I’ve come across a number of Tim Plaehn investment presentations over the past year and recently decided to give his Dividend Hunter service a try.
In short, the Dividend Hunter is a research service focused on high-yield dividend stocks. And as a subscriber, you get Tim Plaehn’s top dividend picks, a monthly newsletter, research reports, and other resources aimed at helping you earn dividend income.
At $49 a quarter, this is one of the more expensive newsletters I’ve joined, and there are some aspects of the service that I’m not a fan of. But all in all, I feel like you get a lot of value with this service, and many of his picks include high-yield stocks.
Ahead, I’ll show you what the service is about, walk you through the member’s area, and share my opinion about the service’s pros and cons.
But first, I’ll show you what I learned about the guy behind it, Tim Plaehn.
Who Is Tim Plaehn?
Tim Plaehn is the editor of the Dividend Hunter service and two other Investors Alley services; Weekly Income Accelerator and Monthly Dividend Multiplier.
According to the “orientation” video that Dividend Hunter subscribers get access to in the member’s area, Plaehn began his career as an F-16 fighter pilot with the United States Air Force after graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1979.
And from there, he says he became a Certified Financial Planner.
Plaehn’s Investors Alley profile also states that he was a stockbroker at one point, although it’s unclear who he worked for or for how long, as that info isn’t shared on his profile.
Nevertheless, at some point along the way (presumably during the 2000s), Plaehn began sharing his investment research on various sites, including moneyshow.com, tipranks.com, Seeking Alpha, and numerous others.
Today, Tim Plaehn is the “lead investment research analyst for income and dividend investing” at Investors Alley (which he joined in 2014). And according to his Investors Alley profile, his specialty centers around evaluating income-generating investments.
“Tim’s area of specialty is evaluating income generating investments to find the combination of sustainable and growing dividends, special dividend opportunities, and share price appreciation driven by management’s commitment to dividend growth.”Source: https://www.investorsalley.com/editors-tim-plaehn
How have Tim Plaehn’s recommendations worked out?
It’s difficult to answer this with any level of certainty.
Based on the content he’s shared on the sites I just mentioned, and what I’ve read as a subscriber of his service, Plaehn does appear to be a genuine expert, especially when it comes to dividend investing and using options to generate income.
You can also see how some of his picks (up to 2017) have worked out on TipRanks. And based on that, he has picked some great companies over the years.
But evaluating his entire track record is virtually impossible to do without joining all of his services and analyzing 100s of individual blog posts and recommendations he’s made.
That said, I can give you some insight into how Plaehn’s Dividend Hunter stock picks have performed, as there is a model portfolio in the member’s area. But before I delve into that, let’s discuss what the service is about and how it works.
What Is The Dividend Hunter?
Investors Alley describes the Dividend Hunter as a “high-yield income and dividend service” dedicated to sharing the “very best dividend income opportunities” with subscribers.
And the gist of how it works is that Plaehn shares his latest market insights and dividend-focused recommendations with subscribers via the monthly newsletter.
You also get access to a model portfolio, special reports, a “dividend paycheck calendar,” and several other resources (which I’ll elaborate on shortly).
Together, these resources are designed to help you learn about Tim Plaehn’s investment philosophy and what he’s recommending. And from there, you can decide whether or not you want to follow his ideas using your own broker account.
How does he select the companies he recommends?
The basic premise behind Plaehn’s picks is that he looks for companies with high dividend yields that he also thinks can potentially grow. And according to the Investors Alley website, he uses a “unique cash flow analyzer system” as part of his research process.
“With each issue editor Tim Plaehn uses his unique cash flow analyzer system to bring you in-depth research on dividend investments for not only high yield but dividend growth as well.”Source: https://www.investorsalley.com/premium-newsletters
I am yet to find any information about this “cash flow analyzer system” in the member’s area, but I have gained some insight into his approach by reading his newsletters.
In short, aside from looking for stocks with high yields, he analyzes a company’s business model, operations, revenue, and management team, among other things. His ideas are also spread across multiple asset classes, which I’ll elaborate on shortly.
In the next section, I’ll show you what went down after I signed up, and then I’ll walk you through the different aspects of the member’s area, so you know what to expect.
Recommended: Go here to see my #1 rated stock advisory of 2022
Joining the Dividend Hunter Service
Based on a Tim Plaehn presentation I wrote about a while back regarding his 36-month “accelerated income plan,” it was once possible to join the service for $49 for a year.
But the new price is $49 for three months:
Also worth mentioning is that the service is set to “conveniently” auto-renew every three months at the same price (how thoughtful). And I was automatically subscribed to a software tool called “Divcaster,” which you’re auto-billed $99 for after 60 days.
Here’s the section at the bottom of the order page that discloses this:
The 60-day Divcaster trial is mentioned near the top of the order page as well, but the part about the $99 charge is only disclosed in the “fine print” under the order button.
