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

Here's an eye-opening statistic: older Americans are more afraid of running out of money 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.

Retirement investing approaches of the past don't work today.

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.

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The effect of this drop in rates is substantial: over 20 years, the change in yield for a $1 million investment in 10-year Treasuries is over $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 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

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.

Tanger Factory Outlet (SKT) is currently shelling out a dividend of $0.25 per share, with a dividend yield of 4.52%. This compares to the REIT and Equity Trust - Retail industry's yield of 4.52% and the S&P 500's yield of 1.72%. The company's annualized dividend growth in the past year was 20.55%. Check Tanger Factory Outlet (SKT) dividend history here>>>

Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) is paying out a dividend of $0.71 per share at the moment, with a dividend yield of 4.7% compared to the Banks - Foreign industry's yield of 3.85% and the S&P 500's yield. The annualized dividend growth of the company was 0.44% over the past year. Check Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) dividend history here>>>

Currently paying a dividend of $0.48 per share, U.S. Bancorp (USB) has a dividend yield of 5.4%. This is compared to the Banks - Major Regional industry's yield of 4.4% and the S&P 500's current yield. Annualized dividend growth for the company in the past year was 4.35%. Check U.S. Bancorp (USB) dividend history here>>>

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.

Combating the impact of inflation is one advantage of owning these dividend-paying stocks. Here's why: many of these stable, high-quality companies increase their dividends over time, which translates to rising dividend income that offsets the effects of inflation.

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

Pursuing a dividend investing strategy can help protect your retirement portfolio. Whether you choose to invest in stocks or through low-fee mutual funds or ETFs, this approach can potentially help you achieve a more secure and enjoyable 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

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, Inc. (SKT) : Free Stock Analysis Report

U.S. Bancorp (USB) : Free Stock Analysis Report

Toronto Dominion Bank (The) (TD) : Free Stock Analysis Report

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Zacks Investment Research