One thing I do is keep a simple calendar that shows me at a glance my anticipated cash flows, when to expect upcoming dividend and rent payments, as well as key expenses. You may want to do so as well.
When earnings announcements occur, companies usually also announce the ex-dividend date (the date before which one must own shares in order to receive the next dividend payment), the payment date and the date of the next earnings call.
For stocks I already own, using a calendar lets me plan when I’ll need to take action with these payments, whether to reinvest them and, if so to start thinking about where to place them.
If I’m considering buying stock then I want to know the ex-dividend date. I’ll mark it on the calendar with an “x” followed by the day of the month (“x14” for the ex-dividend date falling on the 14th day of the month).
These dates are also useful to know when unloading shares. Sell on the ex-dividend date or after and you’ll have received the dividend payout, locking in the dividend as cash. However, when trading opens on the ex-dividend date, the share price will already have been adjusted down by the amount of the cash payout. So in theory your sales proceeds will be a wash – though share prices constantly fluctuate.
It’s also good to know when to expect the annual report, and keep an eye on analysts’ earnings “guidance”.
Yahoo Finance is a useful site for finding earnings and dividend information. Find the ticker for each stock of interest. Then click on the ticker and “Company Events” in the left side bar. You’ll see the recent and upcoming events.
Another way of finding upcoming ex-dividend dates on the site is to click Market Data > Calendars and enter the stock’s ticker symbol. The result will show the next earnings announcement for that stock, the estimated earnings per share (EPS), plus a list of other companies announcing their earnings the same day.
Keep in mind that EPS is annualized. If EPS is $1.00 per share, and dividend payments are made quarterly, shareholders will receive $0.25 per share on the next dividend payment date.
If you use a Yahoo account you can also add any of these dates to your calendar. But I prefer to use a spreadsheet to include key dates for rental properties as well.
Besides receiving rents, generally on the first of the month, the other aspect of rental property of course are the outflows. The bulk of routine expenses are the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance such as heating and cooling inspections and pest control service.
Rental property is more involving because it’s a business that someone, whether it’s you or a property management service, has to operate while ownership of stocks and securities is passive. Each have their advantages and disadvantages.
By keeping track of these events year in and year out in one simple file, I have quick access to useful reference information and trend data. This helps with cashflow predictability.
And when you add up all the numbers from each month’s columns, you can estimate how much cash you have coming your way. It’s kind of fun.