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Let’s begin with some questions.

1. How much retirement income do YOU think it’s possible to create, given your current financial reality?

2. How many years are left ’til you retire?

3. Are you a fan of retiring on your savings — or on the yield from various investments?

4. Given your ability to save capital for investing and the time you have left to retirement, what annual return must you generate A) from now to retirement? and B) from retirement on?

5. Will your retirement be funded with one or multiple income sources? (SS doesn’t count.)

6. Are you a DIYer (do-it-yourself-er), or will you utilize an expert(s) to help enhance your results?

7. Given the nature of your retirement income sources, how much after-tax income will you actually enjoy?

Related: Why Your 401k Is A Retirement Income Loser!

In my opinion, there’s a single principle at the bottom of most retirement plan failures.

The Most Common Reason Retirement Plans Fail

The reason for retirement plan failure lies in answers to questions folks never knew to ask.

Those answers are either eventually stumbled upon through blind luck — or are simply never discovered. We’re all pretty much able to find the answers to most questions via “the hookup to all mankind’s knowledge,” a.k.a. the internet.

But pretty please, tell me how long it takes us to find answers to unknown questions.

The answers to the next questions are guaranteed to make or break your retirement:

Have you considered how many answers out there are to questions you’ll likely never know to ask in a dozen lifetimes without reflection and research? Do you plan on seeking out not only new ANSWERS, but new QUESTIONS regarding your retirement?

You might ask, “But Jeff, what about all those DIYers who’re printing thousand dollar bills in retirement via real estate investing?” Frankly, I get asked that question a few times a month. It’s one of my favorites.

Here’s why.

I’ve been challenged dozens of times to take a “look back in time” at the portfolios of those already retired — and with impressive results. Still, in virtually every case, I’ve been able to empirically prove it would’ve been 50-300% higher if their strategies had been modified when it counted. Though it sounds difficult, it’s almost always like fallin’ off a log to see the proactive and passive mistakes that were made.

An analogy would be proving how and why today’s race cars would slaughter their ancestors from the 1940’s.

Or better yet, how much lower would Babe Ruth’s homer total and lifetime batting average be if in the last 2-3 innings of most games he played, he wasn’t facing has-beens and never-was/never-would-be pitchers? Or if on a daily basis he faced 84-90 mph sliders and split-fingered fastballs that disappeared as he started his swing?

In the same vein, how much better off would your retirement plan be if you could prepare some answers to future questions and build solutions for possible eventualities?

Related: The IRA Stretch—How Far Will Your Retirement Dollars Go?

Two Things to Ponder:

Old school thinking in general can be superb, just not all the time. Knowing what still works — and what’s been proven superior — is like having the key to the vault.

The answers to questions you’ll probably never know to ask don’t offer themselves up for your review.

You can find out those questions (and answers) now — or learn about ‘em in retirement. Your choice. Take your time. No rush.

What answers regarding investments or real estate have you stumbled upon lately? What are the most important questions you’ve learned to ask?

Join our conversation below!

The post How to Avoid the Most Common Reason Retirement Plans Fail is property of The BiggerPockets Blog. and is Copyright © 2014 BiggerPockets, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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