In many ways, my mom is a lucky woman.

Sure, she’s worked hard to reach her retirement. But there are plenty of other hard-working people who are in much less secure positions.

You see, during her working years, she managed to put together a portfolio of real estate – which is now providing her with a comfortable retirement income.

But millions of other Americans aren’t so fortunate. And reaching an ideal retirement feels out of reach.

A recent Vanguard study showed the median amount – which does a better job than average to show what most people actually have – in retirees’ accounts was less than $90,000.

That may sound like a decent chunk, but retirement experts at Fidelity Investments say it’s not nearly enough. According to them, you should have 8-10 times your annual salary saved up by retirement.

For middle-class folks making $50,000 per year, that means $400,000-$500,000 in savings.

Which is more than five times what most people have.

And it gets trickier. If you’re thinking Social Security will be your safety net, think again…

It’s estimated those funds will run dry by 2035. After that, the government will have to reduce those benefits by 20%-25%.

All told, many people may have to keep working well into their golden years to make ends meet – which is the opposite of what we want to see.

Here at Intelligent Income Daily, we want you to build up enough reliable income to be able to enjoy your retirement. So you can have the freedom to do what you want, without worrying about pinching pennies.

To accomplish that goal, we look for the safest income-producing investments. Those include real estate plays (like my mom was able to take advantage of)… and dividend-paying stocks and strategies that pay you more and more money every year.

Here’s the thing about those kinds of investments, though… There’s one thing that makes them especially powerful. So today, I want to share with you what that is and why you should act today to protect your retirement.

Time Is Your Friend

One of the most important ingredients in growing your retirement nest egg is time.

That’s because the earlier you start saving, the more time your investments have to compound, building your financial security.

Let’s say you put away $10,000 when you’re 55 years old. It grows in a safe, reliable investment account by 7% per year. After a decade, you’ll have slightly under $20,000 when you’re ready to retire at 65.

But if you invested that same $10,000 when you were 35… you’d have more than $76,000 stocked up by the time you hit 65.

It seems obvious, but as the numbers from Vanguard above prove… most people don’t put this into practice.

Admittedly, it can be tough to find money to invest in your 30s. For that matter, it can be tough to find money to invest at any age.

But the point is this: The earlier you start, the more your money gets to grow. So, if there’s one thing I want you to remember today, it’s this…

Start saving and investing intelligently for retirement now. I can’t stress that enough.

Maximize Your Time and Money

You can start investing with a small amount today if your funds are limited. But if you’re employed or have a source of income, you have more options.

If you’re not sure where to get started, see if your employer will match your retirement contributions, often in the form of a 401(k) plan. If the answer is yes…

Take advantage! That’s literally free money for doing something you should be doing anyway.

After that, try to maximize your contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA. These individual retirement accounts can help reduce the taxes you pay while your money grows.

Now, there is a limit on how much you can put into all these options each year. So it’s important to consistently contribute as much as you can while you can.

And pay attention to what assets you’re investing in regardless. I know I put mine into companies that pay a growing dividend.

The longer and more consistently those dividends have grown… the better. Long dividend-growth streaks show that a company is well-run and can profit through both good times and bad.

For example, my favorite company is Realty Income (O). It’s grown its dividend every year for 29 years – even through the tech crash, the financial crisis, and the COVID pandemic.

Over the last 20 years, its stock price has tripled… but it’s returned more than 800% in dividends. Even better, the income it continues to provide is now 260% higher.

That kind of ever-increasing income stream helps me sleep well at night instead of worrying whether it’ll survive if the next bear market hits when I’m retired.

For those who like one-stop shopping, one simple way to get started investing in dividend-growing companies is through the Schwab U.S. Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD). It tracks an index of about 100 securities focused on sustainable dividends.

But whether or not you decide that investment is for you or you’d prefer to explore individual stocks, remember…

It’s never too late to start buying them up to safeguard your future. And the sooner you begin, the better. So don’t put it off.

Start saving for retirement now.

Happy SWAN (sleep well at night) investing,

Brad Thomas
Editor, Intelligent Income Daily