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Customer Review

on March 12, 2005
Siegel's basic advice to stock investors is to focus less on growth stocks and index mutual funds (eg., Vanguard 500) and more on looking for tried and true stocks that pay high dividends. He argues that such reinvested dividends are the true source of stock returns, or the "El Dorado." (His term). Overall, this argument is well-presented and persuasive.

However, I am perplexed on a key element. His case is largely based on historical evidence that purports to show that high dividend yield stocks, with dividends reinvested, have accumulated more total return than growth stocks or index mutual funds. However, his calculations do not account for the deleterious effect of taxes on reinvested dividend. (He says in an endnote that taxes are not significant for the portfolios he chose, but does not explain why; for most common stock portfolios, taxes are significant.) Dividends are taxed yearly and until recently at a higher rate than that of capital gains and that of retained earnings, which are not taxed at all. If taxes have been paid on dividends, only the untaxed part can truly be considered "reinvested"; the part that is taxed has to be made up by a new infusions of cash from the investor. The effect of ignoring this is that his historical comparisons are not terribly meaningful because he is not calculating the returns on true (after tax) contributions to dividend stocks vs. growth stocks. Naturally, if more is contributed to the dividend stocks, there is likely to be more at the end. (BTW, this is basically the same fallacy that sunk the allegedly huge returns of the otherwise delightful "Beardstown Ladies" of yore.) Given that the magnitude of the "advantage" he posits of dividend stocks vs. growth stocks is not all that great, one cannot have confidence that he has truly made his case.

That said, his advice is very useful for investors in tax sheltered 401Ks. Also, the new lower tax rate on dividends also helps lessen, though not eliminate, the effects of yearly taxation of dividends.
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