Where to find higher yields

Real estate investment trusts

More commonly known as REITs, real estate investment trusts invest in everything from shopping malls to apartment complexes.

A REIT offers an investor the opportunity to invest in real estate without taking on debt and the hassle of actually owning real estate. Investors earn money through dividends from rent and with capital gains when the price of the REIT goes up.

Ronald Kuykendall, vice president of communications for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, says the average REIT currently yields 4.04%.

"REITs give investors the benefits of investment in large-scale, income-producing real estate," Kuykendall says. "They get the advantage of a continuing income stream but also the opportunity for long-term price appreciation,"

For broad exposure to a variety of REITs, consider the Vanguard REIT Index. It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, but it yields 3.81% and has an expense ratio of only 0.24%.