Foundational data and counsel can turn common questions into answers and direction.

Retirement planning is filled with variables and uncertainties. Skilled professionals can identify gaps between income and expenses, and use financial modeling to cite potential solutions.

As much as we like the predictable, retirement can be a mix of variables and uncertainties including income, assets, expenses, and longevity. Financial advisers often state that more than 90% of aspiring or current retirees lack either a retirement plan or a working knowledge of financial basics including budgeting.

Getting answers to common questions or help from a qualified professional is often the first step in creating a flexible and actionable plan. These can include:

Q: What if I don’t use a plan? Can’t I just draw out my savings and Social Security?
A: You should have a plan built with both facts and assumptions to initially project how long the income and assets may last.

Q: What if I don’t know my expected Social Security, and what might it cover?
A: You should visit to access your individualized information. For many, Social Security covers only about 40% of their regular monthly expenses.

Q: What if I’m thinking of taking my Social Security ASAP?
A: You should consider waiting, which can mean an 8% annual increase past full retirement age. Survivor benefits are impacted by starting too soon, and it generally pays to wait if possible.

Q: What if I have a gap between my expenses and all income sources?
A: You should review the ability of your assets to cover the gap, which might mean converting some assets into lifetime income producers, like a fixed index annuity.

Q: What if I’ve built a “nice” 401(k) balance?
A: You should recognize that those are tax-deferred dollars, not tax-free. The account balance can’t all apply to expenses and discretionary items.

Q: What if health issues have often shortened lives in my family?
A: You should still plan for the longer-term as the possible exception. Average life spans now run 88 years for women, and 86 years for men.

When in or considering retirement, getting a firm grip on the basics and engaging an experienced financial professional can help move a mindset from hypothetical to practical.

Syndicated financial columnist Steve Savant interviews top retirement specialists in their field of expertise. This segment features retirement specialist Eric Viveros. Right on the Money is a financial talk show distributed in daily video press releases to over 280 media outlets and social media networks.