The financial crisis did major damage to retirement nest eggs. Especially for those in or close to retirement, the hit they took was massive. The market recovery over the past two years has done a lot to repair that damage, but retirees and near-retirees still have to make sure they own the best investments they can find.

To help give you ideas on stocks to buy and others to avoid, we asked some of our Motley Fool analysts to weigh in with their opinions about their favorite stocks for conservative investors, as well as stocks they think are flashing warning signs right now. Read on to see their ideas.

Travis Hoium, Motley Fool contributor
When looking at stocks for retirement, I like to see three qualities: The stock must be a good value, it should pay a dividend, and the company has to make something I can touch and feel. Tangible products mean capital investment and research and development, which reduce the risk that someone in a dorm room can blow up your business model (like Google and Facebook did).

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) is a stock I would sleep well owning in retirement. The stock trades at less than 11 times earnings and pays a 3.2% dividend yield, and Intel is a market leader in the high-tech chip space. As a bonus, the company has almost $12 billion of cash and short-term securities versus only $2 billion in debt, and it grew revenue by more than 20% over the past year. Who would have thought a decade ago that you could own a tech stock so cheaply?

But what stock should you avoid heading into retirement? I would avoid Post-It Note maker 3M (NYSE: MMM) for a variety of reasons. The company pays a dividend and makes thousands of tangible products, but as I highlighted a few weeks ago, the magic seems to be gone at the company. 3M isn't as attractive as Intel, with a dividend yield of 2.3% and a P/E ratio of 16.7, especially when you consider that 3M has grown more slowly. As I see it, there are far better deals out there than 3M, and Intel is one of them.

Chuck Saletta, Motley Fool contributor
Retirement is a time when investors' priorities turn to generating current income and inflation protection from their portfolios. It stands to reason that the ideal type of stock for them to own is one that has:

  • A decent dividend yield, providing current income.
  • Regularly raised that payment, providing a measure of inflation protection.
  • A reason to believe that behavior will continue.

Energy pipeline giant Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE: KMP) certainly fits the bill. With a 6.2% yield, it pays much better than the general market. With a 15-year history of regularly raising that payment, it has a well-established track record of increasing its owners' rewards. And with the potential for increased export traffic through its pipelines, that trend looks as though it's capable of continuing.

That said, not all high-yielding stocks belong in a retiree's portfolio, especially if that retiree needs every dime of income to cover his or her costs of living. For instance, mortgage REIT Annaly Capital (NYSE: NLY) sports a very tempting 14% yield, but that dividend has whipped around, both up and down, over the past several years. I'm comfortable having the stock in my portfolio, but I have years to go before I plan to tap my retirement nest egg. That erratic payment stream makes it a tough stock for someone who depends on spending dividends.

Sean Williams, Motley Fool contributor
Those nearing retirement shouldn't have to spend their golden years wondering whether their portfolio is going to send them to the poor house. Investing for retirement means finding conservative investments that can weather any economic environment -- essentially, the set-it-and-forget-it approach.

One name that immediately comes to mind is Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). J&J has a growing base of potential customers, with baby boomers getting older and the world’s population rapidly increasing. J&J's three business segments -- medical devices and diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and consumer products -- give you diversified exposure to the health-care sector, meaning J&J won't be hurting for future business and shareholders won't be hurting for dividend income. With 49 consecutive years of dividend increases under its belt and a top credit rating of AAA, investors can sleep well at night owning a company like this.

On the other hand, I'm not as comfortable with U.S. tobacco giant Altria Group (NYSE: MO), which many retirees include in their portfolios. While its 5.6% dividend yield is enough to attract some of the most conservative investors, I think the company's stock should come with a similar warning label to what Congress has mandated must go on cigarette packages by next year. Doing business solely within the U.S., Altria is extremely susceptible to the United States' increasingly tougher anti-smoking regulations. Bearing one of the largest debt burdens in the tobacco sector and facing the prospect of more legal action against the company in the future, it could be a stalwart name to avoid.

Learn more
Find some other ideas for retirement-worthy stocks in the Fool's special free report, "5 Stocks The Motley Fool Owns -- And You Should Too." Get instant access.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger compiled this roundtable, and he doesn't own shares of any of the stocks or ETFs mentioned. Chuck owns shares of Annaly Capital Management and of Kinder Morgan Management, a related company to Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. The Motley Fool owns shares of Annaly Capital Management, Altria Group, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Intel, Johnson & Johnson, and 3M and creating a diagonal call positions on Intel and Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy makes you feel like a knight at King Arthur's roundtable.