When investing in your golden years, it's important to pick stocks that can weather the unpredictable behavior of the broader markets. That means sticking to companies with sustainable cash flows, a wide economic moat, and top notch dividends. 

Armed with this insight, we asked our fellow Motley Fool investors to profile three stocks perfect for risk-adverse investors in their retirement years. Read on to find out why they named Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK), and Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM).  

An older man sitting at a table and viewing a tablet, while his wife drinks a cup of coffee next to him.

Image source: Getty Images.

A trusted dividend play

George Budwell (Pfizer): When it comes to playing it safe with your money, the pharmaceutical stalwart Pfizer is a proven commodity. Despite a $2.1 billion hit to its top-line last year due to the loss of exclusivity for key brands like Enbrel and Viagra in certain non-U.S. territories, the drugmaker's stock still generated a healthy 11.51% return on capital in 2017. When factoring in the company's above average dividend (assuming a dividend reinvestment plan) into the equation, Pfizer's total returns on capital ballooned to a stately 15.9% last year. 

How is the company able to continue creating value for shareholders in the face of numerous patent headwinds? The secret, if you will, is Pfizer's generous shareholder rewards program that returned a healthy $12.7 billion to shareholders last year through share repurchases and dividend payments.

The best part is that this pivotal value engine is set to hit overdrive this year, thanks to the newly minted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Not only is Pfizer's tax rate expected to drop significantly this year, but the company has already dedicated significant sums of its repatriated cash to raising the dividend and boosting share repurchases in 2018. 

What's on tap for Pfizer going forward? The company is currently looking for a buyer for its consumer healthcare unit in an effort to focus more heavily on prescription medications. If a deal goes through, investors can probably bank on Pfizer turning around and plowing these funds into a large acquisition that'll bolster its immuno-oncology portfolio.

Either way, this Big Pharma stock is set to continue edging higher in the years to come, making it a reasonably safe vehicle to grow your money over the long-term. 

Boring can be a good thing

Reuben Gregg Brewer (Duke Energy Corp): Giant U.S. utility Duke Energy offers a number of very attractive features if you are a retired investor. It's 4.6% yield is more than twice what you can get from investing in an S&P 500 Index fund. It has increased its dividend annually for 13 consecutive years, an impressive streak. And its beta, a measure of relative volatility, is a very low 0.26. In other words, it has a sizable yield, a long history of rewarding investors with dividend increases, and Duke will let you sleep well at night.   

It also has notable prospects for growing its electric and natural gas businesses over the next few years. Overall, the company expects to increase earnings and dividends at around 5% a year through 2021, a nice slow and steady pace that will help shareholders' income streams stay ahead of inflation. The driving force will be $30 billion worth of spending on its electric utility and electric infrastructure assets. But also helping will be another $6 to $7 billion of planned spending at its natural gas and renewable merchant power businesses.     

At the end of the day, owning Duke is likely to be very boring over the next few years -- but still pretty rewarding if you are looking for a combination of yield, dividend growth, and, importantly, safety. This utility could really be a nice cornerstone investment if you are a retired investor.

Light up with this tobacco giant

Rich Duprey (Philip Morris International): Ignore the body blow Philip Morris International was dealt by an FDA advisory panel considering its reduced-risk designation application for the iQOS heat-not-burn electronic cigarette. Although the panel said the tobacco giant wasn't convinced that its e-cig was safer than combustible cigarettes, and that it could lead to teens actually smoking, it did agree that for smokers wanting to quit the iQOS was a helpful product.

While that suggests Philip Morris won't gain an especially large competitive advantage over its rivals that have e-cigs on the market -- being able to say your product is a safer alternative could reap it a windfall -- it's not written in stone it won't happen as the full FDA panel doesn't have to follow the advisory panel's recommendations, though it often does.

The FDA has taken a more conciliatory tone with e-cig makers in recent months as it wants people to stop smoking, and ingesting a vapor rather than smoke is generally seen as a better option since most of the toxic chemicals are in the smoke. Even if it doesn't get the reduced-risk label, it will likely still be able to market the iQOS, which it plans to do under Altria's (NYSE:MO) Marlboro brand as Heat Sticks. In other markets where it's been introduced, the iQOS has proved to be very popular and in Japan Philip Morris is now shipping more e-cigs than combustible cigarettes.

This is going to make Philip Morris stock an attractive one for a long time, perfect for retirees as it pays a dividend currently of 4.2% annually. The jury is still out on whether the global tobacco leader will be shut down here in the U.S., but it still has a path open for growth and investors should take advantage of it.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.