If you're looking to put a little more gold in your golden years you're going to need more than gold -- or bonds, CDs, and whatever it is that you've been stashing away under your mattress. Stocks have historically been the best way to grow your money, and that's likely going to continue to be the case in the future. 

You may want to avoid speculative penny stocks, profitless upstarts, and richly priced growth darlings, but there are still plenty of quality names out there. Target (NYSE:TGT), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), and Realty Income (NYSE:O) are quality investments with modest yields and room to appreciate. Let's see why these three stocks are ideal for a better retirement. 

A man and a woman on beach chairs in the Maldives.

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There aren't too many retailers that have earned the right to be as pandemic-proof as Target. The "cheap-chic" discounter has become even more popular this year as a mass market retailer with multi-generational appeal. Comps rose 20.7% in its latest quarter, and adjusted earnings more than doubled. 

Target has transformed itself into the brick-and-mortar beast that every chain aspires to be these days. It has seamlessly coasted into the promising realms of e-commerce, curbside pick-up, and online ordering for in-store pick-up, with digital sales skyrocketing 155% over the past year. 

The stock is hitting fresh all-time highs this week, but don't let that scare you into thinking that it's too late to land on the bull's eye yourself. The stock has roughly doubled from its April lows but it's reasonably priced at 20 times this fiscal year's projected earnings. The 1.5% yield is the lowest of the three names on this list, but that's going to beat whatever a new bank CD would be offering. 


In terms of trendy appeal, Cisco is at the other end of the Target spectrum these days. The networking specialist isn't trading anywhere near an all-time high or even a 52-week high. It just posted its fourth straight quarter of declining revenue as companies hold back on tech upgrades until we claw our way out of the pandemic. 

Cisco is no longer the runaway leader in routers, switches, and related networking gear that at one point made it the country's most valuable company by market cap -- before the dot-com bubble popped. However, it's still a relevant player with a cheap stock and a juicy 3.5% yield. Cisco is fetching just 13 times this fiscal year's profit target and 12 times next year's analyst earnings estimate. If the valuation seems compelling, a bonus kicker here is that Cisco has topped Wall Street expectations on the bottom line in each of those four quarters in which revenue declined. 

Realty Income

Let's close out the list with a real estate investment trust (REIT), but not just any REIT. Realty Income stands out as one of the publicly traded investments that provide monthly distributions. The current 4.6% yield is the highest of the three names on this list. 

Realty Income signs long-term leases for mostly retail properties that account for 85% of its portfolio. Retailers may seem like a bad bet these days -- with Target being one of the exceptions to the rule -- but Realty Income is fully aware of what's going on out there these days. It's well diversified with roughly 600 tenants across 51 different industries, but those industries are typically immune to economic lulls and the threat of e-commerce. A whopping 95% of its retail portfolio comes from tenants addressing services, non-discretionary retail, or low price points. This does mean that some of its tenants are gyms and multiplex operators that aren't faring so well these days, but it also has plenty of convenience stores (its largest category), pharmacies, and discounters that have held up well in this tricky climate. 

Realty Income has increased its dividend 108 -- yes, 108 -- times. It has also boosted its payout every year since its 1994 listing, making it one of just three REITs that make the cut as Dividend Aristocrats. It may not offer the turnaround potential of Cisco or be killing it the way Target is these days, but those monthly dividend checks and a historically resilient property portfolio will serve you just fine if your goal is a better retirement.

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.