These are supposed to be your golden years. You've put in the time, effort, and savings. It's time to reap the rewards of all that hard work. But to do that, you'll need some cash flow.

Hey, playing golf three days a week isn't free! Neither is that Mediterranean cruise you and your spouse have always dreamed of.

The problem, though, is of course one of budgeting. You can't deplete your life savings in the first five years of retirement to travel the world. That nest egg needs to stand the test of time. And I have an excellent strategy that does just that.

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How much do you really need?
Before we talk tactics to unlock that $100,000 a year in income, let's back up a few steps and talk about how much money you really need to make this work. 

The short answer is $1 million. You don't need $5 million or $10 million or more. Just one. 

That may seem like a lot, particularly for younger readers just starting to put money into their 401(k)s and IRAs. But the math really works out in your favor over the long term. This is a very achievable goal.

Let's say you're a 30-year-old professional who already has $50,000 in your 401(k). To hit that $1 million mark by your 65th birthday, you need to contribute just $5,525.17 per year into your account, assuming the market returns 6% on average for the next 35 years. Just over $5,500 per year is all it takes, and that's inclusive of any employer match you may have.

If you're younger -- say, 22 and just now entering the workforce -- you need to contribute just $5,333.12 per year to reach $1,000,000 by age 65, again assuming the market returns 6% annually.

The point here is that it doesn't take an extraordinary job with an incredible salary. Nor does it take an unprecedented bull market run. It just requires consistent savings over the long term. You can do this. Be the tortoise, not the hare.

OK, so you have your million dollars. Now what?
So, here's where the rubber hits the road. You have your million dollars. How do you preserve that capital and still turn it into six-figure income every year?

You could invest directly in income-producing real estate. Apartments. Office buildings. Retail space. Strip malls. Rental property.

In real estate, investors use a concept called the capitalization rate to relate the value of a property and the profit it generates. Technically, it's the property's net operating income divided by its market value.

A property that costs $1 million to buy with a 10% cap rate would yield $100,000 in net operating income. 

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A few years ago, in the aftermath of the real estate bubble, high-quality properties were available with cap rates of 12% or higher. Today, a high-quality property could see a cap rate of 6%-8% or lower in some markets, but deals are still out there.

A professional real estate investor may manage the property on his or her own, but you don't have to do that. You can kick your feet up and let someone else do the work for you. There are plenty of professional property managers out there who make a living by managing apartments, offices, or other property types.

Worried about that expense? Don't be. The property manager's fee is taken out as an expense when you first negotiate the purchase price, meaning the net operating income number you based your purchase on should already include that fee.

The other major risk with real estate is taking on too much debt. In this case, that risk doesn't apply. The whole reason to save up your million dollars is so that you won't need to take on any debt. That property is yours, free and clear.

Don't forget to get help from a pro
As with any major investment, it is absolutely advisable to get help from a well-respected professional in your particular market. That professional can help you find the right property in the right location and even hire the right property manager to make your retirement as stress free, and lucrative, as possible.

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