Some dividend stocks are evergreen -- blue-chip dividend stocks with a long history of returning money to their shareholders.
Here are four companies whose payouts have been growing annually for decades -- regardless of elections, recessions, inflation rates, fiscal cliffs, European debt problems, Federal Reserve chairmen and other real or imagined market drivers.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ +0.27%)
The consumer staple/pharmaceuticar03;l company has increased its dividend every year since 2002. Its recent dividend hike in May brought the quarterly payout to $0.61 per share -- more than double the payout from eight years ago.
With a current yield of 3.6%, Johnson & Johnson is one of the more generous, reliable dividend payers on the market.
McDonald's (MCD +0.19%)
The largest fast-food chain in the world will increase its dividend a whopping 10% this December. The new 77-cents-per-quarterr03; payout will bring McDonald's yield to 3.3%.
Granted, the stock's 6% decline this year makes that yield look a bit shinier. But this is a company that has upped its dividend by an average of 20% a year since the 2008 recession.
It occupies a space that offers cheap food worldwide in the midst of a struggling global economy. As long as those struggles continue, McDonald's should flourish.
AT&T (T +1.41%)
Telecommunications is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. So it's no surprise that telecom stocks are perhaps the most generous dividend payers on the market.
Telecom companies offered the highest yield rate of all S&P 500 stocks in 2011, at 5.9%. And no telecom company is bigger than AT&T.
The company offers its shareholders a yield of nearly 5%, and the dividend has grown steadily every year since 2004.
Other telecommunications companies may offer higher yields. But AT&T is an established, blue-chip company that has offered generous dividends for years.
Procter & Gamble (PG +0.42%)
This is a company designed to profit even if the world were coming to an end. If the apocalypse was upon us, people would no doubt load up on Duracell batteries, Crest toothpaste, Pampers and Pepto-Bismol.
Those are just four of P&G's dozens of varied brands. People need those products in any economy -- under any president. That's how P&G has managed to increase its dividend for 56 straight years.
The current yield is 3.3%, with a quarterly payout of $0.56 per share. If any stock is completely unaffected by the election, this is it.