Okay, you're spooked by the stock market. You don't like 40% drops in short periods of time. Who could blame you? It makes me jittery, too.

Still, as we've repeated many times here in Fooldom, this is actually a good time to buy stocks, because they're on sale. You say no, still? Well, then, permit me to ask you this -- if you're not interested in putting your long-term money into stocks, where will you put it?

  • Cash? Well, remember inflation. It's always with us, and some expect it to stay higher than usual for the coming few years. It has typically averaged around 3% to 4% per year over the past several decades. Here's what Warren Buffet had to say recently about cash: "Equities will almost certainly outperform cash over the next decade, probably by a substantial degree." But inflation constantly attacks cash investments -- and can wreak havoc with your retirement.)
  • Savings accounts? Well, fine, if you want to earn less than the inflation rate. Last time I checked, most savings and checking accounts were paying, at most, around 1.5% to 2.5% in interest. If these levels persist, you'll be losing money to inflation with these options. (Still, you might get a toaster. I got a nice set of gardening tools when I opened my checking account.) For short-term money, make sure you're getting the best rates you can find.
  • CDs? Well, you may just be able to beat inflation, maybe -- earning perhaps around 4% in a five-year CD. I saw a 4.4% rate for a two-year CD recently. That's nice, if you don't want your money to grow too quickly. But if you're pinning a retirement on this growth, it could be rather far off. (Learn how to boost your CD income.)
  • Real estate? I'll be the first to concede that a lot of money can be made in real estate. But it's not as easy as it can appear, and you need to know what you're doing. Also, locations and time periods vary in their profitability. I've seen one estimate of real estate's long-term annual growth rate as high as 6%, but many others lower than that. Robert Shiller, who has studied the U.S. housing market all the way back to 1890, has found a mean average annual return of around 3%. If you buy real estate as an investment, remember that you'll be tying up a lot of money, and it won't be as easy to get your hands on it again as selling stocks. You may earn a great return, or you may break even after a decade or two. Just as with stocks, there's no guarantee.
  • Bonds? Nope, not too compelling, either, at least if you're looking for reliable growth. Currently, Treasury bonds are earning just 4%. (Learn more about bonds and bond funds.)

Stock it to me!
If you're still skittish about stocks, consider this: Invest in healthy dividend payers, and you could be earning as much as the inflation rate or a CD rate or more -- just from the dividend alone. If the stock price appreciates, too, as you can expect it to do eventually, then that's gravy!

Check out these hefty dividend payers, which I found by screening for them at our CAPS stock-rating service (each was rated five out of five stars):

Company

Dividend yield

ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP)

3.8%

DuPont (NYSE:DD)

5.6%

Altria (NYSE:MO)

7.2%

Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT)

4.1%

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK)

5.2%

NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX)

4.6%

Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW)

6.9%

Data: Motley Fool CAPS.

Over the past years, I've added a bunch of steady, growing dividend payers to my portfolio. If you'd like to do the same and are looking for some recommendations, check out, for free, our Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter, featuring many firms with dividend yields above 6%.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Kraft Foods, GlaxoSmithKline, and Dow Chemical are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.