A dividend aristocrat is a stock that has increased its annual regular dividend every year for twenty five years. A dividend champion is a stock that has paid out its dividend every year for twenty five years, not necessarily increasing it each year. The idea behind both lists is that a lot has happened in the last 25 years and if a company has kept its dividend obligation, chances are it will continue to do so (but no guarantees!). Aristocrats are kept to a higher standard, the company must increase its dividend each year to stay on the list.
What if you want to find an “almost” dividend champion or aristocrat? That’s when you have to look at Mergent’s list of Dividend Achievers (Indxis is a subsidiary of Mergent). Dividend Achievers are companies that have paid out a dividend for ten years or more (and include aristocrats and champions) and unlike the other two lists, achievers aren’t pulled entirely out of the S&P.
The current list of Dividend Achievers has 212 companies spread out across a variety of industries. Some familiar names, from the other lists, includes 3M, Abbott Labs, AFLAC and Wal-Mart. These types of lists are fun because they give you a good starting point if you want to find a few good dividend stocks (I own shares of Abbott Labs and AFLAC, but not 3M or Wal-Mart), but don’t stop your research there because history isn’t a good indicator of the future (plenty of banks fell off the aristocrat list these last two years).