pass
DividendsCurrent yield > 2%3.5%Pass
 5-year dividend growth > 10%8.1%Fail
 Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years8 yearsFail
 Payout ratio < 75%49.8%Pass
    
 Total score 6 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Kellogg last year, the company has picked up a point, with its valuation falling slightly. Yet even though the stock has fallen 10%, Kellogg has an interesting opportunity that could prove to be a long-term winner.

Kellogg has long been a big name in the breakfast-food area. With its many popular cereals, the company goes head-to-head against rival General Mills (NYS: GIS) in the battle for breakfast supremacy.

Yet a big problem for Kellogg has been that other segments of the food industry have been more lucrative. Kraft Foods (NYS: KFT) , for instance, has its line of snack foods to provide faster growth than its more dependable grocery items. The snack business has huge promise, and Kraft decided to split off its global snacks division in order to help it reach its full potential.

That's why Kellogg investors should be ecstatic that the company was able to swoop in and buy the Pringles division from Procter & Gamble (NYS: PG) after Diamond Foods (NAS: DMND) was unable to close its earlier deal with P&G. The move will turn Kellogg into a big player in the global snacks market, tripling the division's size.

For retirees and other conservative investors, Kellogg's lengthening track record of higher dividends is a good sign of its confidence in its future. The current yield is rich enough to make shareholders happy as well. Kellogg definitely deserves a close look from retirement investors as a candidate for a conservative investment portfolio.

Keep searching
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.

If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.

Add Kellogg to My Watchlist, which will aggregate our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Procter & Gamble. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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