Three Rs for Risk Control: Retirement, Recession and REITs

Tickers in this article: AGNC EXR HTA MPW NLY NNN O OHI REG ROIC SKT SPG TCO VTR WPC WRI

Now, I'm not forecasting the next recession. But what I can forecast are the best REITs for a recession-proof dividend portfolio. Namely, I like the health-care REITs, the triple-net REITs, the self-storage REITs and select shopping center REITs. Let me tell you why.

Due to the fact that health care is a needs-based industry, economic cycles have little effect on demand. As the U.S. population ages and life expectancy increases, demand for assisted living and skilled nursing facilities is expected to grow.

Some of my favorite health care REITs include Medical Office Properties Trust (MPW) , Omega Healthcare Investors (OHI) , Healthcare Trust of America (HTA) and Ventas (VTR) .

Another choice sector is the triple-net sector. Although the stand-alone class does not have the growth of the apartment and hospitality sectors, the contractually long-term leases make the triple-net sector more durable and dependable. In fact, during the Great Recession, three triple-net REITs not only paid dividends but all three of them actually increased.

Realty Income (O) , National Retail Properties (NNN) and W.P. Carey (WPC) were all stalwart dividend champions as they continued their amazing track record of dividend performance.

Another sector I really like is self-storage. This is not a sexy sector and in fact it's downright boring. But remember, we Americans store stuff. Lots of it. The average house size today is getting smaller and there isn't enough room to store grannies armoire or Uncle Bob's treasure trunk.

One of my favorite picks is Extra Space Storage (EXR) . This Salt Lake City REIT has around 720 storage properties and it due to the highly fragmented component of the storage industry, Extra Space has plenty of room to grow its brand.

Finally, not all retail is gonna die. If you don't believe me, ask my five kids. The big malls are unique because you just can't go throw up a $100 million mall anymore. That makes REITs like Taubman Centers (TCO) and Simon Property Group (SPG) irreplaceable.

I also like certain necessity-based REITs like Regency Centers (REG) , Weingarten Realty Investors (WRI) , Excel Trust (EXR) and Retail Opportunity Investment Corp (ROIC) .

Last but not least, who can't like Tanger Factory Outlets (SKT) -- the only "pure play" outlet center REIT with an incredible track record for paying and increased dividends for 20 years in a row. That is what I call a "crown jewel."

Remember what Ben Graham said: "It is the consistency in the products that creates consistency in a company's profits. Consistency and durability are attributes for competitive advantage."

Make sure you consider the REITs with the more lasting differentiation and you are certain to avoid costly mistakes and help you sleep well at night!

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.