Bonds pay interest and stocks pay dividends. Bond interest is usually a fixed percentage of the principal amount and has to be paid as scheduled - otherwise a company may be forced into bankruptcy. Dividends on the other hand may or may not be paid and they can be increased or reduced.
If we put on the hat of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) of a company we realize that he or she has a choice on what to do with profits earned by the company. They can be reinvested in the company or they can be paid out in dividends to the owners, that is the stockholders.
As investors we are interested in the dividend yield of stocks for a few different reasons. Dividends act as a cushion when the stock market drops and are therefore stocks that pay dividends are generally considered less risky than non-dividend paying stocks. Dividends provide an income stream to investors who are in retirement and living off of their investments. Many dividend stocks today actually yield more than bonds and have the likelihood of increasing their dividend over time. Simply stated, investors would rather have a stock like Johnson & Johnson (ticker = JNJ) that pays a dividend of $2.28/share to yield 3.50% than the 10 year U.S. Treasury note that yields 2%.
Not only does JNJ have the higher yield but it also has the potential to raise the dividend payout significantly over the next 10 years, Keep in mind, however, that JNJ is riskier than the U.S. Treasury note - what we are describing here is the basic risk/return trade-off.
After reading the posts of the last 2 days it should be easy for you to find the dividend and yield of any stock. Just go to the Yahoo Finance site described in those posts and you'll find, for example, the yield discussed here:
Investors, as you might imagine, keep track of which stocks have increased their dividend over a long period of time. These are called "dividend aristocrats".
Today dividend investors are fortunate because there are a number of good blogs devoted to dividend investing. They do excellent research and give the dividend investor good ideas. Here are a couple I follow:
Disclosure: I own some of the stocks and exchange traded funds mentioned in this post. It is intended for educational purposes only. Individuals should do their own research or consult a professional before making investment transactions.