Give Peace a Chance

David Gartland

I’VE SPENT MY ADULT life on a self-improvement journey. It’s kept me moving forward or, at least, trying to move forward. I take great pride in what I’ve accomplished and have no regrets about the goals I set.

But a funny thing happened. I retired. I’ve applied the brakes to my life, and now I’m reevaluating what I’ve done and what I want to do.

I’m not Catholic, but I’ve attended many a mass. During the mass, the priest says, “Peace be with you.” The response is, “And also with you.” I love that. Peace is something we can all have. We just need to seek it. My definition of peace encompasses satisfaction, contentment and happiness.

Among investors, there’s the goal of “beating the market.” It seems most of us have the need to be better than average. If we aren’t, we feel we’ve failed. Many of us are also focused on having more this year than we had last year. But measuring how much more we have—and how we compare to some market benchmark—will lead us down the road not to satisfaction, but to dissatisfaction.

When is “good enough” good enough?

Jimmy Buffett’s death last year gave me pause. Here’s a guy who struggled to established his musical brand, but eventually came to be identified with a lifestyle of fun and happiness, and he became a billionaire. But now he’s dead. Did he have peace? From the articles I’ve read about the people he helped and the satisfaction he got from his concerts, he appeared to have it all. But if his sense of peace came from amassing ever more money, maybe contentment eluded him.

I’m seeking contentment, and one strategy I’m using is simplifying my life. When I stopped working, I rolled my 401(k) and Roth 401(k) from my final employer into my IRA and my Roth IRA. My IRA was made up of many mutual funds, mostly index funds. I decided that, since I’m no longer able to add money to my IRA or Roth IRA because I don’t have earned income, I’d consolidate all my IRA money into Vanguard Wellington Fund (symbol: VWENX), which is the fund I began with when I first had a 401(k).

Vanguard Wellington is a balanced fund that earmarks two-thirds of its assets for stocks and one-third for bonds. My account will be automatically rebalanced to maintain that asset allocation. In addition, when I take required minimum distributions, I only need to track the year-end balance of a single fund. Simple.

I’m not suggesting everybody else should do this. I’m merely demonstrating how I’ve simplified one aspect of my life. It will require less thinking and managing on my part. It will free me up to focus on other decisions I need to make. With any luck, it’ll reduce my blood pressure and make me happier.

When I ran my fourth and final New York City Marathon, it was an exceptionally hot day, and the water ran out at the first three water stops. I began to get dehydrated, but I continued running. Toward the end of the race, my mind started to wander, and I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” As soon as I said that, I stopped running. This shocked me, because I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to complete the race and get my finisher’s medal, so I started up again. I learned a valuable lesson: Your mind controls your actions.

I remain focused on using my mind to control my actions. My retirement consists of taking stock of what I’ve done and exploring new ideas. My goal is no longer to pursue wealth. Instead, I’m pursuing satisfaction in my everyday life. That might sound like some abstract, lofty goal. But striving for happiness is a fun pursuit—one that I can put my heart and soul into.

David Gartland was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and has lived in central New Jersey since 1987. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math from the State University of New York at Cortland and holds various professional insurance designations. Dave’s property and casualty insurance career with different companies lasted 42 years. He’s been married 36 years, and has a son with special needs. Dave has identified three areas of interest that he focuses on to enjoy retirement: exploring, learning and accomplishing. Pursuing any one of these leads to contentment. Check out Dave’s earlier articles.

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