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Will Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (APD) Help You Retire Rich? – Praxair, Inc. (PX), Ford Motor Company (F)

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Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won’t just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

In an era where corporate names seem to be the product of creative marketing teams and often bear no resemblance to what a business actually does, it’s refreshing to see Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD) sticking to its basics of providing specialty gases and chemicals for the industries that need them. Below, we’ll revisit how Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD) does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts’ growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won’t make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock’s share price.
Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won’t fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time — as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the company’s financial health.

With those factors in mind, let’s take a closer look at Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD).

Factor What We Want to See Actual Pass or Fail?
Size Market cap > $10 billion $18.5 billion Pass
Consistency Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years 4 years Pass
Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years 1 year Fail
Stock stability Beta < 0.9 1.18 Fail
Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20% (47.8%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 18 19.86 Fail
Dividends Current yield > 2% 2.9% Pass
5-year dividend growth > 10% 11% Pass
Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years 30 years Pass
Payout ratio < 75% 44.2% Pass
Total score 6 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD) last year, the company has kept its six-point score. The stock has languished, however, providing about a break-even return over the past year after adding in income from the company’s dividend.

Air Products’ tepid performance recently shows that even strong dividend stocks can run into temporary setbacks. For Air Products, high input costs have played a role recently in holding back the company’s profits, with helium having been particularly expensive to obtain due to a global shortage.

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