# What Is a Cash Dividend and How Does It Work?

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A cash dividend is a payment that a corporation makes to its shareholders, typically drawn from the company’s earnings or profits. These distributions, paid on a per-share basis, give investors a tangible return on their investment. Cash dividends can be a reliable income source, appealing to investors seeking steady financial gains from their stock holdings.

## What Is a Cash Dividend?

A cash dividend is a distribution of a portion of a company’s earnings paid to its shareholders in the form of cash. Companies typically pay these dividends quarterly, but some may do so annually or semi-annually. The primary goal of cash dividends is to reward shareholders for their investment in the company.

To calculate a cash dividend, the company first determines the dividend per share (DPS). This figure comes from the total dividends declared divided by the total number of outstanding shares. The formula is straightforward:

Consider the following example: XYZ Corporation declares a total dividend of \$2 million. If XYZ has one million outstanding shares, the cash dividend per share would be calculated as follows:

In this example, each shareholder would receive \$2 for every share they own. If a shareholder owns 500 shares, their total cash dividend would amount to \$1,000.

## Cash Dividends vs. Stock Dividends

Cash dividends and stock dividends are two primary ways companies reward their shareholders, but they differ significantly in how they are distributed and their implications for investors.

A cash dividend is a payment made by a company to its shareholders in the form of cash. This distribution is typically drawn from the company’s profits and is paid on a per-share basis. For example, if a company declares a \$2 cash dividend and you own 100 shares, you will receive \$200. Cash dividends provide immediate, tangible income to shareholders. They can be particularly appealing to those seeking regular cash flow, such as retirees.

On the other hand, a stock dividend is a payment made to investors in the form of additional shares. These dividends increase the number of shares each investor holds, but the overall value of the investment remains the same initially as the share price adjusts to account for the additional shares. For example, if a company declares a 10% stock dividend and you own 100 shares, you’ll receive an additional 10 shares, giving you 110 shares in total. While stock dividends don’t provide immediate cash, they can lead to greater capital gains in the long term if the company’s stock price appreciates.

The choice between cash dividends and stock dividends can depend on the company’s strategy and the preferences of its shareholders. Cash dividends offer investors an immediate financial benefit, whereas stock dividends can be advantageous for investors looking to increase their holdings without making additional purchases. From the company’s point of view, stock dividends allow the company to hold on to cash, while cash dividends can signal a stable, profitable business.

## Pros and Cons of a Cash Dividend

As an investor, you need to compare the advantages and drawbacks of any financial investment. With cash dividends, you should weigh the potential for steady income and any capital gains from the sale of those dividends against tax implications and other drawbacks.

### 3 Pros of a Cash Dividend

• Immediate income: Shareholders receive an immediate, tangible return on their investment, which can be used for reinvestment, savings or personal expenses. This regular cash flow can be particularly beneficial for retirees or those seeking passive income.
• Sign of financial health: Regular cash dividends can indicate a company’s profitability and financial stability. Companies that consistently pay dividends are often seen as more reliable and established, which can attract and retain investors. This can also boost shareholder confidence and contribute to stock price stability.
• Flexibility: Investors have the flexibility to decide how to use their dividend income. They can reinvest the cash into additional shares, diversify their investment portfolio or use the funds for other financial needs.

### 3 Cons of a Cash Dividend

• Tax implications: Cash dividends are typically subject to income tax, which can reduce the net benefit to shareholders. Depending on the investor’s tax bracket and the tax treatment of dividends in their jurisdiction, the tax impact can be significant.
• Reduced reinvestment in the company: When a company pays out cash dividends, it reduces the amount of capital available for reinvestment into the business. This can potentially limit the company’s growth opportunities, such as research and development, acquisitions or other strategic investments.
• Market perception: If a company reduces or stops paying cash dividends, it can negatively affect its stock price and investor perception. Shareholders may interpret a cut in dividends as a sign of financial trouble, potentially eroding investors’ confidence in the company.

## How Cash Dividends Are Paid Out

Companies pay out dividends according to a structured process, allowing  them to distribute dividends fairly and efficiently to shareholders. Understanding the following process helps investors anticipate when they’ll receive their dividend payments and plan their investment strategy accordingly:

1. Declaration date: The process of paying out cash dividends begins with the company’s board of directors declaring a dividend. On this declaration date, the board announces the dividend amount per share, the record date and the payment date. This announcement provides transparency to shareholders about when they can expect to receive their dividend payments.
1. Record date: The record date determines which shareholders are eligible to receive the dividend. Only those who own shares by the record date will receive the dividend payment. This date helps the company establish an official list of eligible shareholders.
1. Ex-dividend date: The ex-dividend date typically falls one business day before the record date. To receive the upcoming dividend, investors must purchase the shares before the ex-dividend date. If a new shareholder buys shares on or after this date, they won’t be eligible for the declared dividend, and the payment will go to the seller.
1. Payment date: The payment date is when the company disburses the cash dividends to eligible shareholders. On this date, the company typically deposits dividend payments directly into shareholders’ brokerage accounts or sends them via check. The payment date can be a few days to several weeks after the record date, depending on the company’s dividend policy.

## Bottom Line

Cash dividends offer immediate income to shareholders, signaling a company’s financial health and providing flexibility for investors. However, they also come with tax implications and potential limitations on a company’s reinvestment capabilities. By understanding how cash dividends work and weighing their pros and cons, investors can better assess their investment strategies.