And there’s no way to exclude it from your order.
Worse still… unless I’m missing something, there’s no mention of how to access this service anywhere in the member’s area!
Needless to say, I will be canceling this before I’m “conveniently” charged for it (lol).
Anyway, once I entered my details and purchased a subscription to the Dividend Hunter, the next thing that happened was I was greeted by a series of four upsell pages.
Here’s an overview of each upsell:
- Dividend Hunter Lifetime Membership ($297).
- Weekly Income Accelerator ($995 per year).
- Automatic Income Machine ($595 per year).
- Lifetime subscription to Dividend Hunter & Dividend Hunter Insiders ($599).
Upsells are part and parcel of virtually every newsletter service out there, and provided the services being offered are legit and worth it, it doesn’t really bother me (anymore).
But I don’t think anyone likes being pitched this heavily immediately after joining something, as it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, so to speak.
Nevertheless, not long after signing up, the company sends you an email with your login info, so that’s how you get access to the service.
I’m already a member of a different Investors Alley service called The 20% Letter, though, so I was able to access the Dividend Hunter service using my existing account. And in the next section, I’ll give you an overview of what I found inside the member’s area.
The Dividend Hunter Member’s Area
The following is the home page of the Investors Alley member’s area, which gives you a list of links to access the different aspects of the Dividend Hunter subscription:
As you can see, you basically get a list of links that lead you to the different areas of the member’s area. The main sections are the newsletter issues, model portfolio, and special reports, but there’s also a “getting started” page (the link with red text).
In short, this page contains a “5-step plan” that Tim Plaehn has put together to help new members of the Dividend Hunter service get started.
Here’s an overview of each step:
- The first step involves watching an “orientation” video that Plaehn has put together, which shows you what the membership involves. This runs for about an hour, and he records a new version of this video every two months to ensure it’s up-to-date.
- The second step involves familiarising yourself with the “Start Out Portfolio” page, which is a list of five of his top recommendations to get started with. There are a lot of picks in Plaehn’s “regular” model portfolios, so this is basically a way to make it easy to get started and follow a handful of his top picks.
- Third, Plaehn recommends subscribers check out the “Dividend Hunter Starter Kit,” which is a page containing links to different research reports he’s created (and one video) that, together, help explain his investment approach.
- Fourth, Tim Plaehn recommends keeping an eye out for his “stock of the week” recommendation. I’ll discuss this in more detail shortly, but it’s basically a stock from the model portfolio that he thinks “represents a great buy right now.”
- In the fifth and final step, Plaehn recommends reading every issue of the Dividend Hunter newsletter when it comes out on the first day of each month.
With that out of the way, let’s delve deeper into the core aspects of the service, such as the newsletter, portfolio, and “dividend paycheck calendar.”
Here’s a quick overview (click to skip to a section):
- Newsletter Issues
- Model Portfolio
- Dividend Paycheck Calendar
- Special Reports
- Stock of the Week
- Weekly Mailbag Video
The Dividend Hunter newsletters are published on the first day of the month (or thereabouts, depending on weekends, etc.). And this is where Tim PLaehn shares his latest market insights, recommendations, and portfolio updates.
The length of each issue and the topics covered vary, but they are always focused on income-related investments and typically start with a page or two from Plaehn about the general state of the market.
From there, he walks you through his latest recommendation, which is usually a dividend-paying company. He starts by giving you an overview of the business, then discusses the company’s operating results, the dividend it pays, and other facets of the investment.
He doesn’t give you a “buy up to” price like other newsletters I’ve joined, nor does he give you a price target. Instead, he just shares his view on the company, and there’s a part at the end of this section that shows you the “editor’s personal position” (i.e., “long”).
After that section, Plaehn normally covers an investment-related topic (which varies each month) before moving on to providing updates on his picks.
In this month’s issue, for example, there was a section about earning money from cash-secured put options and covered call options.
Options are a lot more involved than regular stocks, and they can also be very risky, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. But they are also used as a way to generate income, and that was Plaehn’s focus in the November 2022 issue.
All in all, the newsletter provides you with a lot of insight into the investments Plaehn likes and why, so dividend investors would likely find it interesting.
There are currently four separate model portfolios in the Dividend Hunter member’s area, and each one contains different types of investments Plaehn is recommending.
Tim Plaehn explains what each portfolio entails in the “Dividend Hunter Starter Kit” I mentioned earlier. Specifically, he breaks everything down in a PDF guide included in this “kit” called “Building an Income Portfolio that Lasts a Lifetime.”
But here’s a quick overview to show you what they involve:
- Stable Dividend Investments: Plaehn describes these stocks as having “higher levels of safety for the dividend payments and good potential for dividend growth.”
