By KAREN HUBE
Real-estate investment trusts have had strong returns in recent years, and right now they are paying respectable yields.
The apartment sector has been particularly strong, the result of millions of cash-strapped families deciding to rent instead of buy. David Campbell, a principal at Bingham Osborn & Scarborough in San Francisco, recommends two apartment REITs: Camden Properties Trust (CPT),
But when it comes to income, mortgage REITs that invest in mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may be your best bet. Since their portfolios are guaranteed by the federal government, there's very little credit risk. So the main risk is that the Fed raises interest rates, and it has told us that won't happen before 2013. Annaly Capital Management (NLY)
When a company leases a piece of heavy equipment, such as an oil tanker or a railroad car, income investors stand to benefit.
Here's how: Independent firms buy up large quantities of leases with investors' pooled assets, "and then investors pick up the income stream from these leases," she says. Current yields are 7% to 8%.
Investors take on the risk of the leases, but Botsford thinks this risk is small.
"We're talking about low-tech equipment that doesn't get obsolete, and 20-year lease cycles," Botsford says. Companies leasing the equipment typically have long track records of making their lease payments. The default rate is minimal, and typically there are about 50 leases in an investment pool.
To participate you have to work through brokers or asset managers, whose firms ooften have access to specific pools, such as those managed by Icon Investments and Cyprus Financial.
The caveat: These lock up investors' money for five to seven years, so Botsford recommends keeping the allocation to about 2% of your portfolio.
Immediate Fixed Annuities
Major stock-market declines and wild volatility have increased the appeal of low-cost annuities. One of the most widely recommended types by advisors is the simplest kind: an immediate fixed annuity. You fund this annuity with a lump sum, and it immediately starts paying out a guaranteed income for life -- or a term you specify.
Investors get a higher monthly payment than they could if they tried to create their own income stream from their investments. That's because of annuities' so-called "mortality credit," which is the benefit resulting from pooled assets of many investors. "Some investors are going to die early, and since the insurance company isn't going to have to make their payments, they use them to benefit those still living," says Steve Horan, head of private wealth at the CFA Institute.
With yields of 6% to 7%, a 65-year-old man in good health can turn a $200,000 annuity into monthly payments of $1,100 for life.
If you knew you were going to live until, say, age 85, planning an income stream would be a lot easier. But what worries many retirees is their longevity risk -- the chance that they will live a lot longer than they expect.
That's why insurers have recently come out with a new kind of annuity called longevity insurance. This is a kind of deferred annuity that you buy early on to secure an annuity stream five to 20 years down the line. At age 65, you can buy one to begin paying at age 85. "This fixes the time -- horizon problem and makes planning a lot easier," Horan says. "These are cost efficient, and they transfer the longevity risk to the insurer," says Horan.
Solid longevity-insurance providers include New York Life Insurance and Metropolitan Life. Fees are embedded in the annuity calculation, but as with immediate fixed annuities, they are reasonable. Through NY Life, a 60-year-old healthy man who buys a $100,000 longevity insurance contract today can secure a $2,916-per-month annuity that begins at age 80 and pays out for life.
In all, our 11 investments offer solid income at a time when any income is hard to come by. In other words, yes, you can still retire comfortably.