2013 is already off to a fast start in the stock market, but there's still time for investors to get into the game. One smart way to get both growth potential and dependable income from your investments is to buy dividend stocks, which on the whole have outperformed their stingier, non-dividend counterparts over the long haul.
But with thousands of dividend-paying stocks to choose from, it can be a challenge to figure out which to focus on first.
To help you narrow down your search, take a look at the 13 stocks listed below. They all combine solid yields, long histories of dividends, and opportunities for growth in the future.
The company that once dominated the telecom industry isn't the ultra-conservative stock it once was, but with a 5.3 percent dividend yield, it has the highest yield in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and has been increasing its payout for 29 straight years. Thanks to smartphone and tablet growth, the wireless network provider has plenty of room to expand and improve its offerings, all the while collecting millions of monthly bill payments from customers.
You may know Aflac more from its duck commercials than its products, but the company's supplemental insurance produces nice profits and dependable income. You also may not realize that Aflac does most of its business in Japan, but that's a key driver for the stock both now and going forward, and has supported 30 years of annual payout increases for this stock, which yields 2.6 percent.
Investors have long looked to tobacco stocks for lucrative payouts, and the company behind the popular Marlboro brand is no exception. With 44 years of dividend increases and a 5.6 percent yield, Altria's hard to outdo on the dividend front, and even though the company faces ongoing regulatory threats and ad campaigns urging smokers to quit, the company has thrived in the past despite similar conditions.
Consumers never stop needing personal products, and with its Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers, and Scott paper products divisions, Kimberly-Clark offers a 3.5 percent yield and 40 years of income raises for shareholders. As billions of emerging-market consumers get the means to buy its goods, Kimberly-Clark will see more growth potential.
Its namesake soda may be the perennial No. 2 in the cola market, but PepsiCo is a lot more than just Pepsi. With Frito-Lay chips and other snacks, Pepsi is a market leader in its own right, and has the world's budding emerging-market consumers to attract in the years ahead. That's helped the company put together 40 years of annual dividend increases and a healthy yield above 3 percent.
Among consumers, Target is popular because of its brand-name offerings at discount-retail prices. Its yield of 2.4 percent doesn't top the charts, but 45 years of dividend increases point to even better times ahead as the retail giant continues to distinguish itself from the competition.
This leading drugstore chain has thousands of stores around the country and is positioning itself for growth in Europe with its recent purchase of Alliance Boots. With a nearly 3 percent yield and 37 years of annual dividend increases, Walgreen knows how to make both customers and investors feel healthier.
Not to be confused with tech giant Cisco, Sysco is a giant in food services, with a distribution network to restaurants, caterers, and other institutional food providers. The company pays investors a 3.5 percent yield and has boosted its payouts every year for 43 years, so while looking at its products may whet your appetite, you'll always feel satisfied after getting your quarterly dividend check.
A housing recovery is finally taking shape, and home-improvement retailer Lowe's is aiming to latch on and ride higher. But Lowe's has already endured half a century of up-and-down markets without a single year of flat or falling dividends. Even though its 1.8 percent yield isn't the best, the growth potential from homeowners finally shopping to remodel their current houses or put their stamp on newly purchased homes could push shares strongly higher.
Emerson is at the forefront of the cutting-edge power management industry, with devices and monitoring equipment to help businesses boost energy efficiency. Its 3.1 percent dividend yield and 56 years of annual dividend increases show its past strength, but Emerson has the innovative power to move briskly into the future as well.
Further down the retail chain, Family Dollar came into its own during the 2008 recession. Its dividend of just 1.3 percent isn't anything to write home about, but with a 17 percent dividend increase last year and 36 years of annual payout boosts, Family Dollar has plenty of growth potential, and could also act as a valuable hedge if the economy slips back into recession.
A quarter-century of annual dividend increases is just one way in which oil giant Chevron has proven its quality. The company has gone around the world seeking new opportunities for oil and gas production, and its successes on that front have led to the stock's attractive 3.3 percent dividend yield. Look for stock prices to rise if the company sees a return to rising energy prices in the near future.
Unlike the other names on this list, utility giant Exelon doesn't have a streak of annual dividend hikes. But its 7 percent yield is too good to ignore, especially when you consider the opportunities the company has with its extensive nuclear power production capacity and commitment to clean energy initiatives. As global warming awareness grows, Exelon should see even more demand for its fossil-fuel-free energy alternatives.
This year, don't settle for stocks that only give you half of what you want. Healthy dividends and growth prospects can be yours with stocks like the 13 listed above.
Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is a big fan of dividend stocks. He doesn't directly own any of the stocks mentioned above, although he owns mutual funds and ETFs that include some of these stocks as holdings. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Aflac, Cisco Systems, Chevron, Emerson Electric., Exelon, Kimberly-Clark, Lowe's, PepsiCo, and Sysco.