When I first started writing about money, I figured I was doing just fine. I knew I had made mistakes (such as maxing out credit cards as a college student), but I thought I had learned my lesson and that I had a pretty good handle on things.

Unfortunately, the more I learned about how money works, the more I realized that I wasn’t using my money in the most efficient manner. I could have been doing a lot more with the financial resources I had.

The same idea applies to your dividend portfolio. Chances are that your portfolio is underperforming.

My colleague Amy Calistri was concerned about exactly that, so she created an easy-to-use dividend system that beats the market every time.

Using what she calls her 'Dividend Trifecta,' Amy helps ordinary investors like us profit every day of the year, not just once a quarter. She talks about it more here.

Amy's Dividend Trifecta has allowed her to maximize her real-life portfolio, but the same may not be true for you. And before you can fix the problem, and make the most of your money, you need to understand why your dividend portfolio is underperforming:

1. You’re Only Chasing High Yields.

It’s nice to think that you’re investing in a high-yield dividend stock. However, these stocks don’t always give you the best long-term results.

If the stock is only offering a high yield in the hopes of drawing investors for a short period of time, you could find yourself stuck with cut payouts down the road. For the long term, it makes sense to look for stocks that have a greater chance of offering stable payouts over time, or even steadily increasing dividends -- something Amy's Dividend Trifecta portfolio takes advantage of. In fact, that's the best performing part of her investments. The result? She is bringing home $1,400 a month in dividend checks.

2. You Trade Frequently.

When you make frequent trades, you reduce the effectiveness of your portfolio. Each trade comes with a cost. You end up paying commissions each time you buy and sell. If you trade frequently, you erode your real returns over time. It makes sense to carefully consider the investments in your portfolio, and compose your dividend portfolio mainly with assets that you don’t have to worry about trading all the time.

3. Your Portfolio Lacks Diversity.

You know that any portfolio needs to have a certain measure of diversity. This is true of your dividend portfolio as well. Diversity across sector can help you support your dividend income when a group of stocks is doing poorly enough that it cuts its payouts. Don’t forget to diversify geographically as well. You might be surprised at how helpful foreign dividend stocks can be to your portfolio.

Another issue that many dividend investors overlook is the fact that individual stocks don’t offer the only way to cultivate dividend income. REITs pay out dividends, and there are bond ETFs and index funds that can result in regular payouts. Consider diversifying across asset class as well as sector and geography. That's something Amy stresses in her portfolio, so that if one sector tanks, the entire portfolio isn't affected. That's what allows her to enjoy gains of 127%.

4. You Aren’t Taking Advantage of Tax Efficiency.

Dividend stocks (currently) come with favorable taxation. Your dividend earnings are taxed at a lower rate than your regular income. If you hold your dividend portfolio in a tax-advantaged retirement account, like a traditional IRA or 401(k), you could be setting yourself up to pay more in taxes later.

Dividends earned now are taxed at a favorable rate, but if you keep the investments in your tax-deferred account, you destroy that favorable tax situation. All money withdrawn from a tax-deferred retirement account is taxed at your current rate. If you are in a bracket where you only pay 15% on your dividend earnings, you could lose out if you retire in a higher tax bracket. If you retire in the 25% bracket, your dividend earnings (held in the tax-deferred account) would be taxed as ordinary income, at the higher rate.

The Investing Answer: Don’t put up with an underperforming dividend portfolio just because you don’t know what you could be doing differently. There are plenty of low-fee brokers that can provide you with opportunities to build an effective and efficient dividend portfolio.