DRIPs were my introduction to buying stocks, and I still think they’re a super way for ordinary people to invest directly in stocks without having to spend a fortune in fees or having thousands to invest. DRIPs or Dividend Re-Investing Programs are a way of buying shares in a stock whose dividends are automatically re-invested in that stock, thereby buying more shares. DRIPs may be managed by the company whose stock you are investing, or by a transfer agent who manages the program for the company.
DRIPs are offered by companies you already know, companies like Hershey (NYSE: HSY), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), 3M Company (NYSE: MMM) Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE: XOM), among others. These are not fly-by-night make-a-quick-buck scams, in fact, DRIPs are designed for people who invest for the long haul, years and decades rather than days or weeks. When you buy stock through a DRIP you own actual shares of the stock in your own name, and you receive statements just like all the other stock owners, and you will need to pay taxes on any dividends or earnings.
Some DRIPs require you to buy your initial stock before you invest. You can purchase that first share either through a service like DirectInvesting.com's Temper Service or First Share, services designed to help would-be DRIP investors purchase their first stock, or you can purchase that first share through a broker. Using a service like Temper or First Share means that you pay them a fee in addition to the cost of the single share, but they take care of transferring the stock so that it is in your name, and they enroll you in the DRIP. Some companies let you purchase your first share directly from them or from their transfer agent. These company-managed DRIPs are often called Direct Stock Plans or Direct Investment Plans.
Typical Direct Stock Plans include those of Procter and Gamble’s Share Holder Investment Plan, administered via Computershare. The initial minimum investment is $250.00. After that, the minimum subsequent purchase is 50.00. Hershey's (NYSE: HSY) Direct Stock plan allows you to either have a minimum $25.00 a month investment via your bank or a $250.00 initial investment. Other companies with Direct Stock Plans include Kellogg Company (NYSE:K) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD).
Once you’ve joined a DRIP, not only are your dividends automatically re-invested in the stock in question, but you can also send a check use electronically transfer money from your bank to buy more shares directly through the DRIP, no broker needed. In some cases, there’s no service charge for directly buying stock this way, in others there’s a minor fee, usually cents rather than dollars, per share or per instance. That means that in addition to the convenience of automatically having your dividends reinvested to buy more shares, you save on broker fees. Some DRIPs charge more fees than others, so do be aware of any fees for reinvesting dividends or why you directly contribute to the DRIP.
When you get ready to sell, you can sell all of your shares or a portion of them by filling out a simple form on the quarterly statement, though it can take a month or so to receive your check. There’s usually a small charge, no more than a few dollars, to sell, but it’s still less than you would pay a broker. .
There are a number of advantages to investing via a DRIP:
- You don’t need a lot of money to begin investing in DRIPs; most DRIPs only require a single share.
- The dividends that the stock shares earn each quarter are automatically reinvested to buy more of that stock.
- You can purchase additional shares directly via the DRIP if you want.
- You decide when and how much to invest, and when to sell, but you should plan on holding on to your DRIP stocks for the long term.
- You usually pay less to purchase or sell DRIPs than you would going through a stock broker.
- DRIPs make it easy to invest small amounts of money regularly, in some cases, as little as $10.00.
DRIPs are designed for people interested in holding onto their stocks for the long term. Like any stock investment, DRIPs are not guaranteed to do well, and are not insured, so you should consider not only the stock in question, but whether or not you’re suited for long-term investing in stocks. Pay attention to any restrictions, minimums and fees for enrolling, investing or selling. DRIPs are for the slow and steady investor with patience and regular investing habits. When I began investing in DRIPs, I picked a handful of companies I was familiar with, and whose business and products I understood. I invested a certain amount every month, at first, a mere $25.00. I planned on keeping the stocks for at least ten years. I reinvested the dividends and I regularly sent in contributions to buy additional shares. I also made sure that I was investing in a variety of companies and industries, and in using my IRA and 401K as well, in order to avoid having all my eggs in one basket, or a single stock. Think carefully, and do your own research.
Here are some resources for more information about DRIPs:
- Drip Investing
- The publishers of The Moneypaper, a DRIP newsletter, Drip Investing also offers the Temper service for purchasing the initial share of a stock in order to enroll in a DRIP, and enrolling in the stock's DRIP either online or via mail. Temper of the Times Investor Services buys the stock and registers it in your name and deals with the transfer agent on your behalf to provide you with direct shareholder status on the company records. They do charge a one-time fee, so plan your enrollments wisely.
- First Share
- First Share is membership service that helps DRIP investors purchase the initial share of a stock before joining the stock's DRIP. Members with shares in the stock sell a share to you at the current exchange price, for a small fee for non members (currently $14.95 per stock), and First Share takes care of the transfer and enrollment paperwork so that the stock is in your name, and you're enrolled in the DRIP. They also offer information about DRIPs in general as well as specific DRIP programs.
- Drip Investor
- Drip Investor publishes the Drip Investor newsletter and subscribers have acces to information DRIPs in over 600 stocks that Drip Investor calls "No Load" stocks, or stock plans that permit investors to make the initial purchase of stock directly from the company. Much of the information on the Website is free for non-members who do not subscribe.