Finding Happiness

“I understand about indecision
But I don’t care if I get behind
People livin’ in competition
All I want is to have my peace of mind”


The secret to my success is no big secret to the people in my life.  My strategy has been to surround myself with the smartest people willing to put up with me and who don’t feel the need to make me feel dumb.  My decision-making process is to ask all the smart people what they think and then synthesize the best answer.  I am also good at building consensus around decisions, so that we are all on board rowing in the same direction.

Unfortunately, when it comes to my own retirement, my tried-and-true methodology is not only not working – but it is a detriment to deciding.  All around me, smart folks my age are retiring and universally report how wonderful it is.  All the smart people I know that have been retired for a decade also report the wonders of retirement.  These folks also have a sense of urgency on my behalf for me to not wait too long to enjoy life since good health today is no guarantee of good health tomorrow.

But after three years of endlessly thinking about when and how to retire, I held a “I’m Not Retiring” party in April with about 50 family and friends.  It was a great time and I felt an enormous relief to put aside the discussion on when I will stop working.  Instead, I said I would make no plans to stop working and like Curtis Mayfield would just ‘keep on keeping on’.  The other thing I decided in April was to stop worrying about a future that might never unfold.

This year on the August long-weekend, I was talking to a client on the Saturday.  Colin reached out with some questions and said that he could wait until Tuesday.  I said it was just as easy for me to talk right away since I was golfing on Sunday and Monday.  Before we talked business, he asked about my golfing which I confessed is my primary distraction from work.  He said that if he were independently wealthy, he would golf every day.  I said I could afford to golf every day but would rather keep working ‘part-time’ to avoid the level of pain and suffering that would come from golfing every day.  In the end, what I have figured out is that I truly love my work as a key part of my time each week and would probably do it for free.  Fees are simply a way to help determine who really wants my help (ECON101).

I am always honest with people.  Sometimes that honesty works against me in the short term but over the long term I have built credibility and hundreds of trusting relationships.  Since the pandemic started, when people asked how we were doing at ASI, I would typically say that things were good although I admitted that we weren’t seeing the revenue growth that excites me.  This year has been a surprise for all of us at ASI as many new clients found us and we have had been stretched to the max keeping up.  In October, Sahar joined the team which will help rebalance the work and the resources that we have.

This fall, I spent the last two days of September in Toronto visiting colleagues and attending the Benefits Canada DC Investment Forum.  Because we don’t give investment advice, we don’t do a lot of work on the DC side of the business, but it was just great to see so many colleagues in-person.  If I could design the perfect job for me it would be 80% talking with people and 20% writing down what is rattling around inside my head.  That is what I will strive for going forward.

My kids are now in their mid-20s and in the final stages of launching beyond the protection of mom and dad.  Our dog Henry is 14 and is sleeping next to me right now as I type.  Paula and I continue in near perfect alignment on how we want to live our lives.  I know there is more change ahead – because things always change – but right now things feel just about perfect.

Talking with my friend Doug in early February about retirement, he said, “We are trying to answer the wrong question.  The question isn’t when to retire, the question is what makes you happy?”.  The older I get, the simpler my needs become.  I am happy right where I am, so I am in no rush to be somewhere else.

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