Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners swings and watches the flight of his ball during an early 1990's Major League Baseball game. Griffey played for the Mariners from 1989-99. © Focus on Sport, Getty Images

Former Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. was a five-tool player.

While millions of people strive to achieve their own vision of retirement, the chaotic investment markets of the past 20 years left many more tired than retired.

To keep yourself on track, there are five critical areas that you need to conquer. They may seem straightforward, even obvious. But this isn't about knowing how to define them. It's about having an ironclad strategy for pursuing them.

It's the start of baseball season and developing a successful and relevant retirement investment strategy is a lot like scouting ballplayers. In baseball, the ideal player is one who excels at all five skill areas of the game: hitting for power, hitting for average, fielding, throwing and speed. That special athlete who gets high grades in all areas is known as a "5-tool player." They are hard to find.

Similarly, investors should aim for their retirement strategy to possess these five abilities. In future articles I will explore each of these in more depth, so you can start to personalize this approach for your own situation.

1. Consistent income

Years ago, retirees simply bought bonds, collected the coupon interest and lived happily ever after. But that fairy tale is over.

After over 30 years of falling interest rates, today's income investor faces a predicament. Higher rates will be a vicious surprise to many as bonds produce negative returns (as some major bond indexes did in 2013). Even if bond rates stay in their current range, their income yields are quite low by retiree's standards.

If rates continue to fall from these pathetically low levels, they can only go so far before hitting zero. Please don't root for that to happen, as it will likely signal a deeper economic problem. And look for non-bond approaches to income.

Hint: Dividends are taxed at rates that are often much lower than bond interest.

2. Preservation of capital

My number one rule of investing is to do whatever is in my control to avoid the "big loss." But quantifying how much, and over what time period, constitutes a big loss is a very personal criteria.

To think it through, take the size of your portfolio and figure out what level it must drop to cause you to start freaking out. That's a pretty good estimate. Many emotional, irrational retirement investing decisions occur when you get close to your big loss point and the feelings of fear and regret sneak up on you.

So knowing in advance what is your stress point is good preventive medicine.

3. Liquidity

You may not fully appreciate the ability to easily access your money until you really need it.

Retirees have many stories about money they thought they could access with ease, only to realize that somewhere in the fine print (or the scheme they were invested in) that ability wasn't the reality. We all like to have some sense of control over what happens to our money. There is no better way to gain that control than to limit oneself to investments that can be turned into cash today, tomorrow or a few days from now with no hassle.

Those who support the concept of annuities will debate me on that, but that kind of difference of opinion is what makes the financial markets function.

4. Competitive cost

The financial services industry has been obsessed with the cost of investing for a couple of decades now. But while index mutual fund companies battle over who can earn the lowest expense ratio as if they were playing the old TV game show "Name That Tune," investors often fail to consider an investment vehicle with a zero expense ratio: Individual stocks.

Go figure! I think it's very hypocritical thinking, but the takeaway for you is that cost is one of several considerations in selecting an investment path.

5. Long-term growth

Similar to defining "big loss" earlier, you need to carefully confirm for yourself what growth of your principal means and over what time frame you expect to achieve it.

There are scores of ways that investors (amateur and professional alike) can pursue growth of capital over time. My preference as a guide is to consider what's reasonable to achieve over a three-year time period -- and understand historically what one's odds are for meeting or exceeding one's target investment return.

Keep these five aspects of retirement investing in the front of your mind, and you stand a strong chance of staying disciplined in your approach. To my amazement, many of the most commonly-used investment strategies used by retirees achieve only two or three of the five characteristics described above. That leaves the door open for more forward-thinking approaches to retirement investing at a time when financial markets present a most complex set of circumstances for retirees to grapple with.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

More from MarketWatch