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8 Strategies for Generating Retirement Income


Aging gracefully is a common goal, but more and more Americans are discovering that the key to a satisfying retirement typically lies in a diligent financial planning process. Finding the right strategy can often lead to more retirement income and give you the golden years you’ve hoped for. This is why we’ve put together a list of eight investment strategies you can consider to increase your retirement income. Consulting a financial advisor can help fine-tune your retirement strategy based on your specific financial goals and risk tolerance.

1. Income Annuities

Income annuities are contracts with insurance companies that provide retirees with a guaranteed income stream for life, or at least for a specified period of period. There are two main types of annuities: immediate annuities, which begin payouts right away, and deferred annuities, whose payouts start at a later date. The right one for you often depends on how old you are when you invest in the annuity and how quickly you need to receive the income.

The appeal of the income annuity lies in the security of guaranteed retirement income. This can alleviate the worry of outliving one’s savings and reduce the need for constant portfolio management. An income annuity can also provide a higher income stream than other conservative investments like bonds or certificates of deposit (CDs). 

However, there are risks associated with annuities, such as the potential loss of principal if the insurance company issuing the annuity fails. Inflation is another concern, as fixed-income payments may not keep up with the rising costs of living over time. It’s important to analyze your individual situation with a professional before moving forward to make sure the annuity is right for you.

2. Retirement Income Funds

Retirement income funds are diversified, professionally managed investment portfolios specifically designed to provide a steady income stream for retirees. These mutual funds generally invest in a mix of large- and mid-cap stocks and bonds but can include other assets. These investment choices are regularly rebalanced to maintain an appropriate risk level for many retirement goals.

As an all-encompassing solution, retirement income funds provide diversification, professional management and a focus on income generation. This can help you achieve your long-term goals with less effort. However, there are risks to consider, such as the potential for lower returns in exchange for the convenience and income certainty these funds provide. Additionally, like any investment, retirement income funds carry market risks that can impact the overall value of the assets.

3. Total Return Investment Approach

Best Strategies to Generate Retirement Income

The total return investment approach focuses on both the income and capital appreciation of an investment. Instead of relying solely on the dividends or interest that an investment generates, a total return approach also aims for long-term growth by investing in assets that have the potential to increase in value over time. 

This strategy offers significant benefits, such as investment diversification, potentially higher returns compared to relying solely on income-producing assets and a less restrictive income generation strategy. There can also be a higher level of tax efficiency with this approach.

However, it’s important to also consider the risks. With this strategy, there’s a greater chance of fluctuations in value, greater dependence on market performance for returns and the possibility of running out of assets if returns do not meet expectations. This approach isn’t for everyone. 

4. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

Real estate investment trusts (REITs) are investment companies that own and manage income-producing real estate properties, including apartments, office buildings, hotels and shopping centers. By investing in a REIT, individuals gain access to a diversified portfolio of real estate assets without having to buy or go through the hassle of managing properties directly.

With REITs come several benefits such as diversification, regular income from rents and the potential for capital appreciation. They also provide liquidity, making it easy to buy and sell shares like stocks. However, market fluctuations, interest rate changes and the potential for declining property values and rental income are some of the risks you face when investing in REITs.

5. Dividend-Paying Stocks

Dividend stocks are shares in companies that pay regular dividends to their shareholders. For retirees, these stocks can be a valuable source of income in addition to any capital appreciation they may experience. Some use these types of investments to supplement their other investments and maximize their total income, especially if they got a late start on saving. 

The benefits of dividend-paying stocks include providing a steady source of income, potential for capital appreciation and the opportunity for dividend reinvestment. This can create a strong compounding effect when used in that way. On the flip side, the risks of investing in dividend stocks include market volatility, individual company performance and the potential for mass dividend cuts or suspensions during economic downturns.

6. Bonds and Fixed-Income Investments

Bonds and fixed-income investments are debt securities that pay regular interest payments to investors. These can include government bonds, corporate bonds and municipal bonds, each with varying levels of risk and return depending on the issuer’s creditworthiness.

The primary benefits of bonds and fixed-income investments include predictable income streams, relative safety compared to other investments like stocks and the potential for capital preservation. There are risks involved that include interest rate fluctuations, credit risk (the possibility of the issuer defaulting) and the potential for decreased income during periods of low-interest rates.

7. Maximizing Social Security

The optimal age to claim Social Security benefits varies depending on individual circumstances, but generally waiting until at least full retirement age (between 66 and 67) can result in higher monthly payments. While Social Security isn’t an investment, maximizing your benefits is one way to directly increase your retirement income.

To delay your benefits so they’re higher when you end up claiming them you could continue to work, rely on income from your other investments or tap into savings. For a personalized analysis of when to claim Social Security benefits, consider discussing your unique situation with a financial advisor. Social Security benefits can serve as the foundation of a retirement income plan since it provides a reliable source of inflation-adjusted income that lasts throughout retirement.

8. Making a Retirement Plan to Diversify and Personalize

Best Strategies to Generate Retirement Income

Proper retirement planning should involve diversification of investments and assessment of one’s risk tolerance. For example, individuals approaching retirement may want to allocate a larger portion of a portfolio to bonds and fixed-income investments and a smaller portion to stocks. Diversification into other options, such as REITs or annuities, can further optimize retirement income.

Regardless of your individual situation, it can be extremely important to have a diversified strategy for generating retirement income. The most important part of this entire process, though, is to create a retirement plan that helps you reach your long-term goals and then live by it. You can adjust annually to make sure you’re still on track. If you’re not sure how to manage all of that then you may want to work with a financial advisor

Bottom Line

Generating retirement income requires careful planning and diversification of investment strategies. By exploring different options and assessing the benefits and risks associated with each, individuals can potentially create a retirement plan that maximizes income and ensures financial security.

Retirement Planning Tips

  • A financial advisor can help you build multiple income streams in retirement. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are an important part of many retirement plans. It’s important to plan for these mandatory withdrawals, which can increase your taxable income, and with it, your tax liability in a given year.

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