September 26, 2012 at 16:20 PM EDT
Market Wrap-Up for Sept.26 (ED, SO, DB, PRU, C, SPLS, more)

As the austerity protests in Europe turn even more violent, the markets are not ignoring the reality an economic rebound may not come as soon as many had hoped. The lack of jobs and impeding austerity measures facing Europeans were once thought of as a temporary problem, but unfortunately that has not been the case. Let’s hope our elected officials here in the U.S. can learn from the situation, and rather than just printing government assistance funds, they’ll put some thought into real long-term solutions for getting people back to work.

Before we get into the stock losers during today’s session, let’s first start with a sector seeing a bit of flight to safety, namely the utility space. Names gaining today included Consolidated Edison (ED) and Southern Co. (SO). On the flipside, plenty of names spent the majority of the day in the red, including financial sector plays Citigroup (C), Deutsche Bank (DB), and Prudential (PRU). Elsewhere, cautious Wall Street analyst commentary had stocks like Texas Instruments (TXN), Oracle (ORCL), and Staples (SPLS) pushing lower.

Staying Optimistic, But Planning on Sideways

As investors look back at the past five years, it becomes apparent that the overall market averages really haven’t grown much. In contrast, many individual stocks that have been steadily raising their dividend payouts have performed very well in that same period.

A couple of other areas have also done well, most notably gold prices. As we look ahead to the next five to ten years, it stands to reason we could see a similar overall pattern for the markets — and for global economies in general. I bet it you asked most of today’s global political leaders, they’d gladly sign up for a sideways economic picture for several years. Many people just want to see things stop getting worse, provided that inflation doesn’t become a big detriment to everyone’s personal financial situation.

I have long argued that real-life inflation (rising food, energy costs) is a much bigger issue than the government would have people believe. The official inflation numbers show zero dollar inflation happening, but we all know that the prices of everyday items have indeed seen significant gains.

Of course, statistics can be used, abused, and skewed to imply whatever the reporting agency wants them to. The result is a false sense of security for people who take things at face value. It’s no wonder why we live in such a complacent world. Despite governmental reports of a housing rebound, if you talk to most realtors these days, they’ll tell you that demand remains extremely low. In contrast to better unemployment data, ask most current job seekers how they’re faring and they’ll intimate the job market remains as difficult as ever.

I believe that the degree of professional success one can achieve boils down to a few key factors:

  • The region one lives in, as many places simply may never recover to their pre-bust highs,
  • The flexibility to pursue ongoing education, explore new career arenas, and consider relocating to achieve your goals, and
  • The ambition to perhaps eventually build one’s own business in his or her area of expertise.

One area I see the greatest opportunity in is the medical field. Many hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc. are severely understaffed, and when you consider the demographics (10,000 people a day are turning 65 and that trend will last for the next 20 years or so), the demand will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. In contrast, municipal employment (public works, police, firefighter, teacher, etc.) is not as good a bet as it used to be. Many municipalities these days are pushing for large scale cutbacks so bigger class sizes, leaner police/fire departments, and scaled-down city services. An already crowded market for those dwindling jobs will just become more crowded.

Despite the headwinds expressed above, the opportunity to succeed and find one’s place in the world remains historically high. It simply comes down to the effort each person is willing to give. With so many folks out there content to do just the bare minimum, those that truly apply themselves day-in, day-out are almost guaranteed to succeed.

In investing, we will continue look for new areas for investors to commit capital to, whether the market is up or down. That part of our strategy I know is sound. The part where people can actually acquire the capital to invest is what has me the most concerned. I can’t state enough that complacency is a huge danger to one’s financial well-being. Don’t let another minute pass if you find yourself in need of a change that could get you back on the path to prosperity. Without the steady stream of income coming in from a job or a business, the roadblocks to wealth are exponentially more difficult to traverse.

An Important Note Regarding the Best Dividend Stocks List

We want to make sure everyone understands that the stocks on our Best Dividend Stocks List are the names we currently like for new investor capital, regardless of what date the stock was first recommended on. If and when a stock is removed from the list, we will clearly state whether the stock should be sold (which is rare but occasionally will happen), or simply held in one’s account until we see a better entry point or catalyst.

And here’s one last thing to remember about what we do here at Dividend.com: it’s not just the names that we recommend that can help you build wealth, but also the things we try to steer you away from that are just as important. Forget about speculative or penny stocks, chasing unprofitable IPOs, and listening to the manic talking heads in the business media!

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Speaking of dividend capture, Dividend.com Premium members can also access a 9-page report we published on the essential elements to any successful dividend capture strategy. Be sure to check it out here on the Premium homepage.

Thanks for reading everybody. I’ll see you tomorrow!

Be sure to visit our complete recommended list of the Best Dividend Stocks, as well as a detailed explanation of our ratings system here.

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