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3 Top-Ranked Dividend Stocks: A Smarter Way to Boost Your Retirement Income

Here's a revealing data point: older Americans are scared more of outliving wealth than of death itself.

Also, retirees who have constructed a nest egg have valid justifications to be concerned, since the traditional ways to plan for retirement may mean income can no longer cover expenses. Some retirees are now tapping their principal to make a decent living, pressed for time between decreasing investment balances and longer life expectancies.

Your parents' retirement investing plan won't cut it today.

For example, 10-year Treasury bonds in the late 1990s offered a yield of around 6.50%, which translated to an income source you could count on. However, today's yield is much lower and probably not a viable return option to fund typical retirements.

While this yield reduction may not seem drastic, it adds up: for a $1 million investment in 10-year Treasuries, the rate drop means a difference in yield of more than $1 million.

And lower bond yields aren't the only potential problem seniors are facing. Today's retirees aren't feeling as secure as they once did about Social Security, either. Benefit checks will still be coming for the foreseeable future, but based on current estimates, Social Security funds will run out of money in 2035.

So what's a retiree to do? You could cut your expenses to the bone, and take the risk that your Social Security checks don't shrink. Or you could find an alternative investment that provides a steady, higher-rate income stream to replace dwindling bond yields.

Invest in Dividend Stocks

As we see it, dividend-paying stocks from generally low-risk, top notch companies are a brilliant way to create steady and solid income streams to supplant low risk, low yielding Treasury and fixed-income alternatives.

Look for stocks that have paid steady, increasing dividends for years (or decades), and have not cut their dividends even during recessions.

Going beyond those familiar names, you can find excellent dividend-paying stocks by following a few guidelines. Look for companies that pay a dividend yield of around 3%, with positive annual dividend growth. The growth rate is key to help combat the effects of inflation.

Here are three dividend-paying stocks retirees should consider for their nest egg portfolio.

Acadia Realty Trust (AKR) is currently shelling out a dividend of $0.18 per share, with a dividend yield of 4.9%. This compares to the REIT and Equity Trust - Retail industry's yield of 4.23% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.64%. The company's annualized dividend growth in the past year was 20%. Check Acadia Realty Trust (AKR) dividend history here>>>

Conagra Brands (CAG) is paying out a dividend of $0.33 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 3.56% compared to the Food - Miscellaneous industry's yield of 0% and the S&P 500's yield. The annualized dividend growth of the company was 5.6% over the past year. Check Conagra Brands (CAG) dividend history here>>>

Currently paying a dividend of $0.27 per share, Comcast (CMCSA) has a dividend yield of 3.03%. This is compared to the Cable Television industry's yield of 0% and the S&P 500's current yield. Annualized dividend growth for the company in the past year was 8%. Check Comcast (CMCSA) dividend history here>>>

But aren't stocks generally more risky than bonds?

The fact is that stocks, as an asset class, carry more risk than bonds. To counterbalance this, invest in superior quality dividend stocks that not only can grow over time but more significantly, can also decrease your overall portfolio volatility with respect to the broader stock market.

A silver lining to owning dividend stocks for your retirement portfolio is that many companies, especially blue chip stocks, increase their dividends over time, helping offset the effects of inflation on your potential retirement income.

Thinking about dividend-focused mutual funds or ETFs? Watch out for fees.

You may be thinking, "I like this dividend strategy, but instead of investing in individual stocks, I'm going to find a dividend-focused mutual fund or ETF." This approach can make sense, but be aware that some mutual funds and specialized ETFs carry high fees, which may reduce your dividend gains or income, and defeat the goal of this dividend investment approach. If you do wish to invest in a fund, do your research to find the best-quality dividend funds with the lowest fees.

Bottom Line

Whether you select high-quality, low-fee funds or stocks, seeking the steady income of dividend-paying equities can potentially offer you a path to a better and more stress-free retirement.

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report

Acadia Realty Trust (AKR) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Comcast Corporation (CMCSA) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Conagra Brands (CAG) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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Zacks Investment Research