Here's some bad news: The average monthly Social Security benefit was recently just $1,544 -- about $18,500 for the year, and not enough for most of us to comfortably retire on. The news may not be quite as bad if you've been an above-average earner over your working life, as that means you'll collect more. But not that much more. If you averaged maximum earnings and delayed starting to collect your benefits until this year, when you hit age 70, you'd receive $3,895 per month. That is a lot more, but it's still only about $46,750 for the year.

Fortunately, as long as you have some years before you retire, there are steps you can take to bankroll a better retirement.

A yellow road sign says retirement ahead.

Image source: Getty Images.

Boosting your financial security in retirement

Here's how to build a more robust income stream in retirement:

  • Save more aggressively. Saving just 10% of your income isn't going to be enough for most Americans. Crunch some numbers and figure out how much you need to sock away.
  • Invest more effectively. For long-term dollars, consider low-fee, broad-market index funds or individual stocks. Dividend-paying stocks can be particularly effective as you approach and enter retirement.
  • Consider annuities. Immediate annuities can deliver specified sums to you every month for a specified period -- even for the rest of your life.

Those are some of many possible ways to increase your income in retirement. Here's a closer look at some individual stocks that can build wealth for you over time, including two that deliver dividend income as well.

No. 1: Verizon Communications

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is certainly a familiar name, and it's a behemoth of a telecommunications company as well, with a market cap recently near $225 billion. It also offers a dividend, which was recently yielding a hefty 4.6%. That payout has been increased for 14 consecutive years, and has been boosted by an annual average rate of 2% over the past five years. With its payout ratio (the portion of its earnings paid out as dividends) recently below 60%, Verizon appears to have plenty of room for further dividend increases.

The company's offerings include wireless and fiber optic networks, including a 5G network that will help boost business as sales of 5G smartphones increase. Verizon boasts more than 94 million retail customers and more than 26 million business ones. Its media brands (such as Yahoo, TechCrunch, Engadget, Rivals, RIOT, #BuiltByGirls, Autoblog, and AOL) are accessed by close to 900 million people globally. Clearly, Verizon isn't going away anytime soon, and with a recent price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio near 13, it's attractively priced, as well.

No. 2: Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is another familiar name, with a market value recently topping $425 billion. It's also a dividend payer, recently yielding 2.5%. That may not seem like a lot, but it tops the average yield of the S&P 500. Moreover, it has increased for 58 consecutive years, and has grown by an annual average of 6% over the past five years. With a payout ratio near 72%, that payout seems safe and has room to grow.

You may not appreciate the scope of Johnson & Johnson's business. Most familiar is its consumer products division, home to brands such as Listerine, Band-Aid, Carefree, Stayfree, Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Zyrtec, Visine, Nicorette, Neutrogena, Aveeno, Rogaine, and Lubriderm -- among many others. But the company has two other key divisions: medical devices and pharmaceuticals, the latter of which has a COVID-19 vaccine that may have received Food and Drug Administration approval by the time you read this. Its pharmaceutical offerings (including many in its pipeline) are focused on immunology, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, pulmonary hypertension, infectious diseases and vaccines, neuroscience, and oncology.

No. 3: Amazon.com

Like Johnson & Johnson, there's much more to Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) than meets the eye. We are all very familiar with its vast and dominant e-commerce business, which contributes mightily to its annual revenue of about $386 billion. But Amazon also includes its dominant and growing Amazon Web Services (AWS), which generated more than $45 billion in fiscal 2020, up 30% from 2019. The company is also branching out into big markets, such as healthcare, which offer great growth potential.

Meanwhile, Amazon's Prime service deserves attention as well, because it encompasses hundreds of millions of members who pay a subscription fee for access to an ever-growing suite of benefits, such as fast shipping, Prime Video, Prime Reading, Music Prime, Amazon Gaming, Amazon Photos, and much more.

Amazon.com, despite its massive size (its market value recently topped $1.6 trillion), doesn't pay a dividend -- in large part because it's still growing briskly and needs all of its earnings. It's easy to imagine a point in the future when management decides that it can spare a chunk of earnings to distribute in dividend form, but even if that doesn't happen, its stock price is likely to keep growing over the coming years, and that can reward retirees and pre-retirees very well.

These are just three of many solid stocks that can help you build needed wealth for your retirement. Dig deeper into any that interest you, and look beyond for more portfolio candidates, if you need them. Remember, too, that simply parking most or all of your long-term money in a low-fee, broad-market index fund will also serve you well.

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.