While you're working, you generate income from your employment. But when you retire, it's time to start using your portfolio to generate income.

The shift to drawing income from a retirement portfolio can be tough, perhaps forcing some to go back to work. But you don't have to go back to work to generate income if you know how to use your existing assets to do it for you.

Here are five ways you can generate income in retirement.

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1. Dividend stocks

Dividend stocks are as simple as it gets for generating income in retirement.

A good dividend stock will pay out a portion of its profits to shareholders on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annual basis. Dividend yields aren't nearly as high as they used to be, but you can still put together a conservative portfolio of dividend-paying stocks and generate good income.

The best part about using dividend stocks to generate income is that you can hold the stocks indefinitely. As long as the company appears to be in good standing and capable of paying the dividend for the foreseeable future, the stock can stay in your portfolio. You could even end up leaving a sizable portfolio of stocks to your heirs.

2. Covered-call option strategies

Writing options on stocks you own, also known as the covered-call strategy, can be a great way of generating consistent income from a stock portfolio.

The way this strategy works is you sell a call option on shares of a stock you already own with a strike price higher than it currently trades. You collect a premium from the party buying the call option from you. If the stock is worth less than the strike price at expiration, the option will expire worthless. You'll keep the premium you sold the option for and your shares.

There are some risks, though. The shares could be called away from you at any time. That could result in you losing your shares or having to pay more than you initially received to cover your position. So you need to be sure you're willing to part with your shares at the designated strike price.

Covered calls and other options trading strategies can be a great way to supercharge the income from your stock portfolio. If you're willing to accept the risks, it can provide a significant amount of income.

3. Real estate rentals

Owning a few real estate rentals can provide a source of inflation-protected revenue that's diversified from other assets like stocks and bonds.

A good rental property can produce great cash flow without a significant amount of taxes. That's because there are a lot of tax deductions for operating a rental property, including the interest on a mortgage and depreciation of the property (even though it's likely appreciating in value).

Another advantage of real estate is that it's protected from inflation, which can be a major pain point for retirees. You ought to be able to raise your rents in periods of low vacancy. Meanwhile, your mortgage remains stable. As such, your profit growth ought to outpace inflation.

The property will appreciate in value over time, roughly keeping pace with inflation long term. If you hold the property your whole life, your heirs will inherit it with a stepped-up cost basis, which means they won't owe taxes on the appreciation in value of the property.

4. Bond or CD ladders

Bonds and CDs pay interest at regular intervals before reaching maturity. But putting all your money into a single instrument can come with more risk than you need.

A ladder of bonds or CDs is when you buy securities with varying maturity dates, collecting interest payments every month, quarter, or semi-annually, and reinvesting the funds when it reaches maturity.

The value provided by the strategy is that it protects you from interest rate risk. Fluctuations in interest rates can impact the value of your bonds, but you'll still collect your principal at maturity. What you're really missing out on as an investor focused on income is the opportunity to generate a better yield from your principal when interest rates move in your favor. A bond ladder will protect you from those fluctuations because you'll be able to invest more frequently.

5. Annuities

An annuity product is designed to provide you income in exchange for handing over your money.

Retirees looking for consistent income are likely most interested in a fixed annuity. Many will pay out a fixed amount for life, regardless of how long you live, although some come with term limits. An annuity can be a very simple way to generate predictable income from your assets.

There are downsides, though. The long-term returns aren't usually as good as a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other riskier assets. What's more, the fees can be high, especially if you change your mind and want to cash out your annuity.

But holding an annuity in retirement can provide a nice base level of income, diversifying from riskier assets.

Stay retired

Working in retirement has some physical and mental health benefits, but you retired to get the freedom to use your time as you choose. Using your assets to generate income for you can ensure you never have to go back to work if you don't want to. There are plenty of strategies to generate consistent income, and you can certainly find one that appeals to you.