Dividends can make or break your portfolio.

Returns for some of the most widely held companies can appear lackluster at first. But with a closer look, you’ll find out just how much difference dividends can make.

Let’s look at a couple of prime examples. The S&P 500 has returned 72% over the last 10 years. Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) and American Express (NYSE: AXP) have each underperformed the S&P 500, and have done so grossly.

Coca-Cola shares are only up 53% in the last decade. American Express’ stock price is up 66% for the same period. However, this does include dividends paid out to shareholders.

With dividends included, both of these large and stable companies have handily outperformed the S&P 500. Including dividends, Coca-Cola shares have returned 106% to investors in 10 years. American Express has returned 99% to shareholders. Those dividends make a huge difference.

But it’s not just any dividend that will grow your portfolio value. For example, widely held Ford (NYSE: F) has a near-5% dividend yield, which is well above American Express and Coca-Cola and outpaces the S&P 500 dividend yield of 2%. But even with dividends included, Ford stock has barely outperformed the S&P 500.

It’s more about dividend consistency and continuous dividend increases. Coca-Cola has a 54-year year streak of dividend increases, and American Express has increased its payout for five years.

With all that in mind, here are the top dividend hikes for November:

Top Dividend Hikes in November: Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT)

Microsoft is raising its quarterly dividend by 8% and will pay $0.42 per share. The tech giant pays a 2% dividend yield and has a 13-year streak of dividend increases. It’s paying out just half of its earnings via dividends.

The “old” technology company has effectively turned itself into a major competitor again. Shares are up 40% in the last year, so why invest now? Well, the dividend is only part of the story. And trading at 22 times next year’s earnings, it’s still cheaper than the likes of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB).

As for growth prospects, Microsoft still has a long runway for building its commercial cloud business. Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, continues to grow and makes Microsoft a recurring revenue story.

Now that Microsoft is less tied to personal computer and physical product sales, nearly half of its revenues come from recurring revenue sources. This means that Microsoft should trade more in line with the likes of Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) and Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE), which trade above 30 times earnings.

Microsoft shares trade ex-dividend Nov. 15.

Top Dividend Hikes in November: Honeywell (NYSE: HON)

Honeywell is raising its quarterly dividend by 12% this month. It’ll be paying out $0.745 a share, which is a 2% dividend yield. This industrial giant has a six-year streak of consecutive dividend increases. Honeywell pays out just around 40% of its earnings via dividends. The company recently decided to streamline its business — hoping to position itself in higher growth markets.

Honeywell will spin off non-core businesses to focus on core businesses like aerospace. It plans  use the cash from these spinoffs to make growth acquisitions. Honeywell will spin off its home and ADI global distribution business and its transportation system business into new public companies.

And even if Honeywell can’t find any worthwhile acquisitions, it’s shown that it will still find a way to reward shareholders — and not just with a richer dividend. The company spent $1.3 billion on buybacks during the first three quarters of the year. And compared to other industrial giants, such as 3M (NYSE: MMM) and Danaher Corp. (NYSE: DHR), Honeywell is still a cheap bet. Shares of Honeywell trade at less than 19 times next year’s earnings estimates, while both 3M and Danaher trade north of 20 times next year’s estimates.

Shares trade ex-dividend Nov. 16.

Top Dividend Hikes in November: McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD)

McDonald’s is the “biggest” yielder on our list, paying out a 2.4% dividend yield. The behemoth fast-food chain is boosting its quarterly dividend to $1.01 a share, one of the top dividend hikes for November. It has a long history of rewarding shareholders, with its 40-year streak of consecutive dividend increases. Just around 60% of its earnings are paid out via dividends.

The stock has soared 50% in the last year as the company works on burning itself around — that is, selling more items that customers actually want. Menu innovations are working; the company saw global sale-store sales (stores open for at least a year) growing at 6% globally last quarter. Wall Street had expected 4.5%.

Going forward, McDonald’s has growth opportunities with digital innovation; mobile ordering and in-store payment/ordering kiosks are showing promise. Guests are reporting more positive experiences with McDonald’s restaurants, which is a welcome change from the past several years.

McDonald’s shares trade ex-dividend Nov. 30.

Published by Wyatt Investment Research at