Ask a Fool: When Will My Dividend Stocks Actually Pay Me?

Q: I recently bought my first dividend stock, and when I tried to find out when I'll get my first dividend, there were several different dates listed. What do they all mean and when do I actually get paid?

The "payment date" is when the dividend should actually show up in your account. However, there are other important dates that determine whether you're entitled to a dividend at all.

There are several different dates that are used in dividend investing, but the one that is most important to you is known as the "ex-dividend date." This is the day when the stock first trades without the pending dividend payment factored into the share price. If you bought the stock before the ex-dividend date, you're entitled to the payment. If you bought your shares on or after this date, you won't get it.

You may also see something called the "record date," which is more of a technical term. You don't need to be concerned with this date -- it simply refers to the fact that a stock purchase takes a few days to officially settle.

There's generally a gap of a week or more between the ex-dividend date and the payment date, so it's possible to buy a dividend stock and not be entitled to the first scheduled dividend payment.

For example, Walmart recently declared a $0.52 dividend, payable on April 2, with an ex-dividend date of March 8. This means that shareholders who bought Walmart stock on March 7 or earlier will see the dividend in their account on April 2, while investors who bought on March 8 or later won't be entitled to this payment.

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Matthew Frankel has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.