Focusing on income doesn't mean buying the Vanguard High-Dividend Yield (VYM) index fund paying a 3.2% dividend yield, or the S&P 500 yielding 1.96% as the core of your investment plan and letting it ride like you did in your 401(k). An over-allocation in this type of investment during the retirement phase will not provide the necessary cash flow many investors will need.
More importantly it relies too much on the market for returns and not the cash flow from the companies. It's not good enough in today's investment climate.
It's better for many Baby Boomers to select a diversified mix of individual companies across the globe as the core of their investment plan and low-cost funds as a minor complement to the plan. Think globally, and think higher yields, like GDF Suez ( (SZE):Amex ADS), a French producer of natural gas and utilities, which is currently yielding about 8%.
Regarding financial strength, there are strong companies that deliver income in diverse fields including nondiscretionary consumer products, energy, agriculture and health care, to name a few. For instance, GDF Suez has a current ratio (current assets/current liabilities) of about 1.0, which means that basically, it's unlevered.In the world of equities, where valuations are driven by logic and emotion, seemingly in equal measure, there's no such thing as safe, only safer. Under this logic, look at AT&T (T), with a current ratio of 0.64. In a bad market, T will have more downside risk, and in an up market, will give more growth; along the way, GDF will pay double the dividend. Finally, regarding growth, I don't see there's much to be had above the rate of inflation. Boomers holding income-producing stocks in tax deferred accounts will -- for now -- avoid taxes and more or less keep the purchasing power of their investments in tact. Though I've referred to Baby Boomers a lot in this article, I'm not sure Gen X, Gen Y and Millenials wouldn't benefit from an income rather than growth orientation. After all, a 5%-to-8% dividend reinvested on a tax-deferred basis, with a tailwind of perhaps 2%-to-3% annual increases in value via inflation is growth. Make note, the strategy of investing for cash flow globally through individual stocks and bonds is a more expensive strategy, but for Baby Boomers, can be a net win. For a younger investor, you can pair the strategy with low-cost, high-growth index funds. Don't get me wrong, this is no panacea. There's risk. But I think the game has changed, and investors will need to assume more risk for the foreseeable future to get what they need from their investments. At the time of publication, the author was long VYM, SZE and T, although positions may change at any time. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.