The traditional moral virtues originated from Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato, who used them to define the character traits of people who lead successful, uplifting lives. The virtues were later adapted by the Christians who developed and refined them through the ages.
They may seem anachronistic in today’s world. But, actually, if you follow these seven virtues as you think about how to prepare for retirement and invest your individual retirement account, you will grow your nest egg and go on to lead a prosperous retired lifestyle.
1. Prudence. The word derives from the Latin term meaning looking forward or seeing ahead. It involves the ability to make judgments about the course of events and formulate decisions based on reason and intellect, rather than emotion. Aim to make logical investment choices that will benefit you over the long-term.
2. Diligence. The virtue of effort, persistence and hard work comes down to us not only from Christianity but from other religions as well. Don’t just jump into an investment because you hear a tip from a friend or a pundit on TV. Do your homework. Go look at the annual report or the prospectus of whatever investment you’re considering, study the real risks and returns and make your decisions based on the facts, not the fantasy.
3. Patience. We know from all the great investors, from Bogle to Buffett, that the measure of an investment comes not in days or weeks, but in years, even decades. Buffett has held stock in Wells Fargo bank for over a quarter of a century. It’s paid off handsomely for him, and he’s still buying. It’s the patient, long-term investors, not the day traders, who build substantial retirement portfolios.
4. Courage. It’s easy to be an armchair investor, read the financial press and watch CNBC, but following the markets is not the same as investing in the markets. It takes courage to make a decision and then pull the trigger on an investment. It often involves handing over your hard-earned money to someone else – the corporate executives of a company or the investment officers of an exchange-traded fund or mutual fund – to do with what they want. People with no courage, and no investments, sit on their money in a safe and secure bank account, but they do not share in the spoils of the great adventure of American business.
5. Faith. Again, it’s easy to be a cynic and see nothing but the problems of the world and the avarice and self-dealing of corporate executives. There will always be international crises, domestic disturbances and Wall Street hooligans going to jail. It takes faith to believe that despite all the financial problems that threaten us – whether it’s inflation, deflation, interest rates or unemployment rates – the future of capitalism is brighter tomorrow than it is today, as it has been since 1776 and long before.