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The Right Investments for Income Now

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If you're like most people, you work your entire career trying to scrimp and save enough to have a financially secure retirement. But once you actually retire, you'll discover that the rules all change -- and unless your investing strategy changes in turn, you could end up wasting a lot of the effort you've put into preparing for your golden years.

The kind of investment strategy that gets you to a successful retirement focuses mostly on growth. Most people don't earn enough and aren't able to save enough to simply put money in a savings account and let it add up without giving you substantial returns along the way. Instead, you need investments that will bring the magic of compound interest to the forefront, multiplying your initial savings and giving your money the growth it needs to reach your financial goals.

Changing gears
But as Foolish retirement expert Robert Brokamp discusses in the brand new issue of his Rule Your Retirement newsletter, which hits the digital presses today at 4 p.m. ET, retirement brings with it a whole new ball game for your investments. Instead of living off your salary and (hopefully) squirreling away some of that money for the future, your paycheck disappears -- and it's up to your investments, along with some help from Social Security and perhaps an employer pension, to provide you the income you need to survive and enjoy your retirement.

That change in your cash flow means that your investment portfolio has to change, too. Consider:

  • Many of the home-run stocks of the past decade, including Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  ) , give shareholders no income whatsoever. So even though those companies have ridden the wave of consumer demand for their products to deliver huge wealth, you'll have to liquidate your shares to get cash from them in your retirement.
  • You may have gotten used to using undiscovered small-cap stocks for their growth prospects. But given their volatility, they may be too unstable for your retirement portfolio.
  • Taxes become a huge issue, as you stop contributing to retirement accounts and start drawing from them -- finally triggering the taxes that you've deferred for decades.

So how can you get the income you need from your portfolio? Brokamp looks at three types of investments.

Going with straight income
Whenever an investor has an income need, some advisors point directly at fixed-income securities like bonds or fixed annuities. Guaranteeing a particular interest rate for a certain period of time, bonds give you predictable returns on your money.

The problem with bonds, though, is that their returns are relatively low right now. Even long-term 30-year Treasuries earn less than 4% right now, with shorter-term bonds carrying even lower yields. The mix of Treasuries, agency bonds, and investment-grade corporate bonds that you'll get from a typical bond ETF like iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond (NYSE: AGG  ) or Vanguard Total Bond (NYSE: BND  ) won't give you much in yield, either. You have to resort to junk bonds to get big yields right now -- and those come with significant default risk.

In addition, most bonds don't give you protection against inflation. Although you can get special inflation-indexed bonds through the iShares Barclays TIPS Bond (NYSE: TIP  ) ETF, the real yields they pay are even lower -- and there's no guarantee that your inflation rate will look anything like the government's CPI number.

Sticking with stocks
A good alternative to fixed-income choices is to stay in the stock market -- but to seek out conservative, solid dividend-paying stocks rather than top growers. Right now, you can get bond-beating dividend yields from many blue-chip stocks. But as Brokamp points out, you have to do a risk assessment of how stable a stock's payout may be. Shareholders of Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) got a nasty shock a couple of years ago when its dividend got slashed for the first time in its history. And we all know what happened to payouts at Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) and nearly every other financial stock out there during the mortgage crisis.

So which stocks are safe? Brokamp gives you three names with 3% yields and 10% annual dividend growth over the past 10 years. Even more importantly, he provides the analysis you'll need to help you make decisions about the stocks you already own. And thanks to Rule Your Retirement's offer to give you free access for 30 days, you can easily see everything you need to know to get started.

Retire right
Retirement is a whole new phase of your financial life. But by making the right moves, you'll tackle it just as easily as you did during your career. Get started with Rule Your Retirement's help today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger isn't jealous of today's retirees, but he'll be ready when the time comes. You can follow him on Twitter here. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Various Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Apple; creating a bull call spread position in Apple; and creating a lurking gator position in and shorting Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy will never retire on you.


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Dan Caplinger
TMFGalagan

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on Fool.com. With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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