- Variable Dividend Investments: According to Plaehn, this portfolio is made up of stocks that cut dividends during the pandemic but that he thinks are “likely to increase the dividends back to pre-crash levels.”
- Individual Preferred Stocks: These picks include preferred stocks, which are similar to common shares but, among other things, give stockholders a higher claim to dividends or asset distribution. According to Plaehn, these picks “yield on average over 7%” and have a “high level of safety and principal stability.”
- Money Market Fund Alternative: This portfolio, according to Plaehn’s PDF guide, centers around investing in “funds that own hundreds of individual, investment grade bonds.”
As of writing, there are 38 stocks in total across these four model portfolios.
And while they all pay distributions to shareholders, the sectors these companies are in vary, as do the types of assets he recommends.
Most of his picks seem to fall into a handful of categories, including Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Business Development Companies (BDCs), energy infrastructure companies, and preferred stocks. But his picks are always changing as he finds new ideas.
If you’re new to investing, you may be unfamiliar with some of the investments he recommends (like REITs or BDCs, for example). But Plaehn does share lots of content aimed at helping you learn his approach and follow his recommendations.
For example, there’s the “starter kit” PDF guide I mentioned earlier, which walks you through his philosophy and explains how he recommends building (i.e., allocating) your portfolio.
And there’s also a “Start Out Portfolio,” which is basically a page where Plaehn explains how he recommends starting out and that lists five companies he recommends starting with (and why) to help new subscribers get rolling right away.
Not to mention, there’s lots of other content in the member’s area aimed at helping you learn his approach, including his one-hour-long “orientation” video.
So my point is that while there is more to learn about his strategy than some other services I’ve joined, you get access to a lot of educational material as a member.
The Dividend Paycheck Calendar
The Dividend Paycheck Calendar is located in the “special reports” tab of the member’s area, and it’s basically a PDF guide and calendar (which is updated each month) that shows you when the companies Plaehn’s recommending pay dividends.
The guide begins with an explanation of how the calendar works.
Then, it shows you the month when each stock typically pays dividends, how often they pay (for example, monthly or quarterly), and the ex-dividend date.
The ex-dividend date, in case you’re wondering, helps investors know when they need to buy shares in a company in order to receive its upcoming dividend payment, which is usually the day before the ex-dividend date at the latest.
So to sum it up, the Dividend Paycheck Calendar tells you both the payment and ex-dividend dates, which can help you keep track of everything. And to help make life easier, Plaehn has put this information into a calendar, which you can print out if you want.
Keep in mind, however, that these dates are subject to change. So while I do think this is a great feature for subscribers, I personally wouldn’t rely on it exclusively.
Aside from containing the Dividend Paycheck Calendar I just discussed, the “special reports” section contains a bunch of research reports that Tim Plaehn has put together.
These reports basically cover different investments Plaehn has recommended and explain his investment methodology. But some of them are guides, and one is a downloadable worksheet designed to help you track your dividend income.
Also worth noting is that if you’ve seen any of Plaehn’s stock teaser presentations, this is the page where you get access to any of the special reports he’s teased.
For example, this is where the “36-Month Accelerated Income Plan” and “3 Top Dividend Payers Seeing Big Buying” reports are located. The former is part of a pitch I wrote about a while back, and the latter (I’m pretty sure) is related to another pitch he recently released.
All in all, there’s a lot of content here, and it adds a lot of value to the service on top of the monthly newsletters and other aspects of the service I’ve mentioned.
The Stock of the Week
The “stock of the week” is a page in the member’s area that lists a stock from the Dividend Hunter portfolio that Plaehn thinks “represents a great buy right now.”
As he explains, these aren’t the only stocks he recommends; they are basically the ones that he believes are “best right now.”
And aside from being listed on a page in the member’s area, you also get an email about this each week (along with other emails, some of which are marketing-related).
Weekly Mailbag Video
Last but not least, Tim Plaehn publishes a weekly “mailbag” video where he answers questions from subscribers (which you can submit by clicking the link under the video), provides updates on the portfolio, and shares his thoughts on the market.
Dividend Hunter Stock Pick Performance
I can’t reveal the names and tickers of Plaehn’s Dividend Hunter stock picks, given it’s a paid service. And as far as I can tell, there’s no page showing you the “closed” recommendations, so it’s very difficult to know how well this service has performed since its inception.
However, what I can say is that there are 38 stocks currently listed on the “portfolio” page of the member’s area, and these all appear to be “open” (aka “active”) recommendations.
How have they performed?
Well, instead of showing you the overall performance of each pick, the portfolios only display the “year to date” (YTD) performance next to each pick. So without checking each individual pick, you can’t see how well his picks have performed from the outset.
And even then, we still don’t know the exact price at which he recommended each company from the beginning.
