Just because a company pays a dividend now is no guarantee that it will forever, or that the company will even continue to exist. Nor is it any guarantee that the underlying stock is stable.
Again and again, we’ve seen out-of-nowhere scandals and crises and accidents bring big companies to their knees. Why, given the overwhelming evidence that these things do happen once in a while, would you not extract your dividend income from a low-cost, broadly diversified mutual fund that specializes in dividends?
The moral of the story, as always, is to diversify within each asset class you own, whether it’s dividend-paying stocks or municipal bonds or the emerging-market countries where you’re rolling the dice for big gains. Then, diversify your retirement income, too. The more sources the better, whether it’s dividend income, interest income, annuity income, rental income or periodic (and tax-savvy) outright sales of stocks or other assets.
Even this sort of diversification might not have protected you from the pain in 2008. But it can shield you from the ruin of betting too heavily on a single security like BP.