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What is a DRIP?

by John Schroeder

As a investor in dividend paying stocks, it is important to leverage the tools available to you in order to maximize your return on investment. There are many financial ratios like the dividend yield, yield on cost, and payout ratio that are used by investors to make educated investment decisions. There is also another kind of tool that can help income investors lower their costs and build a solid portfolio over time.

Setting up a dividend reinvestment plan or DRIP provides a way for investors to slowly grow their money. Also referred to as a DRP, this tool can help limit expenses paid to a broker while reinvesting all dividends back into the same stock.

Let’s take a closer look at what a DRIP is and how it can help the average investor.

What is a DRIP?

According to Investopedia, a DRIP is “A plan offered by a corporation that allows investors to reinvest their cash dividends by purchasing additional shares or fractional shares on the dividend payment date.”

For most dividend investors, setting up a DRIP is a great way to increase the value of their investment with no action required. Depending on the stock and/or the broker, most dividend reinvestment plans allow the investor to purchase shares with no commission or fees. This can drastically cut down on expenses that are often required to build and maintain a profitable portfolio of dividend stocks.

Types of Dividend Reinvestment Plans

Believe it or not, there are a couple different types of dividend reinvestment plans available. One allows the investor to purchase stock directly through the company, while the other requires a third party to invest.

Here are two popular methods for DRIP investing.

  1. Company Managed – There are several companies that actually run their own dividend reinvestment plans. These companies usually allow the investor to buy shares of their company directly through them without a broker. They also allow investors to buy partial shares, which can be a great way to invest if you don’t have a lot of capital to start with. Popular companies like McDonald’s Corporation and Procter & Gamble are just a few of the many publicly traded companies offering this service.
  2. Brokerage Account – Most online discount brokerages allow their customers to reinvest their earned dividend back into the stock at no cost. The incentive for the broker is to keep it’s current clients by offering this feature while the investor gets a discount on the expenses they will have to pay. Setting up a DRIP through an online broker usually takes just a few minutes to complete, making it an easy to use investment tool.

Advantages of Drip Investing

Many successful income investors use dividend reinvestment plans on at least a few stocks in their portfolio. A DRIP is generally easy to setup, which makes them a popular feature for investors.

Here are a few other advantages to DRIP investing -

  • Purchase Fractional Shares – If an investor receives $20 from a dividend payment and the share price of the stock is $40, a DRIP makes it possible to purchase .5 shares. This allows the investor to continue to build their position by reinvesting all of their dividend payment immediately back into the stock without having to wait to buy a full share.
  • Automated Stock Purchase – These types of plans can be setup to automatically reinvest any dividend payments directly back into the stock. There is no action required by the investor making it a nice option for those of us with hectic lives. It generally takes less than 5 minutes to setup this feature with an online broker.
  • Commission Free – A great thing about dividend reinvestment plans is that they generally don’t require any commission be paid. Most online brokers don’t charge any commission fees when an investor decides to reinvest their dividends back into shares of the stock. This is great for the investor as they can lower the overall costs and the broker who gets to hang onto a customer longer by offering this feature.

Disadvantages of Drip Investing

Using DRIPs can help investors automate their dividend reinvestment’s while lowering the costs of commissions and other fees. There are plenty of advantages to setting up dividend reinvestment plans, but there are also a few disadvantages to consider.

Here are a few disadvantages of DRIP investing -

  • Diversification – Setting up a DRIP for the long term can prevent an investor from having a diversified portfolio. It is critical for the investor to monitor stocks in their portfolio to ensure any dividends should automatically be reinvested.
  • Initiating New Positions – Many investors use the income they generate from dividends to initiate a new position in their portfolio. Using a DRIP prevents this from happening as all the income is reinvested back into the same stocks, leaving no money to open positions in new stocks.

Final Thoughts

Experienced and successful dividend investors know how to use dividend reinvestment plans to their advantage. In some cases, it makes sense to setup one of these plans to help build a position in a new dividend paying stock. There are other times when setting up a DRIP just doesn’t make sense. The key is understanding when to use DRIPs and when to leave them alone and manage the dividends yourself.

Do you DRIP? What tips can you provide other investors on setting up dividend reinvestment plans?


Published or updated October 14, 2010.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ANdy

I used drips for several years successfully as many (1000 or so) companys will sell the first and every fractional share to you directly (or through their bank) and is a solid way to grow and reinvest. Apart from the other concerns of dibversivation I also found that you must keep excellent records for tax purposes and many small purchases make for some tough going to be absolutely accurate on your taxes. Dividends are taxed in the year recieved and in order to not double tax yourself must be subtracted from the shares sold if and when you cash out of that holding.

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2 John

@Andy – Great point about keeping track of dividends received for taxes when selling a position. Did you sign up for Drips directly through the companies or via a broker? I would think it would be much easier keeping track of everything going through a single broker.

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3 hishersmoney

DRIPS were recommended to us by our financial advisor a couple years ago. Since then we have purchased into three different companies. In our case the three we choose were all through a broker (two different brokers in this case). We contributed $500 up front with a $100 monthly investment which is taken from our checking account automatically.

We currently both max out our 401ks at work and aren’t eligible for the Roth so we were looking for another investment vehicle. The three we choose were companies we felt had very long term potential with steady business since we plan on holding them for the extreme long term. We choose three companies that were in different market segments and plan on adding a fourth in the future (in about 6 months or so).

While we are re-investing our dividends now, in retirement we plan on taking the dividends in cash. Our goal is to over time accumulate enough shares that when the dividends are paid out in retirement we can actually have a sizable enough check to partially live on in retirement.

This allows us to not worry about the actual trading price of the stock on an ongoing basis since the actual stock will be just sitting there earning us money in terms of the dividends.

I think DRIPs are a great investment tool if you are already maxing out the traditional retirement methods and are looking for an additional investment vehicle. My personal advice is to max out your 401k and ROTH (if you’re eligible) first before committing your funds to individual stocks (my two cents).

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