People who are living comfortable retirements today typically count on income from employer plans, Social Security, their own investments, and sometimes profits from selling their homes to anchor their financial security. The challenge they face is how to manage their income most effectively, so that it lasts as long as they need it.

As you think about your own retirement, you may feel a similar challenge. Part of the answer lies in coordinating your income with what you’re spending. Another is in calculating the percentage of your investment and retirement accounts that you can take as income each year during the 30 or more years that you are likely to live in retirement.

It’s not panic time. Building an investment portfolio over time may be the best approach to producing the retirement income you need, but it’s not the only way.

If you get lump-sum payouts or bonuses from your employer, inherit money, or sell valuable assets, you can use the money to make smart investments to help support you in retirement. The more you know about how various investments work, the kinds of income they can provide, and the ways you can make them grow, the smarter the financial decisions you can make.

The Challenge

Even if you have a pension or an employer sponsored retirement savings plan, which typically pay income on a regular schedule, you’ll have to pay extra attention to coordinating your cash flow. That’s true in part because income from these sources is usually less than what you earned when you were working, and you’ll need to supplement it with interest and dividends from your other investments. These payments are typically made quarterly or semi-annually rather than monthly.

The third source of retirement income, Social Security, provides regular monthly income that’s adjusted annually (most of the time) to reflect increases in inflation. But it is meant to replace only a percentage of your pre-retirement earnings.

If you’ve wondered why managing retirement income is a major topic of discussion, consider these numbers. According to the Census Bureau, there were 3 million people over 65 in the US in 1900, about 4% of the population. As of July 1st 2015 there were 47.8 million. By 2060, that number will be 98.2 million.

The Sandwich Generation

Managing the retirement income you have can be tougher if you still have children living at home or are helping them pay college tuition, buy a home, or get established in their own business. If, in addition, your parents depend on you for support or you’re helping to cover their healthcare costs, you may find you can’t afford to live as you’d like after you retire. What this boils down to is, needing extra planning for the extra income that you’ll need in your early retirement years if your parents or children need your financial support.

Doing Your Part

Investing is no less important when you’re retired than it is while you’re working. If you still have part time earned income, you can contribute to a Roth IRA—or to a traditional IRA until the year you turn 70 1⁄2. If you open a small business, you might set up a tax-deferred retirement plan for yourself. And you can always invest in taxable accounts.

What you’re aiming for is a combination of growth and income you can count on year in and year out to supplement the checks you get from Social Security and any pension you receive. There are other reasons to continue to invest, of course. Investments help you pay for other things that are important to you, such as updates on your own home or a trip with the grandkids. Investments also let you build an estate to leave to your heirs. And for many people, investing is just plain fun, a way to test their ability to make smart choices.

Smart choices begin with good planning, and good planning comes from being accountable to a process that will allow you to track, monitor and fine tune your investments to give you the income you need to live the retirement lifestyle you deserve.