Playing Possum

Marjorie Kondrack

Marjorie loves music, dancing and the arts, and is a former amateur ice dancer accredited by the United States Figure Skating Association. In retirement, she worked for eight years as a tax preparer for the IRS’s VITA and TCE programs.

Playing Possum

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Nov 20, 2023

ZERO-WASTE LIVING. Kondo cleaning. FIRE, or financial independence-retire early. Whatever your feelings are about these three movements, frugality is at their core, with the focus on minimizing possessions and living simply.

To these, you might want to add another, “possum living,” which has been hailed as a manifesto for living cheaply. Possum Living is the title of a book written in 1978 by a free-thinking, resourceful young woman who went by the pen name Dolly Freed.

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Movin’ On Up

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Oct 27, 2023

WHEN I GRADUATED high school in the 1950s, I was age 17—and totally directionless. But living in New York City offered many opportunities, some of them right outside my front door.
At the time, the larger banks and insurance companies sent letters to recent graduates offering job interviews. I chose to accept an invitation from American Surety Co. I had no idea what a surety company did.
The venerable old company was housed in the second largest skyscraper in Manhattan—the American Surety Building at 100 Broadway in lower Manhattan,

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Not What We Planned

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Oct 17, 2023

MY HUSBAND WAS STILL working at age 65 when he went into heart failure. After heart surgery, he wanted to return to his job as the warranty administrator at a large New Jersey auto dealership. But we worried that the commute would be too taxing. He traveled 55 miles each way to and from his job, and it could take hours and be treacherous when the weather was bad. When additional complications ensued from the surgery,

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There Always

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Sep 25, 2023

DON’T BE TOO IMPRESSED with the magnificent chandelier hanging from the ceiling or the tastefully furnished lobby. A nursing home is a nursing home. It’s not the best answer, but sometimes it’s the only answer.

Mom grew very frail when she entered her 90s. She’d already been diagnosed with late onset Alzheimer’s. At age 91, she fell and broke her right hip and shoulder. At 93, she broke her left hip and, at 95,

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Care Money Can’t Buy

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Sep 23, 2023

FULL OF PROMISES AND plans, we start retirement in our 60s. It surprises me when people reach age 65 and say, “I don’t feel old.” That’s because, at 65, we aren’t.
We’re still in our go-go years. We still have the time and energy to conquer the world, visit new places, experience new adventures. The 70s, by contrast, are the slow-go years. Maybe we need replacement parts, to slather on Bengay, to load up on Advil.

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Making Us Work

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Sep 8, 2023

OPPOSITES MAY ATTRACT—but that doesn’t always make for a happy financial relationship. For instance, tightwads and spendthrifts often marry, each hoping the other will change his or her ways or perhaps provide needed balance.
But that, of course, can lead to conflict—and couples may struggle to negotiate their differences. They wind up having the same argument over and over, and nothing’s accomplished until they listen to each other and try to find common ground.

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Bagging It

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Aug 18, 2023

IT’S BEEN A YEAR since New Jersey banned all plastic bags from grocery stores, and yet I’m still wandering into our local store without my reusable bags. You would think I’d have gotten the memo by now.

I used to keep the bags in the trunk of my car—but out of sight, out of mind. As a visual reminder, I now keep them inside my car on the passenger side. But they might as well still be in the trunk.

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Getting Squeezed

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Aug 14, 2023

MY CONTENTION: ONE of the most egregious parts of the tax code is the stealth tax on Social Security benefits.
To be sure, if your income is low enough, your benefits won’t be taxed. But around 56% of retired Americans pay taxes on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits. And the number grows each year. Incomes rise, if only because of inflation-driven increases, and yet the thresholds for taxing benefits have never been adjusted for inflation or wage growth.

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Poor Man’s Paradise

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Jul 25, 2023

SUMMERTIME HOLDS great memories for me. I’m reminded of my upbringing in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn. We were average folks living in a modest house. But our home was just outside a private gated community called Sea Gate, at the westernmost point of the island. It was formerly called Norton’s Point.
There, you could find mansions from the Gilded Age, some designed by the noted architect Stanford White. It was also home to the famous opera singer Beverly Sills.

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Alphabet Soup

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Jul 17, 2023

MOST PEOPLE ON Medicare report that they’re very satisfied with their health care coverage—but the program is undoubtedly complicated. There’s an alphabet soup of plans, coverage choices, premium levels and enrollment rules.

While it’s easy to be flummoxed by the ins and outs of Medicare, think of it as “eating an elephant.” The only way to start is one bite at a time. Learn the basics first—by deciding whether you want original Medicare or Medicare Advantage.

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Other People’s Stuff

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Jun 22, 2023

MOST OF US HAVE TOO much stuff, and we’re apt to joke about it. But clutter, if allowed to spiral out of control, can turn into hoarding.

Hoarders are people who acquire an excessive number of items, some with little or no value, and yet they continue to add to their chaotic overflow. Unable to manage the clutter but unwilling to let any of it go, they become upset and anxious when others offer to help clear it up.

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Not Quite Magic

Marjorie Kondrack  |  May 30, 2023

THEY SAY THAT TAKING a cruise is a poor man’s idea of a rich man’s vacation. As an unsophisticated traveler, all I knew of cruises were the glowing reports I heard from others who had taken them—and the romanticized versions I saw in the movies.

 My aspirations were based on a movie I saw starring Doris Day, Romance on the High Seas. It’s about a glamorous, adventurous and romantic cruise with beautifully dressed people,

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Second Act

Marjorie Kondrack  |  May 16, 2023

IN THE SHORT TIME I’ve been writing for HumbleDollar, I’ve noticed that most readers and writers are either on the cusp of retirement or not too far along in retirement. Some have expressed a desire to find new careers, perhaps part-time and preferably more challenging than being a Walmart greeter or Home Depot helper. As they say, 60 is the new 40—still time for new ventures.
Life coaching is a profession that’s become more mainstream and,

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Still Time to Change

Marjorie Kondrack  |  May 1, 2023

AH, RETIREMENT. You’re blissfully free of the daily grind. If you’ve made plans for this long-awaited milestone, great. What if you haven’t? You may feel out of sync and out of sorts.

I’ve heard it said that, “The capacity to take a fresh look at all things makes a young person out of an old person.” It’s never too late to look anew at the challenges of retirement, while you still have time to resolve them.

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11 Mottos to Live By

Marjorie Kondrack  |  Apr 21, 2023

LIVING BENEATH OUR means is one of the best habits to develop if we want a secure retirement. Like many others, I learned this sort of thrift from my parents and grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression and, by necessity, had to avoid waste.
Not only did our forebearers survive the Great Depression, but also the Second World War came right on its heels. These were years of conserving materials—such as metal, rubber,

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