Saving for retirement takes an entire career, but even after you retire, there's still more work to be done on the investing front. With many people living 20 to 30 years after they leave their careers, your money still has to work hard for you, even during retirement.

That's why it's critical to make sure you have investments you can be comfortable keeping even after you stop receiving paychecks. Being somewhat more conservative with your investments and focusing more on generating the income you need to cover your basic living expenses can make sense, but retreating to the perceived safety of bank CDs can leave you without the growth you need to ensure that you won't run out of money in retirement.

Exchange-traded funds can be a great way to get the income and growth you need. In particular, the following three ETFs have an attractive combination of attributes that retirees especially can appreciate.

ETF

Assets Under Management

Expense Ratio

1-Year Return

Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (NYSEMKT:VIG)

$27.1 billion

0.08%

14%

iShares Preferred Stock (NASDAQ:PFF)

$16.3 billion

0.46%

2%

Invesco S&P 500 Low Volatility (NYSEMKT:SPLV)

$7.1 billion

0.25%

7%

Data source: Fund providers.

Get the income you need

It's important for retirees to shift their portfolio toward income-generating investments, because without money coming in from a job, you have to make sure that your savings can support you. Although many retirees have historically gravitated toward fixed-income investments like bonds and bank CDs, low interest rates have made those alternatives less than ideal. Instead, dividend stocks have gained dramatically in popularity as a way to provide both current income and the potential for future growth.

Vanguard Dividend Appreciation embraces this two-tier approach to dividend investing, going beyond simply finding the highest-yielding stocks and instead looking for a balance of current yield and long-term dividend growth. By demanding that dividend stocks have a track record of consistently raising their payouts over time, the ETF sets the stage for retirees to enjoy a larger stream of income in the future. That can help you keep pace with inflation and avoid the loss of purchasing power that often results from concentrating too much on fixed-income investments.

Alarm clock, three piles of coins, and a jar marked Retirement on a table in front of an out-of-focus hedge.

Image source: Getty Images.

Give your portfolio the preferred treatment

Most investors concentrate on common stocks because they offer the greatest opportunity for growth. However, preferred stock can be a good option for retirees looking for the right balance of income and growth prospects. Preferred stocks typically have higher dividend yields than common stock, and they often trade more like bonds, with price movements that more closely reflect changes in bond market conditions than moves in the overall stock market. However, you can also find convertible preferred stock that gives you greater exposure to the ups and downs of common shares, because preferred shareholders have the right under certain circumstances to exchange their stock for shares of the company's common stock.

The iShares ETF is a good example of how these preferred issues can work, with a current SEC yield of 5.7% showing how much income these investments can produce. The majority of the fund's assets are held in preferred shares of financial companies such as banks, real estate, insurance, and diversified financials, but you'll also find a smattering of holdings in other areas as well.

Smoothing out the ride

Nothing's more important to retirement investors than preserving their capital from a potential market crash. Unfortunately, investing in stocks always involves risk, and there's no way to eliminate that risk entirely. However, some stocks have historically been less volatile than others, and concentrating on those stocks could help to cushion the blow from a market downturn at least to some extent.

The Invesco ETF tracks an index of 100 stocks in the S&P 500 that have seen lower volatility than their peers over the past 12-month period. Currently, that has the fund focusing on a wide range of sectors including utilities, financials, industrial stocks, real estate, and consumer staples. Together, those areas make up more than 75% of the fund's holdings.

Investors shouldn't expect the Invesco ETF to do as well as the market during favorable periods, because volatile stocks tend to rise more during bull markets. Ideally, the ETF will outperform the market during downturns, giving investors a smoother ride and avoiding the devastating drawdowns that can especially hurt those who've just retired.

Retire with confidence

You need to keep investing even after you retire, but that doesn't have to be a huge burden. By looking at key areas that these three ETFs cover, you'll be in a better position to make sure your money lasts as long as it can.

Dan Caplinger owns shares of Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.