Today's retirees are having to deal with unprecedented challenges. In this edition of our Motley Fool Conversations series, Fool personal finance expert Dayana Yochim and retirement-planning analyst Dan Caplinger discuss the difficulties that retirees are having in generating enough income to pay for basic living expenses.

Dan and Dayana discuss how low interest rates have surprised retirees, who until now depended on the income from bank CDs, bonds, and other fixed-income investments to bridge the gap between their spending and what Social Security and private pensions provide them in monthly income. Dayana points out that many retirees are taking on debt as a result of their income shortfall, and given their limited prospects to raise their incomes, retirees face long odds in getting their debt paid down without selling major assets like their homes.

Dan goes on to talk about how important it is for near-retirees to consider carefully when to take Social Security benefits. Although you can take benefits as early as age 62, waiting to take benefits later will increase your monthly check, with payments maxing out for those who start taking Social Security at age 70. Given that life expectancies are rising, taking a long-term investing approach is smarter than simply maximizing current income. Dan notes that the current income and growth potential of dividend stocks, especially conservative consumer-products companies, can help achieve both goals.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.