3 Favorites Benefiting From A Terrible Trend

Ever get the feeling that you can’t get ahead, no matter how hard you try? That’s the case for many households across the country.

In fact, a recent Pew Charitable Trusts research report crunched Bureau of Labor Statistics data, tracking expenditures and incomes of Americans for the last couple of decades. Per the report, median income is down over 10% from where it was just 10 years ago; meanwhile, household expenditures are up close to 15% over the same period. 

#-ad_banner-#For the low-income households, it appears that the recession never really ended. 

Discount retail leader Dollar General (NYSE: DG) highlighted that fact at its recent investor conference. The company also made a point to show that inflation is outpacing total wages as health care costs and rents continue to rise. But it’s not just about rising expenditures. The economy itself could be on shaky ground. 

Duke’s Fuqua School Business surveyed some 1,600 CFOs this month, and found that their respondents believe there is a 31% chance the United States could enter a recession by the end of this year. If a recession does hit, low-income families will struggle even more, forcing them to turn to retailers that offer necessities for cheap. 

When people are worried about their budgets, they’ll turn to stores that are known for squeezing value out of every dollar. And those are the companies I’ll be turning to for my next investment. Here are my top three picks: 

First there’s Dollar General, which is a leader in the dollar store industry. It has big plans for 2016, not only looking to boost store growth, but also to open smaller stores. These small stores are expected to help Dollar General expand into more urbanized environments that don’t allow for larger store formats. 

Dollar General held its annual investor conference last month, where it said it plans to add 900 new stores in 2016 and then another 1,000 next year. Dollar General is currently testing the small store concept with 30 stores, and it plans to open 80 small stores this year.  

Dollar General is also expanding its products to help attract more shoppers, including rolling out coolers in its stores to offer more consumables. In terms of just how well Dollar General is doing, it has minimal debt on its balance sheet and in 2015 it posted record sales and profits. Last year also marked the 26th consecutive year of same-store sales growth. 

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) is also a great play on the low-income segment of the economy. Despite being the world’s largest employer, shares were down 30% in 2015. Last year also delivered the retailer its worst single-day decline in more than 25 years — falling over 10%. That fall came when Wal-Mart revised its full-year earnings downward, thanks to pressure from e-commerce players like Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN). 

Wal-Mart is an enticing turnaround story as it looks to boost its image and increase its e-commerce presence. First the company making investments in its employees, where it’s upping its wages and implementing new training programs. And to improve e-commerce, Wal-Mart is upgrading its technology and logistics programs, which includes a new payment app and new fulfillment centers. 

Then there is the grocery angle, where Wal-Mart generates over 50% of its revenues. The retail giant plans to allow customers the ability to order groceries online, then pick up in-store, which should boost sales. 

Wal-Mart is offering a 2.9% dividend yield and has managed to increase its annual dividend for 41 straight years. It pays out less than 50% of its earnings via dividends and has managed to grow same-store sales for seven straight quarters.  

McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) “dollar menu” is still a staple among many Americans. Many observers have expressed worries about how the popularity of healthy eating will impact McDonald’s. In response, the company looking to not only focus on its core low-income customer, but also cater to healthy eaters. 

Over the last year or so McDonald’s has started simplifying its menu and boosting its “healthy” image. And for the budget-focused customers, it’s rolling out a new “McPick 2” offering, which allows customers to purchase two menu items for $5. Meanwhile, it also rolled out all-day breakfast last year. Breakfast is offered at a lower price point than most lunch items, which should help continue driving traffic to its stores. 

McDonald’s pays a 2.8% dividend yield and has managed to increase its annual dividend for 39 straight years. It’s also only paying out 63% of its earnings via dividends. And with a strong balance sheet, which includes over $8 a share in cash, I’m not worried about a dividend reduction.

Risks To Consider: The biggest risk for the three low-income stocks above is that consumers find an even cheaper place to buy their necessities. Even still, each company has a broad reach with vast brand recognition that would be tough to compete with. 

Action To Take: Wal-Mart is perhaps the most interesting name on the list, trading at just 15 times next year’s earnings estimates. It also offers the highest dividend yield. Then there’s the growth story on the list, Dollar General, although it is one of the largest dollar stores around. Still, with plenty of opportunity for store growth, it’s a steal at 17 times forward earnings. 

Editor’s Note: If you’re overlooking this strategy, you could be missing out on $19,200 in extra income this year. That’s because one service is leveraging the power of dividends to collect more than $82,000 over the last few years. Click here to learn how you can use it to generate nearly $1,600 each month from daily “paychecks”… starting today!