Your finances change materially when you retire, as most people go from building nest eggs one month at a time to living off their accumulated savings. Dividends can help you avoid touching your principal, but getting a quarterly check is a lot different than collecting a paycheck every two weeks.

That's why monthly-pay dividend stocks can be such a helpful budgeting tool. Here are three real estate investment trusts (REITs) that cut you checks each month, each covering a different property niche.

1. The bellwether

Realty Income (O 0.26%) offers investors a 4.1% dividend yield at recent prices. That's about middle-of-the-road for this landlord over the past decade, so it is probably fairly valued right now. But that's not a bad thing, given that it is one of the best-run real estate investment trusts around. And the yield is well above the 1.4% on offer from the S&P 500 Index and the 3.2% from the average real estate investment trust, using Vanguard Real Estate ETF as a proxy. 

A jar of coins with the word dividends written on it.

Image source: Getty Images.

Around 85% of Realty Income's rent roll comes from single-tenant, free-standing retail assets with net leases. The rest is spread across office and industrial assets. A net lease requires the tenant to pay most of the operating costs of the property it occupies. This structure is generally considered low-risk, given that Realty Income basically just sits back and collects rent. Meanwhile, it has grown at a slow and steady clip, increasing its dividend annually for over 25 consecutive years (making it a Dividend Aristocrat). Generally speaking, only well-run companies can amass records like that. 

Extra exciting right now is the fact that Realty Income just inked a deal to buy peer VEREIT. This will materially increase Realty Income's size, giving it even greater access to low-cost capital to fund future growth. And the VEREIT deal is expected to be immediately accretive, with additional benefits as VEREIT's higher-interest debt is refinanced at Realty Income's lower interest rate levels. In other words, you'll pay a fair price for a great company that's on its way to getting even better. 

2. A housing play

The next company up is Broadmark Realty Capital (BRMK), a mortgage REIT. However, this isn't your typical m-REIT, because it provides cash directly to builders on a short-term basis. This is known in the industry as hard-money lending, with the loans backed by the properties being developed. Once sold or completed, the loans get repaid. Broadmark has basically stepped into a lending niche that banks exited during the housing-led downturn between 2007 and 2009. The stock yields a big 8.1% today.

The thing is, this monthly-pay REIT doesn't really take on a whole lot of risk. Sure, there's a chance that a project doesn't get completed, but Broadmark generally only extends 60% of what the final project's value is expected to be. This gives it leeway to deal with defaults. Meanwhile, it avoids the use of debt, preferring to keep a clean balance sheet. It recently inked a revolving debt facility, but the purpose of that is to allow for better timing on the investment front. To simplify, management can put some cash to work before loans get repaid so the company doesn't miss out on deals.

O Dividend Yield Chart

O Dividend Yield data by YCharts

Unlike Realty Income, Broadmark is a relatively young REIT. So there's a bit of extra risk involved on that score, and you'll probably want to pay close attention to quarterly reports until it builds a longer track record. However, with a direct tie into the construction space, this high yield m-REIT could be a great fit in a broader portfolio.

3. An industrial focus

The third REIT on the list is STAG Industrial (STAG -0.47%), which owns a collection of industrial assets, as its name implies. The key here is that STAG avoids the top-tier markets (think coastal ports), and focuses on smaller and secondary locales where it faces less competition. It's been a pretty good tactic, with the REIT increasing its dividend every year since it started paying them in 2011, or roughly a decade. 

Since its IPO, the company has grown its portfolio from 93 properties to nearly 500. And it's expanded from 26 states to 39. Meanwhile, despite the obviously active acquisition pace, its leverage has actually declined. And while growth gets harder to achieve as a company gets bigger, STAG estimates that it has a 0.5% share of a $1 trillion addressable market. In other words, more growth is likely from here. 

The big problem with STAG is that investors have shown a fondness for industrial assets of late. So the roughly 4.1% yield is at the low end of its historical range. That said, STAG's yield is twice the level of industry giant Prologis, so it is relatively attractive for those seeking out industrial exposure. Still, value types might want to keep this one on their watch lists until the stock pulls back (a yield in the high 5% range would be historically compelling if you can wait). 

Collecting the check

A monthly dividend payer isn't an instant buy, even for investors looking to replace their paychecks. But a diversified list of companies like Realty Income, Broadmark, and STAG, added to a broader dividend portfolio (presumably with a number of quarterly payers), can help to smooth out the ups and downs of your income stream. Even if you aren't ready to jump in and buy all of these monthly-pay REITs today, they at least deserve places on your watch list. You never know when Mr. Market will give you a chance at a good deal.