I unexpectedly retired in April due to arthritis and am on Social Security Disability. After the bills I have $85 left for food and gasoline. Is there somewhere I can get assistance? My pension starts in 18 months; I’d like to hang on until then. – Dave


We’re sorry to hear about your situation. In this economy, there are many community and religious-based services and programs that might be able to help out, such as a local food pantry. Check around to determine what might be available in your town. In the meantime, here are a couple of things to consider.

First, look at cutting expenses. This may seem glaringly obvious, but in your case the little things will really add up. You may have to cut expenses to the absolute bare bones until your pension starts rolling in. As you look for opportunities to save, leave no stone unturned. Things as basic as your transportation (downsizing, refinancing), communications (dropping land line services and cutting down to a basic mobile package, giving up cable), and food (no eating out, smart shopping, coupons, etc.) can all yield savings that would make a positive difference in your life.

Since money is clearly tight, it may be worth exploring if it’s possible to start your pension early and how that might impact the payout. Typically, this is an option. The question is how much of a penalty will be applied for early receipt. Check with your former employer to find out the details. As you are so close to what sounds like “normal” retirement, this may provide an easy solution to address your cash flow shortfall.

Good luck and hang in there.