The last 10 years has totally changed the way employees feel about their future. Less secure in their jobs, less comfortable with the prospects of Social Security, and less confident in the stock market's potential to create wealth, investors should have changed the way they invest.

Unfortunately, they haven't. While it's not too late to reshape your path toward a rewarding retirement, you've got to make some drastic changes, and you've got to make them now.

You've lost faith
I don't blame you for losing faith in, well, just about everything. The last decade has been flat in the market, our financial system almost imploded, and federal liabilities are at an all-time high. No wonder our confidence is so low. Check out some of these recently released statistics from the Retirement Confidence Survey:

  • 70% of workers are not confident that Social Security will continue to pay benefits equivalent or higher than what retirees receive today.
  • 65% of workers feel the same way about Medicare's ability to provide for them in the future.
  • 25% of workers think that the age they will retire has increased in the past year.

The most shocking figure is that 25% of working Americans have had to mentally adjust their retirement age in the past year. The worst part of this statistic is that in 2008, only two years ago, that figure was only 14%.

The bottom line: The past two years has almost doubled the number of people who feel their age of retirement will increase.

Reading between the lines
The financial collapse of 2008 and the threat of a double-dip recession have caused millions of Americans to fine-tune the age they think they'll retire.

And 12% of people who have adjusted their retirement age attribute it to losses they've incurred in the stock market, while 5% of people are just so uncertain about the stock market that they're unable to stick to their current retirement plan.

What this tells me is that investors didn't have adequate investment strategies that could successfully deal with an extreme recession, and now that they've been burned, many are too scared to jump back in. Unfortunately, that's the worst conclusion a person can arrive at. What investors need to do is get back in the market, as Treasuries and savings accounts will never provide the wealth that an individual stock can. On the other hand, they need to purchase stocks that make sense given their current attitude toward the market, yet still have all the money-making potential that we've come to expect from buying equities.

To help you jump back in the market and regain the confidence that has been shaken over the past two years, I've found five stocks that I think will fit the bill. They are all dividend stocks -- this is important as dividend stocks not only provide you with current income, but also have a proven track record of outperforming non-dividend-paying stocks. In addition, these stocks have all grown their dividends over the past five years, which was no easy task considering the rough few years we've had. Lastly, I looked for stocks with low betas, which ensures that volatility will be low and you won't see outrageous swings in the prices of your stocks. Here is a list of the five I felt would perform well whether we're in a booming market or a recession:

Company

Industry

Dividend Yield

5-Year Dividend Growth

5-Year Beta

Annaly Capital (NYSE: NLY)

Diversified REIT

15.6%

8.9%

0.4

Copano Energy (Nasdaq: CPNO)

Oil & gas pipelines

8.4%

33.9%

0.9

Kinder Morgan Energy (NYSE: KMP)

Oil & gas pipelines

6.4%

7.2%

0.3

Reynolds American (NYSE: RAI)

Consumer goods

6.4%

13.4%

0.6

Exelon (NYSE: EXC)

Utility provider

5.1%

6.9%

0.6

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Not only do these companies have great track records of success in the market and consistency paying out fat dividends, but they're all incredibly recessionary-proof. The oil and gas pipeline providers typically operate with long-term contracts that are based on volume of natural gas, not price, so they are not terribly vulnerable to commodity swings. Kinder Morgan has often been thought of as the darling of the energy MLPs; however, if you're looking for a newer company with more acquisition exposure, check out Linn Energy (Nasdaq: LINE). Reynolds American sells cigarettes, and that is one product that has illustrated its staying power as well as any. Its major competitor, Altria Group (NYSE: MO), also pays a sweet 6.2% dividend and has an overall lock-down on the market with its more-than-favorable brand supremacy.

Rest easy with this strategy
There's no doubt that investors have been fearful to jump back into the market, and now that the recovery seems to be stalling, it's almost natural to want to recede into the background. But in order to keep that retirement age steady, you've got to increase your wealth, and savings accounts or bond funds just aren't going to cut it.

Invest in stocks -- particularly, dividend-paying stocks -- and choose companies that have low volatility. This way you'll be able to sleep well at night knowing your invested the market, but you're doing it in the safest, most practical way possible. Don't waste any more time losing confidence. Start your new investment strategy today.

Do you disagree with the five companies I've listed above? Don't think they're a good place to start for someone fearful of the market? Let me hear it in the comments below!

Jordan DiPietro owns shares of Exelon, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group, Exelon, and Annaly Capital Management. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.