Advisors know that dividends are never guaranteed; a corporation's board can raise or lower the payments at any time.

Still, companies that regularly increase their dividends build up expectations for a continuation of that policy. Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble has increased its dividend for 57 consecutive years; banking automation company Diebold has a 60-year record. And scores of other U.S. corporations have increased payments to their shareholders annually for a decade or more.

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