How to invest in shares to generate long-term passive income

Many investors strive to generate a long-term passive income stream. But choosing the right shares that will reward us for decades can be tricky.

Various denominations of notes in a pile

Image source: Getty Images.

I invest in a Stocks and Shares ISA to generate long-term passive income. I want money to regularly drop into my account, without having to lift a finger to earn it. Well, other than the work I put into picking my shares. Here’s how I do it.

I could just buy shares offering the biggest dividend yields, then sit back and let the cash roll in. But there are pitfalls with that idea.

5 Stocks For Trying To Build Wealth After 50

One notable billionaire made 99% of his current wealth after his 50th birthday. And here at The Motley Fool, we believe it is NEVER too late to start trying to build your fortune in the stock market. Our expert Motley Fool analyst team have shortlisted 5 companies that they believe could be a great fit for investors aged 50+ trying to build long-term, diversified portfolios.

Click here to claim your free copy now!

Companies often pay big dividends some years, and much smaller dividends other years. It’s down to how well the business performs year by year. And there’s no guarantee that a big payment one year will be followed by anything at all the next year.

Admiral Group is among the top 10 FTSE 100 dividend forecasts for 2022. But the company has previously cut its dividend four times in the past decade. A high dividend is one positive factor, but there’s more at play.

Listen and learn

Here at The Motley Fool, we firmly believe that listening to a variety of investors’ opinions can help us make better decisions. So why not look for the most popular dividend shares and go for those?

That can help us narrow down our search. But it can also go wrong. Vodafone prioritised its dividend payments for many years, and that made it a big favourite among passive income investors.

But it couldn’t afford it, and slashed the dividend by 40% in 2019. Vodafone carries enormous debt, and the dividends were not covered by earnings. If a company is not earning enough to cover its dividend, it’s sustainability is questionable.

Progressive dividends

I want to see sufficient earnings to pay for dividends, with a decent excess. How much cover is enough? It depends on the business. But anything above 1.5 times, typically, will inspire me to investigate further.

I also look for a good track record of dividend raises. That’s why I have City of London Investment Trust in my portfolio. The yield is around 5%, so not the biggest available. But the trust has lifted it every year for the past 55 years.

A reliable progressive dividend can be worth a lot more in the long term than a one-off super high yield.

Total returns

Should we ignore stocks that pay no dividends? Warren Buffett seeks companies with long histories of generating surplus cash to hand back to shareholders. And he buys them for his Berkshire Hathaway investment company.

Since Buffett took the helm in 1965, Berkshire has generated average annual returns of 20% per year. But it has never paid a penny in dividends. Instead, it reinvests all the cash.

That’s a return that could boost my wealth considerably. And it’s relative easy to convert it to passive income. All I’d need to do is sell a few shares every now and then. Above all, I want high-quality companies with superior total returns.

Reducing risk

Of course, there is no guarantee of sustainable income from any company, no matter how carefully chosen. And some big favourites from the past have ended up as major flops. But I reckon my approach, including some careful diversification across sectors, should minimise my risk.

Inflation Is Coming: 3 Shares To Try And Hedge Against Rising Prices

Make no mistake… inflation is coming.

Some people are running scared, but there’s one thing we believe we should avoid doing at all costs when inflation hits… and that’s doing nothing.

Money that just sits in the bank can often lose value each and every year. But to savvy savers and investors, where to consider putting their money is the million-dollar question.

That’s why we’ve put together a brand-new special report that uncovers 3 of our top UK and US share ideas to try and best hedge against inflation…

…because no matter what the economy is doing, a savvy investor will want their money working for them, inflation or not!

Best of all, we’re giving this report away completely FREE today!

Simply click here, enter your email address, and we’ll send it to you right away.

Alan Oscroft has positions in City of London Inv Trust. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Admiral Group and Vodafone. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

More on Investing Articles

Arrow symbol glowing amid black arrow symbols on black background.
Investing Articles

An under-the-radar FTSE 100 stock to combat stagflation fears

As the share price of this blue-chip FTSE 100 stock falls below Covid-levels, why I added it to my portfolio.

Read more »

Man smiling and working on laptop
Investing Articles

This stock market sell-off could be my buying opportunity of the decade

The market sell-off has been brutal, but this Fool thinks it offers him a compelling opportunity to make big money.

Read more »

Typical street lined with terraced houses and parked cars
Investing Articles

After falling 60%, is the Ocado share price a bargain?

The Ocado share price has fallen heavily in the past year. But our writer is still not buying it for…

Read more »

Hedge shaped as the pound symbol inside a glass piggy bank
Investing Articles

A question investors need to ask about the Woodbois share price

The Woodbois share price has declined a little from its peak in early May. Does that mean I should buy…

Read more »

Young woman working at modern office. Technical price graph and indicator, red and green candlestick chart and stock trading computer screen background.
Investing Articles

3 value stocks I’d buy right now

Roland Head thinks market conditions could favour value stocks over the coming year. He’s found three he’d like to buy…

Read more »

Young woman working at modern office. Technical price graph and indicator, red and green candlestick chart and stock trading computer screen background.
Investing Articles

These 5 FTSE 100 shares have crashed in 2022. I’d buy one now

These five FTSE 100 shares have plunged in value over the past six months. But I believe one of these…

Read more »

man in shirt using computer and smiling while working in the office
Investing Articles

Is Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust now a bargain growth stock?

The Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust share price has plummeted nearly 50% from its 52-week high. Is this a great opportunity…

Read more »

A couple celebrating moving in to a new home
Investing Articles

2 key stock picks for reliable passive income

I’m looking at stocks that can deliver reliable passive income to complement my growth picks, and I think I’ve found…

Read more »