Paul Tracy

I call it the "apple tree" loophole. I think it's one of the best ways I know to make money in the market, especially if you don't want to fuss over your investments every day.

But before I tell you what the loophole is, let me first tell you what it's not...

It's not illegal. It's not confusing. And it's not a get-rich-quick scheme.

When used properly, this loophole can greatly reduce the risk of losing money in any market.

But before I go on, I must say that there are a few caveats to how you use it. First, you have to follow this simple strategy exactly as I'll outline below. Second, it only works with high-yield stocks and funds.

It all started with a simple saying I heard years ago…

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is today."

That saying has stuck with me. And if you hadn't noticed, it's talking about a lot more than planting a couple of apple trees in your backyard and enjoying the fruit later.

The real lesson here is this: It's the moves we make today that deliver the greatest payoff down the road.

And that's the perfect analogy for investing in consistent, high-quality dividend payers. I firmly believe the high-yield stocks we buy today -- those with steady and increasing dividend payments -- are the ones that will end up paying us the most in the long run.

Just imagine if you had bought no more than a handful of the market's top dividend payers just 10 years ago.

    * Altria (NYSE: MO) pays 5.9%, has increased the dividend 41% in the past three years, and has returned 331% in the last 10 years thanks to all the dividends paid.

    * Realty Income (NYSE: O) brags of being the "Monthly Dividend Company" and returned 347% in ten years, thanks in part to its 5.5% yield.

    * Magellan Midstream Partners (NYSE: MMP) has returned 504%, thanks in part to its 5%-plus yield and the fact that it has increased payments 437% since 2001.

As you can see, thanks to dividends each of these investments easily returned triple digits in the past decade. Compare that with the paltry 28% return by the S&P 500 in the same period, and the power of dividends becomes apparent.

But the benefits don't stop there. If you were to hold those stocks for a longer period, then the difference would be even more pronounced.