3 Dividend Aristocrats You Shouldn't Buy

Dividend aristocrats are supposed to be safe, but here are a few to avoid.

Dividends have made up a sizable, not-to-be-ignored chunk of historic investor returns over the past century. The bottom line? Ignore dividend-paying stocks at your peril.

But like most things that are worth it in life, such a task is easier said than done. Just when you think you've found a winner, the stock you thought would help fund your monthly retirement expenses decides to cut or even drop its dividend in the interests creating "long-term shareholder value."

Enter the dividend aristocrat: a company that not only has at least 25 years' worth of history paying a steady dividend, but of raising it on an annual basis year-in and year-out. Sounds attractive, right? Of course, but while perusing the list of companies with such a record, investors need to keep one sobering fact in mind: The list is compiled by looking at the past -- not the future. It takes a certain type of company to pay an increasing dividend payment for 50 years, which is what would be required of current list members to remain as such.

It won't be an easy task, but to get the Foolish reader started, we thought we would try something new: look for dividend aristocrats to avoid, thus narrowing the search. So, without further ado, here are three dividend aristocrats to avoid…

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