The are basically two lists is North American that track the dividend increases for thousands of companies: high dividend achievers and high dividend aristocrats. The primary criteria for these lists are a consistent record of dividend increases for a specific number of years. When I say consistent, I mean it. Each company on each list must not have missed a dividend increase in the requisite number of years. So what is the real difference between the two groups of stocks?
The difference lies in the number of years a company has consecutively increased its dividend:
* High Dividend Achievers = at least 10 years
* High Dividend Aristocrat = at least 25 years
The effect this has on the number of stocks on each list is large. The more stringent of the two, Aristocrats, has only 59 stocks on its list (Note: Excel File). By comparison, the Achievers has 312 on the list.
What does this really mean to a dividend investor? Investing is all about finding companies with consistent track records of things like revenue, EPS, and cash flow. The longer there is evidence that a company has performed well, the more comfortable an investor can be when buying stock in that company. It is no guarantee of solid future performance, but it is more important to have it than not. The same can be said for dividend increases. I would argue that the longer a company has been increasing its dividend, the more likely it will continue to do so in the future. Therefore if you are really focused on finding companies with LONG track records of dividend increases then the Aristocrats list is a better starting point to identify stocks for further analysis.