What’s the best investment approach to adopt when the world is in turmoil? To help us through Brexit? To survive the shock of President Trump? I reckon it’s the same approach that we should be taking through the calmer good times, too — to seek shares in top quality companies that are paying big dividends.

Insurance

The insurance business can be a fickle and a cyclical one, but in the long term it’s one that generates a lot of cash and rewards investors with handsome dividend income. Sometimes the dividend can come a cropper, as Aviva‘s did after the financial crisis and the firm had to cut it, but it came bouncing back.

And I think Legal & General (LSE: LGEN) looks even better. There’s a 6% yield on the cards for this year, with the City’s analysts predicting a rise to 6.4% for 2017. Those yields would be well covered by forecast earnings, and they’d continue the firm’s long-standing progressive policy which has seen dividends growing nicely ahead of inflation over the past few years.

At the interim stage, Legal & General reiterated that progressive stance and introduced the approach of paying 30% of the prior full-year cash in the first half. The forecast full-year dividend of more than 14p per share looks safe to me.

Power

If insurance isn’t reliable enough for you, how about the supply of gas and electricity? I’m taking of Centrica now (LSE: CNA), the owner of the British Gas and Scottish Gas brands.

Centrica’s dividend fell a little in 2014 and 2015 as earnings slipped, but yields were still very attractive. And with a return to dividend growth forecast this year, we’re looking at a yield of 6% on a current share price of 212p — followed by a predicted yield of 6.2% next year.

A falling share price has helped boost that yield, after a drop of 48% since September 2013, but I reckon all that’s done is present a buying opportunity for investors looking to secure a dividend income for the next 10 or 20 years and longer. Cash flow looked strong at the halfway stage and a drive for debt reduction and balance sheet strength should bolster long-term dividend prospects.

The P/E of 13 currently forecast for 2017 also looks too low to me, so I can see some share price appreciation on the cards too.

Housing

If these two are traditional dividend plays, my final choice is very much a contrarian one right now — it’s housebuilder Persimmon (LSE: PSN). Brexit has scared the sector, and we may well be on the cusp of a house price slowdown.

But with the country facing a shortage of homes and with no sign of a fall-off in demand, I really don’t see any crisis looming. And I see 18% drop in the share price since 23 June to 1,710p as overdone — even though a lot of the initial crash has already been rectified.

The price fall lifts Persimmon’s forecast dividend yield to 6.5%, and even with earnings set to slow for a year or two, that still looks well-enough covered after years of strong EPS growth.

A recent update showed no fall in demand since the referendum — in fact, lower interest rates are apparently making mortgages more attractive. The shares are on a forward P/E of nine, and that looks too cheap to me.

Another top dividend share

There are great dividend prospects across the whole market, and the Motley Fool's expert stock-pickers are always sniffing out overlooked and unappreciated opportunities. And they want to share their findings with you.

Their unmissable report, A Top Income Share From The Motley Fool, identifies a company that they believe has its best days ahead of it, but which has already been ramping up its dividend.

If you want to know which company they're talking about, click here now for your own personal copy of the report, which won't cost you a penny.

Alan Oscroft owns shares of Aviva. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Centrica. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.