Most every investor has a benchmark they are trying to beat. For many investors, that benchmark is the S&P 500. It is easily followed and can be directly invested in via many different index funds such as SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and Vanguard 500 Index Inv (VFINX).
After several years of out-performing the S&P 500, many dividend income oriented portfolios have under-performed in 2012. The old adage that trees don’t grow to the sky certainty holds true. Obviously, that is not to say that all dividend growth stocks have under-performed.