In any case, here’s a preview of the first 10 (of 15) picks in the “Stable Dividend Investments” portfolio, which shows you how they’ve done from the start of 2022 to November 25, 2022 (the date that the model portfolios were last updated by Investors Alley):
Also, here’s a breakdown of Plaehn’s Dividend Hunter picks as per the “YTD Return” column, which may help give you a general idea of how they’ve done in 2022:
- 10 stocks are up, and 28 are down.
- The top three picks are up 53.89%, 36.19%, and 16.45%.
- The worst three picks are down -47.73%, -21.15%, and -20.66%.
- 11 of 38 stocks are showing double-digit dividend yields.
- All stocks are showing yields above 5%, except for the five picks listed in the “Money Market Fund Alternative” portfolio, which I discussed earlier.
That doesn’t tell you the whole story (by a country mile), but it should help give you a general idea of how the portfolios have done from the start of 2022 to November 25, 2022.
Also, keep in mind that those are active positions. So the prices, and therefore performance, are subject to change each day the markets are open.
And, of course, none of this is a reliable way to predict how well the service will work out for you should you decide to join and follow the recommendations.
Is Dividend Hunter Legit?
There are a lot of scams and overhyped newsletter services in the stock-picking space, but I personally don’t think that the Dividend Hunter is one of them.
I say this because Tim Plaehn seems to be a genuine expert, and you get a lot of high-value content as a subscriber. Not to mention, Investors Alley, the New York-based financial publisher behind it (which is owned by The Tifin Group LLC), is a legit company.
There are some complaints about Investors Alley online, which is to be expected since no service is perfect. But they have mostly positive reviews on the BBB website. And most of the comments on stockgumshoe.com seem positive regarding Dividend Hunter.
Personally, my biggest complaint would be the marketing and auto-billing stuff, which seems to be what some other folks have pointed out as well.
As mentioned, the $49 membership auto-renews after three months (no big deal), but they also included a $99 auto-bill for a product I’ve never even heard of, didn’t ask for, and don’t want. And there’s no way to cancel it without emailing them!
Nevertheless, the service isn’t a scam.
Is there a refund policy in place?
The terms page of the Investors Alley website states that the company has different refund policies for different services. And while it doesn’t specifically mention the refund policy for Dividend Hunter, the following suggests that there might be one:
“Products billed quarterly: full refund during the first 60 days of the first billed quarter.”Source: https://www.investorsalley.com/terms-of-use-order-form
Also worth mentioning is that there’s a note in the Investors Alley member’s area that says the company is integrating its services and billing with its sister company, Magnifi (which is also owned by Tifin).
And in doing so, you get free access to Magnifi Personal, which is basically an investment-related service that helps you research stocks and track your portfolio, etc.
What impact that would have on obtaining a refund is unclear, since I haven’t requested one, but I did think that this was worth noting.
Dividend Hunter Pros and Cons
- The main thing I like about this service is that it’s jam-packed with lots of content, some of which is regularly updated. Most investment research services come with newsletters and “special reports,” but Dividend Hunter also comes with weekly videos, an orientation video, a dividend worksheet and calendar, and lots of relevant content aimed at helping you follow Plaehn’s investment philosophy. It’s pretty comprehensive.
- There are dozens of high-yield stock picks in the model portfolio as well as Plaehn’s research on these in the newsletter archives. So I can see why anyone interested in income investment ideas would be drawn to this service.
- Tim Plaehn comes across as a genuine expert and shares his knowledge in a no-BS, straightforward kind of way.
- The initial upselling and auto-billing stuff was a big turnoff for me. I still can’t believe you have to subscribe to a 60-day “Divcaster” trial to access the Dividend Hunter service, and that the company automatically charges you $99 after 60 days. Especially since the details of this are only disclosed under the order form, where not everyone looks. I did not expect this from Investors Alley.
- As far as I can tell, there’s no way to cancel anything or request a refund in the Investors Alley member’s area without submitting a form or contacting the company via email.
- The cost is higher than the average newsletter ($49 a quarter or $196 a year). Although to be fair, I still think this is pretty reasonable considering what you get.
The Dividend Hunter is not my all-time favorite newsletter service, but it is arguably worth the money if you’re interested in dividend investing.
Not only do subscribers get access to Tim Plaehn’s latest dividend picks, most of which throw off decent yields, but he shares a lot of knowledge with you about his investment approach and the reasons behind his picks.
He also keeps you updated in the weekly videos and provides you with tools to help you keep track of everything (like the “dividend paycheck calendar,” for example).
I do think the company should re-think its marketing/sales approach in some areas, as the $99 trial thing and immediate four-page upselling regime was very off-putting.
And of course, there’s no guarantee that this service will help you make money. I think it goes without saying that there are always risks involved when it comes to investing.
But as far as the Dividend Hunter service itself goes, I don’t mind it overall.
What you decide to do is up to you, but I hope what I’ve shared in this post helps you make a more informed decision either way. Thanks for reading!