To ensure that you receive a dividend on a stock you wish to sell, you must first find out the date that the stock begins trading ex-dividend and sell your stock only on or after that date. The ex-dividend date is the date on which new buyers of the stock will no longer receive the dividend.
Log onto your brokerage account and go to the Research section. If you are not familiar with your brokerage firm's website, you can find dividend information on external websites by using your ticker symbol and "ex-dividend date" as search terms.
Enter your stock's ticker symbol into the symbol look-up field and press the appropriate button to bring up information about your stock. Alternatively, select one of your search results, which should display your ticker symbol along with its dividend information.
Look for the term, "ex-dividend date" in the information provided on your brokerage firm's research page. In general, the research or external web page you select will have a heading called "Dividends" which will include the dividend amount and yield, the ex-dividend date and the pay date -- the date on which the declared dividend is actually paid to stockholders.
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Determine whether your stock has declared its next dividend and note the ex-dividend date on your calendar. If the company has not yet declared a dividend, the research page should list the most recent, or previous, ex-dividend date. Since most companies pay dividends quarterly, you can anticipate the next likely ex-dividend date and plan accordingly. Companies must declare their dividend information well in advance of the next ex-dividend date, so be sure to check periodically for the actual date.
Ensure that you are an owner of the stock prior to its "record" date, generally set two business days after the ex-dividend date. If you plan to buy and then sell the stock to receive its dividend, you need to account for the three-day settlement period. For example, if the ex-dividend date is on a Wednesday, the record date will be on the following Friday. To be an owner of record by that Friday, you must make your purchase by no later than Tuesday of that week.
Sell your stock on or after the the company's ex-dividend date. You will then receive your stock's dividend on the pay date, even though you no longer own it. Bear in mind that the date on which a dividend is paid is always after the ex-dividend date. If you look again at your stock's research page, you should see the pay date somewhere near the ex-dividend date.
- You can sell your stock at any time after the ex-dividend date; that is simply the earliest date on which you can sell your stock and still receive the dividend.
- Your stock will drop in value on the ex-dividend date, reflecting the lost value of the dividend to future buyers. Although the drop will typically correspond to the value of the dividend to be paid, other market forces can affect the value of the stock.
Julia Thomson began writing professionally in 1996. Her work has appeared in "Stage Directions," "Phoenix New Times" and "The Valley Callboard." Thomson has expertise in investing and personal finance, with three brokers' licenses and certification as a budget counselor. She holds a Master of Music from Indiana University.