Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. In this series, I look at 10 measures to show what makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

When some of the world's most profitable drugs are finally coming off patent, there's only one place to invest: the companies that stand to profit from those patent expirations. Teva Pharmaceutical (NAS: TEVA) is one of the most logical candidates, as one of the largest generic-drug makers in the world. But Teva doesn't only make generics; it also has its hand in its own proprietary drugs as well. So as the patent cliffs come crashing down, will Teva make the most of this unique opportunity? Below, we'll revisit how Teva Pharmaceutical does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.


Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Teva Pharmaceutical.

Factor

What We Want to See

Actual

Pass or Fail?

Size Market cap > $10 billion $39 billion Pass
Consistency Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of five past years 5 years Pass
  Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years 3 years Fail
Stock stability Beta < 0.9 0.30 Pass
  Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20% (21.2%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 18 15.34 Pass
Dividends Current yield > 2% 2.4% Pass
  5-year dividend growth > 10% 24.0% Pass
  Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years 13 years Pass
  Payout ratio < 75% 29.0% Pass
       
  Total score   8 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at Teva Pharmaceutical last year, the company has kept its eight-point score. The stock actually had a bad-performing year in 2011, but the drop in its share price has helped make its valuation more attractive and boost its yield.

From a business perspective, 2011 was great for Teva. The company launched generic versions of Pfizer (NYS: PFE) and Eisai's Aricept, Lilly's (NYS: LLY) Zyprexa, and Janssen's Levaquin last year. Moreover, it has several more generics awaiting approval, including Pfizer's Lipitor as well as Atripla from Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYS: BMY) .

But Teva's shares have actually underperformed some of its rivals. Mylan (NAS: MYL) had better returns and looks to grow more quickly, but Teva has a substantial lead over Mylan's smaller stable of drugs. Another way that Teva stands out from both Mylan and fellow generic-maker Watson Pharmaceuticals is in Teva's proprietary Copaxone treatment for multiple sclerosis.

For retirees and other conservative investors, Teva's biggest selling point is its substantial and growing dividend. Although companies like Pfizer and Lilly have higher current dividend yields, they can't boast the same growth rate -- and most importantly, Teva seems to be on the upswing even as its rivals scramble to try to recover lost licensing revenue. For now, the future looks bright for Teva.

Keep searching
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.

If you really want to retire rich, no one stock will get the job done. Instead, you need to know how to prepare for your golden years. The Motley Fool's latest special report will give you all the details you need to get a smart investing plan going, plus it reveals three smart stocks for a rich retirement. But don't waste another minute -- click here and read it today.

Add Teva Pharmaceutical to My Watchlist , which will aggregate our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, and Teva Pharmaceutical. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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