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Improve Your Retirement Income with These 3 Top-Ranked Dividend Stocks - November 20, 2019

Zacks Equity Research

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

And retirees have good reason to be worried about making their assets last. People are living longer, so that money has to cover a longer period. Making matters worse, income generated using tried - and - true retirement planning approaches may not cover expenses these days. That means seniors must dip into principal to meet living expenses.

In today's economic environment, traditional income investments are not working.

Years ago, investors at or close to retirement could put money into fixed-income assets and depend on appealing yields to generate consistent, solid pay streams to fund a comfortable retirement. 10-year Treasury bond rates in the late 1990s floated around 6.50%, but unfortunately, those days of being able to exclusively rely on Treasury yields to fund retirement income are over.

The impact of this rate decline is sizeable: over 20 years, the difference in yield for a $1 million investment in 10-year Treasuries is more than $1 million.

In addition to the considerable drop in bond yields, today's retirees are nervous about their future Social Security benefits. Because of certain demographic factors, it's been estimated that the funds that pay the Social Security benefits will run out of money in 2035.

So what can retirees do? You could dramatically reduce your expenses, and go out on a limb hoping your Social Security benefits don't diminish. On the other hand, you could opt for an alternative investment that gives a steady, higher-rate income stream to supplant lessening bond yields.

Invest in Dividend Stocks

We feel that these dividend-paying equities - as long as they are from high-quality, low-risk issuers - can give retirement investors a smart option to replace low-yielding Treasury bonds (or other bonds).

For example, AT&T and Coca-Cola are income stocks with attractive dividend yields of 3% or better. Look for stocks like this that have paid steady, increasing dividends for years (or decades), and have not cut their dividends even during recessions.

A rule of thumb for finding solid income-producing stocks is to seek those that average 3% dividend yield, and positive yearly dividend growth. These stocks can help combat inflation by boosting dividends over time.

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

AbbVie (ABBV) is currently shelling out a dividend of $1.07 per share, with a dividend yield of 4.81%. This compares to the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry's yield of 2.7% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.82%. In terms of dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $4.28 is up 11.46% from last year.

Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) is paying out a dividend of 0.36 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 3.38% compared to the Retail - Restaurants industry's yield of 0% and the S&P 500's yield. Taking a look at the company's dividend growth, its current annualized dividend of $1.44 is up 9.09% from last year.

Currently paying a dividend of 0.1 per share, Costamare (CMRE) has a dividend yield of 4.76%. This is compared to the Transportation - Shipping industry's yield of 0% and the S&P 500's current yield. Looking at dividend growth, the company's current annualized dividend of $0.4 is flat compared to last year.

But aren't stocks generally more risky than bonds?

Yes, that's true. As a broad category, bonds carry less risk than stocks. However, the stocks we are talking about - dividend -paying stocks from high-quality companies - can generate income over time and also mitigate the overall volatility of your portfolio compared to the stock market as a whole.

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.

If you're interested in investing in dividends, but are thinking about mutual funds or ETFs rather than stocks, beware of fees. Mutual funds and specialized ETFs may carry high fees, which could lower the overall gains you earn from dividends, undercutting your dividend income strategy. Be sure to look for funds with low fees if you decide on this approach.

Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you select high-quality, low-fee funds or stocks, looking for a steady stream of income from dividend-paying equities can potentially lead you to a solid and more peaceful retirement.

Generating income is just one aspect of planning for a comfortable retirement.

To learn more ways to maximize your assets - and avoid pitfalls that could jeopardize your financial security - download our free report:

Will You Retire a Multi-Millionaire? 7 Things You Can Do Now

Get Your FREE Guide Now AbbVie Inc. (ABBV) : Free Stock Analysis Report Costamare Inc. (CMRE) : Free Stock Analysis Report The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated (CAKE) : Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here.