Don't Worry, Be Happy -- Ask Noah

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Most of us dream of economic prosperity. If we end up falling short of our goals, it can feel disheartening.

What happens when not having enough money prevents us from enjoying time with our family and friends?

What about when it diminishes our ability to enjoy previously pleasurable daily activities?

Q: I have worked very hard to get to the point of retirement. In addition, I invest for some extra cash. With interest rates so low, it's hard to get a good return on my capital so I have been buying stocks as the market drops. But it is hard to continue to watch my portfolio fade away even though I think my stocks are cheap.

Most importantly, watching the drop in portfolio value of my retirement funds is keeping me from having fun in daily activities. I have been exercising less, stopped going to the movies or plays, and generally not as happy as I used to be. Also, it distracts me to the point that I cannot focus on my family in the way I need to. How do I get off the treadmill of concern for my future?

A: You are about to retire under your own free will. Congratulations on your exit from the work force. Not an easy accomplishment these days.

Investing in the market was your way of making your retirement more enjoyable. Not a bad idea. Of course, this can inherently be a risky choice.

Celebrated economists and infamous Wall Street forecasters argue the recent mercurial nature of the market. I will leave that up to them. Let me instead help you negotiate your present reality:

You have a decision to make here, sir. Are you going to allow your declining net worth to be the predictor of you happiness? If you do allow this, the treadmill of concern will forever hold you captive. This will result in a lack of enjoyment around your retired status and you will consistently fail to appreciate your newfound freedom! Not "enjoying daily activities" will leave you depressed and angry. You will beat yourself up and later you will perhaps take it out on your loved ones.

Excessive worrying could lead to general mental and physical health problems including heart palpitations, trouble sleeping, increased muscle tension and difficulty concentrating.

The negative symptoms of excessive worry can also exacerbate your existing physical or mental health issues.

This is not a wise choice to make by any stretch of the imagination, and you do have the power to choose a different route.

Accept that you will not be able to pay for extra family vacations or fancy dinners -- all the while understanding what you enjoy most is likely still in your price range!

Instead of ruminating on "would have been" profits, focus on making stronger connections with loved ones, laughing till it hurts, and experiencing new adventures. In the end... happiness and success are measured qualitatively not quantifiably.

Tips for getting off the "Treadmill of Concern":

1. Don't stay glued to CNBC or Fox News. We get it the economy is bad. Enough said! 2. Remember you have more than others. When in doubt be grateful.

3. As I have said in previous articles, your net worth should not be your self worth.

4. Worrying leads to more worrying. It's a vicious cycle. Don't give it fuel.

5. You cannot change the past. You made the best possible financial decisions at the time.

6. Being overly anxious can lead to helplessness. Looking and feeling helpless is not an attractive quality.

7. Work with a cognitive behavioral therapist to discuss how negative thought patterns about money are affecting your feelings about life and altering your behaviors.

8. Take care of "you." Be good to yourself. Be it exercise, reading, collecting stamps, etc. Do what you enjoy.

9. Stay busy. Do not give yourself time to obsess over your finances. Remember: "They cannot hit a moving target!"

10. Never forget that time is precious. And we owe it to ourselves to spend it wisely.

Thank you for the question, and enjoy the weekend!

Please keep sending me your questions to "Ask Noah" at

Have a profitable and peaceful week,


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