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How to Close the Lifestyle Gap in Your Golden Years

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted January 26, 2011

Like a fleck of pepper in a bag of sugar, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling is entirely unique.

Born on New Year’s day 65 years ago, she is the oldest baby boomer of them all.

That puts her at the head of the line of new retirees that stretches 78 million people deep...

According to the Pew Research Center, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years.

Between rising consumer prices, falling home values, and a tough economy, today’s newest oldsters are finding that, when it comes to a comfortable retirement, many of them are increasingly coming up short.

In fact, according to a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute survey, one-third of people age 55 and older have less than $10,000 saved for their golden years, while a full two-thirds have less than $100,000 socked away.

The “lifestyle gap”

Given that Social Security benefits will replace only 16% of the income for married couples earning between $50,000 to $100,000, and only 9.5% of the income of married couples earning $100,000, this leaves an impending “lifestyle gap” that very few of these folks will be able to finesse.

Instead of lives of leisure, many of them will need second careers as Wal-Mart greeters. That’s not a low blow, but the reality of the new math — $100,000 is a drop in the bucket for these folks.

And let’s face it; even the prospect of those bare-bones Social Security checks is as flimsy as ever. By 2030 — when most of the baby boomers will have retired — just two people will be working to support each person receiving benefits.

At that point, it’s likely this Ponzi scheme will have already blown up.

As I reported last March, Social Security is already cash flow negative, paying out more in benefits than it receives in contributions. That’s five years ahead of schedule, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As for me, this is one train wreck I’m not counting on — and neither should you.

Personally, I have no intention of spending my golden years learning the intricacies of the drive-thru window.

So what is a prospective retiree to do? you ask...

The answer is pretty simple: They need to begin creating an income stream from their investments to close the gaps they will inevitably face when they retire.

And the time to get started was yesterday.

This means building a portion of your portfolio around a solid base of dividend stocks. Because with the FED waging a virtual war on savers, the dividend payers are your next best option — versus things like CDs, or at this stage, even bonds...

That's why long-term investors are so eager to gobble up high dividend yields these days.

What is a dividend, anyway?

In short, a dividend is a cash payout you receive for simply being a shareholder, sort of like receiving a "bonus" based on the company's earnings.

Better yet, these checks are deposited directly into your account quarterly or monthly, depending upon the company you choose. These "bonuses" also continue to offer lower tax rates, since the favorable tax treatment of dividends has been extended for another two years.

The rate remains at 15 percent (instead of your regular tax rate) unless you are in the 10% or 15% marginal tax bracket, in which case the 0% rate would continue to apply.

But it’s not just about tax rates and bonus checks…

Because as every dividend player knows, income investing lets you win two ways: first, with a cash payout; and second, through the price appreciation of the underlying stock.

This gives investors the ability to grow their nest egg while kicking off a steady stream of income.

Now, that doesn't mean that these income-generating stocks are only suited for the "retiree crowd"... 

The truth is that dividend-paying stocks should be a part of every well-balanced portfolio —young, old, and anywhere in between. After all, if it's a good enough strategy for Warren Buffett, it ought to be just fine for the rest of us.

As I reported in April, the grandfatherly Buffett took home an estimated $42,583,971 in income last year just in dividends spun off from his own personal holdings. That more than supplemented the meager  $100,000 a year he earns in his paycheck.

Two ways to invest in dividend stocks 

That being said, here are two dividend payers that caught my eye recently:

  • Total S.A. (NYSE: TOT) — Besides BP, this is the cheapest of large cap energy names. TOT sports 4.60% dividend yield to go along with an 8.57 forward P/E. For energy exposure, this fully integrated oil/energy company is worth a long hard look. With an improving global economy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see TOT’s dividend grow faster than the market anticipates...

 tot chart

  • Cogdell Spencer Inc. (NYSE: CSA) — This REIT is a direct play on those aging baby boomers I spoke about earlier. CSA’s portfolio of office buildings includes medical offices and specialty diagnostic centers. The company pays a 6.60% dividend yield and a forward P/E of 13.

 csa chart

So don’t let the retirement math get you down in the dumps. Closing the lifestyle gap is easier than it appears...

My Wealth Advisory subscribers have been busy building wealth for some time now. Since its inception, my dividend portfolio is a perfect 9-0 with net gains of 283% in just three short years.

Isn’t it time you started to build true wealth?

Heaven knows, none of us are getting any younger...

Your bargain-hunting analyst,

steve sig

Steve Christ
Editor, Wealth Daily

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