Income investing involves purchasing assets that provide regular cash payments – i.e., income.
Such investments are popular because they provide steady income in addition to (hopefully) appreciating in value. Investors can treat the regular payments from these investments as regular income or can reinvest to take advantage of the power of compounding.
Income investing is for anyone who wants additional income while they pursue a longer-term investing plan.
In particular, it may appeal to investors who have taken an extended time off work or those who have retired. You still need to generate income but want to do so without giving up on the potential returns a long-term investment can generate.
Additionally, if you’re investing in income-producing assets within a tax-efficient wrapper like a stocks & shares ISA, you won’t have to pay tax on the income generated by these investments (note that tax treatment will depend on your individual circumstances and could potentially change in the future).
A dividend is a payment distributed to the shareholders of a company, usually taken from its profits. These payments are made periodically – often annually, quarterly, or monthly.
They are paid out on a per share basis, meaning the more shares you own, the more dividend payments you’re entitled to. Companies can – and do – suspend dividend payments during times of financial stress.
The annual dividend amount divided by the purchase price of the stock is called the dividend yield. A stock paying £0.20 in dividends annually that was bought for £20, for example, has a dividend yield of 1%.
To give you an idea of how much income you can earn through dividends Apple paid a quarterly dividend of $0.23 per share in Q4 2022, while Microsoft paid $0.68 per share and General Motors paid $0.09.
Dividend stocks that have a history of paying out are no doubt attractive for income investors, but it’s also worth noting that you may have to exchange some upside in returns when investing in them. One school of thought is that, if you have a long time horizon, you should consider growth stocks that reinvest capital into their operations rather than distributing to shareholders. Such stocks may have a higher ceiling in terms of overall returns, though they may also be more volatile.
When you buy a bond, the issuer commits to paying a set amount of interest on its value at regular intervals. After a pre-determined period, the initial purchase value of the bond is paid back, and interest payments cease.
The periodic interest payment – called a coupon – represents the income portion of a bond. When people talk about “fixed-income” investing, they are often talking about investing in bonds.
The yield of a bond can be calculated by dividing its coupon payments by its purchase price.
Putting all your investible cash into a single dividend-paying stock or bond in search of income means you’ll have no diversification in your portfolio.
Fortunately, there are funds (OEICs) and ETFs that have an income focus. These products will either actively purchase or track an index comprised of investments like the two mentioned above. This means you can be exposed to income-generating investments while also getting the benefits of diversification. You do, of course, have to pay additional fees to the provider of the fund, such as a management fee.
You can either receive the income generated by these funds as a periodic distribution or have it reinvested in the fund to take advantage of compounding. Many funds do the latter automatically.
Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
REITs are essentially companies that make real-estate investments. Shares of REITs trade on exchanges, meaning retail investors like you can gain exposure to real estate.
REITs’ investments often produce income. For example, if they own residential or commercial buildings, they’ll be collecting income in the form of rent, services, and lease payments.
This income can then be paid out to shareholders in the REIT periodically.
Capital at risk.
When you want your portfolio to generate income, dividend-paying stocks seem like a no-brainer. These are assets that can generate stock-market returns while also paying out regular cash distributions. That all sounds pretty good.
For many of us with long-term investing plans, finding assets that provide income is appealing. Regular payments generated by the securities we’ve purchased can make it easier to put cash away for 5+ years.
When you invest, your capital is at risk.