6 Safe and Smart Investments for Retirees

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Senior landlord
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If you are ready to retire, “safe and smart” investments probably sound more appealing than ever before.

Most of us want to dial down risk in our post-work years. Without a steady paycheck to count on, a little more caution seems prudent.

But the reality is that while work eventually ends, expenses go on and on. Finding ways to cover those costs becomes one of your biggest post-career jobs.

Following are a handful of safe and smart places where retirees can put their cash. While some involve a degree of risk, none is typically as volatile as investing in the stock market.

1. Municipal bonds

Municipal bond
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Long a staple of retirement investing, municipal bonds offer two potential tax advantages:

  • The interest you earn on them is free of federal income taxes.
  • The interest may be free of state and local taxes if you live in the state that issued them.

However, be careful here: Holding too much money in municipal bonds could actually force you to pay taxes, or to pay more taxes when combined with the income of your Social Security benefit. So, “tax-free” municipal bonds might end up costing you money.

Confused? We clarify in “5 Ways to Avoid Taxes on Social Security Income.”

2. Peer-to-peer lending

Giving money to charity
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Become a real-life banking mogul by joining the world of peer-to-peer lending.

With peer-to-peer lending, individuals post loan requests on a peer-to-peer lending site, and you agree to fund the loan. In return, you earn cash based on the loan’s interest rate.

Sounds like a great deal, and it can be. But peer-to-peer lending is not without risks. For example, the borrower could default, damaging your returns. In general, the more risk you are willing to take on, the greater the danger — but also, the higher the return.

The bottom line: This is a relatively safe — although not absolutely guaranteed — way to earn cash.

3. Annuities

Increasing cash flow
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Annuities are a way to save money in retirement without having to worry about the vagaries of the stock market. In exchange for putting some amount of money down, you will get money flowing into your retirement coffers.

As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has pointed out, some types of annuities are like CDs from insurance companies, while others more closely resemble payments from a pension plan.

Annuities are among the safer places to put your money in retirement, but they also come with a few drawbacks — some of them significant. For more, check out Stacy’s take in “Your Top 5 Retirement Questions, Answered.”

4. TIPS and I Bonds

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If you’ve been paying attention, you know that prices are soaring. As inflation reaches levels not seen in decades, purchasing Treasury inflation-protected securities has become more attractive than ever before.

Better known as TIPS, these instruments pay interest like a normal bond, but also adjust the principal to cover inflation.

The inflation adjustment is tied to the Consumer Price Index. So, no matter how bad inflation gets, you should keep pace — or something close to it — with rising prices and not lose purchasing power as the years roll on.

TIPS have drawbacks: The core rate they pay out typically is lower than that of other bonds, the inflation adjustment is measly when prices don’t rise, and TIPS can lose money if we have deflation.

Series I government savings bonds are another great investment during inflationary times. Recently, they have been paying an extraordinary interest rate. For more, check out “This Government Bond Now Pays 9.62% — Should You Buy?

5. Real estate

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Housing values are soaring, but that is not what we’re talking about here. After all, we’ve all learned that soaring highs quickly can give way to plummeting lows when it comes to home values.

Instead, we’re talking about rental real estate. Whether you plan to purchase a rental home or simply want to rent out your basement, you can turn any property into an investment that will provide income for years to come.

Of course, life as a landlord isn’t always pleasant. So, go in with your eyes open.

6. Starting Social Security at 70

Social Security payments
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This may be the most overlooked option on this list — and just possibly the best.

Annuities are a great way to bring in secure, guaranteed income, but many come with a large drawback: The payouts do not adjust for inflation. Over the years, this can seriously eat into your returns, potentially lowering your standard of living.

It’s true that you can buy annuities that will adjust for inflation, but they are expensive. So, if you can afford to be patient, a better option might be to wait until age 70 before applying for Social Security benefits.

For each year after what’s known as your “full retirement age” that you delay claiming, up to age 70, your benefit will increase by up to 8%. Plus, Social Security benefits generally receive an inflation adjustment each year.

It is tough to beat an inflation-adjusted monthly payment that is good for life and backed by the U.S. federal government.

So, for some people, it might be smart to spend some savings now if it means you can push off filing for Social Security until later. Consider that current spending a “smart investment” in your future.

For more on this strategy, check out “The Annuity Everyone Needs — and Anybody Can Get.”